Well, we had our very first cheese class last night at the Whole Foods Lifestyle Center in South Miami (actually, it’s in Coral Gables, but geographically, South Miami makes more sense). Thanks to Whole Foods for the wonderful facility!
I divided the class into three sections: wine tasting, cheese tasting, and cheese parings. We try the wine first because starting with the cheese can really kill your palate.
The wines were:
2007 Wente Riva Ranch Arroyo Seco Chardonnay
2007 Casa Lapostolle Rapel Valley Merlot
2006 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Alsace.
In general, every one liked the wines. I scored them +1 across the board. A few gave the Merlot a zero because it was rather tannic – next week, I will bring my decanter so that we can smooth any rough wines out.
The Wente was quite nice. It does not indicate on the bottle, but it’s actually a blend, consisting of 96% Chardonnay, 3% Gewurztraminer, and 1% Pinot Blanc. It has a very nice flavor. According to their website, 92% of the wine is fermented in oak, the balance in stainless steel. The oak is not overwhelming, but it has a nice body and a pleasant buttery taste. There are pear and apricot aromas, some green apple, and a pleasant floral undertone. The taste has light caramel or butterscotch (I couldn’t figure out which), fruits, and a bit of vanilla. One of the students went out today and purchased a couple of bottles, and I can say that it will be a Chard I’d keep on hand. I liked it.
The Merlot was tannic. I wish I had brought a decanter or an aereator to smooth it out. After it sat in the glass for a bit, it smoothed out. There were dark fruit and cherries – one student described cooked cherries. I’d say maybe dark cooked cherries??, with cherry licorice, leather and a little smoke on the finish.
The Gewurztraminer was rather nice. It was a bit sweet, but had the typical Gewurz spicy, fruity notes.
For the cheeses, I selected Le Petit Brie, Parrano, Garroxta, Bucherondine, Pecorino Toscano, Meadow Creek Grayson, Midnight Moon, Appenzeller, and Gorgonzola Dolce. For the tasting, I plated the cheeses in the order shown, which ran from mild to strong. Everyone liked the Brie, LOVED the Parrano. Mixed feelings about the Garroxta and the Bucherodine. The Pecorino was fairly well received. The Grayson was interesting – I really like this cheese, but the feelings of the crowd were mixed. Several people really disliked it, others were ambivalent. I can say that it was a little different from what I recently brought back from New York, which is a STRONG case for the problems that local retailers have with storing cheeses. The Midnight Moon got rave reviews from all but one. The Appenzeller got mixed reviews, and the Gorgonzola had the typical love-hate response.
Since the class was about entertaining, I had the problem of presenting the cheeses for the tasting in mild to strong, but in the three groups of three that represented the parings. I set this up as the arrival course, dinner course, and dessert course by placing colored dots by the cheeses representing the groups they fell into. Should have taken photos.
Paring foods with wines is so much fun, so much work, and so rewarding when you get it right!
The paring groups were:
Brie, Parrano, Garroxta paired with the Chardonnay
Pecorino, Midnight Moon, Appenzeller paired with the Merlot
Bucherodin, Grayson, Gorgonzola paired with the Gewurztraminer.
The first paring got OK reviews. The Brie and the Garroxta went quite nicely with the Chard, the Parrano less so. I found it very interesting that the cheese really brought out the alcohol of the wine – never had that happen before. Usually, one component will affect the taste of the other.
The second paring went slightly better, although the feelings about the Midnight Moon were mixed. I thought it went nicely. The cheese mellowed out, but it made the wine taste smoother and fuller, but some in the crowed disliked the paring.
The third group, though, got rave reviews. The Gewurztraminer isn’t the greatest, but it really sang with the cheeses – all of them.
As always, the reaction of the group to the parings was worth the wait. I think that seeing how wine and food interact in a fairly simple example is one of the best parts of this type of class, because you start to understand how it all comes together.
One example I used that I think (if I do say so myself) illustrates the paring problem is the following:
Imagine that you’re giving a dinner party, and you’re going to serve your world-famous roast lamb. People come from miles around to try the rich, roasted, intense flavor of this fabulous dish. Your menu will also include asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and your beloved Cajun fingerling potatoes.
Question: Which of those menu choices are you going to pair the wine with?
Answer (naturally): the Lamb.
So I then read through the paring options in my favorite book, “What To Eat With What You Drink” and amazingly enough, the wines that paired with the lamb didn’t pair with anything else.
Conclusion: going for a neutral paring is a GOOD thing if you’ve got a complex menu to serve!
More on the class later.
Two more sessions – visit http://www.DanteMiami.org/cheese to sign up!