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Archive for the ‘US Cheese’ Category

Grand Cheese Tasting

Posted by fromagebob on November 18, 2010

The Tasting Table

I visited New York over the weekend of November 5th, and attended my third Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp. This time I went to work – I signed on as an intern to get a better idea of how behind the scenes of an intensive cheese class would go. I did get educated! More on that in another post.

As always, I hauled back a bunch of cheeses – 13 of them, this time, and gathered fellow wine-and-cheese lovers at the house for a grand cheese tasting.

Organizing a cheese tasting is a lot of fun, especially when you’re loaded with cheeses that no one has tried before, that you love, and that you think will be interesting. It’s a great way to get people together, and – when you bring in  the wine – to start some rather interesting debates about the merits of the cheese, the wine, and the pairing.

I should not have been surprised, but my plethora of palates armed themselves with multiple glasses to try multiples of wines with the cheeses. I did make sure they knew they had to put a glass down to pick up a cheese – no teeth allowed. I labeled each plate with the specifics of the cheeses, and arranged them in order from mildest (upper left of the photo) around the table to the strongest. For the most part, everyone followed the flow, and (from what I could tell) had a great time!

Featured (in the order of presentation) were:

  • Oma, a raw, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Von Trapp, in the hills of Vermont
  • Pawlett, a raw washed rind Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farms, in Vermont
  • Landaff, a raw cow’s milk riff on Cornish Yarg, from New Hampshire
  • Capello del Mago, a raw, natural rind goat’s milk from the town of Fobello, in Piemonte,  Italy
  • Noble Road, a raw, bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from Calkins Creamery, in Pennsylvania
  • La Beola, a natural rind, raw cow’s milk cheese, from the town of Fobellow, in Piemonte, Italy
  • Amanteigado, a washed rind, raw sheeps milk cheese from Lisboa, Portugal
  • Puits d’Astier, a natural rind sheep’s milk cheese from the Auvergene region of France
  • Ascutney Mountain, a natural rind Jersey cow’s milk cheese, from Vermont
  • Comte d’Alpage,  a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged for 18 months, from France
  • An Aged Goat Gouda, from Holland
  • St. Pete’s Blue, a delicious blue cheese from Minnesota
  • Colston Basset Stilton, from England

The most popular cheese was the Noble Road. It had a wonderful, mush-roomy, beefy, creamy flavor that knocked everyone’s socks off. It was the only cheese that disappeared (not that a serious dent wasn’t made in the rest of the selections!).

The surprise of the tasting was one of the wine pairings. We had a variety of wines, from a Susana Balbo Torrontes, to a Masi Amarone, with quite a mix in between. The surprise was that the Torrontes went with almost every cheese! Even those that it did not work well with, it was more along the lines of the cheese overwhelming the wine (like the blues) as opposed to the wine and cheese fighting it out in your mouth.

My favorite pairing was the Colston Basset Stilton with some 1979 PX Sherry. The ports we had couldn’t stand up. The Amarone did OK, but the PX was just wonderful. Unfortunately, we only had a little to go around, so I will be looking for another bottle, and another chunk of cheese, to test this out further!

Stay tuned – over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting tasting notes for all the cheeses. None are currently available in Miami, but they are all available from either Murray’s Cheese or Saxelby Cheese, in New York. Worth the trip to try, worth the expense to buy – trust me on that!


Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese tasting, French Cheese, Italian Cheese, Portuguese Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | 2 Comments »

Mona Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 9, 2009

Mona is a mixed milk cheese from the same cheesemaker that produces Dante. It’s a blend of sheep and cow’s milk that’s aged for a minimum of 6 months. It’s a semi-firm cheese with a nice flavor. Like Dante, Mona is produced by the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. Between 100 and 400 East Friesian or Lacaune ewes are milked between February and September. The sheep are pasture-fed during the spring and summer. The cheeses themselves are produced by Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wisconsin.

The aroma is very mild, with a hint of toasted nuts, lanolin, and brown butter. The flavor has a salty, buttery taste with some grassy notes, and a rich mouthfeel. Near the rind, the nutty taste is more pronounced, with a more earthy flavor. It would be a nice cheese for a party or cheese plate in one of the milder positions. In parings, it went quite nicely with the Clif Family Climber White Blend, and with Santa Carolina Carminere. It was OK with a Mattabella Chardonnay and the Clif Family Syrah, but wasn’t that great with the Buhler Char or the Santa Carolina Cab.

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Mixed Milk Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Saxony Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 6, 2009

This is another nice cheese that Myriam brought back from her recent trip to Wisconsin. It’s a new cheese – commercial release is in the 3rd quarter of this year, which is a few months away. Saxony is a raw cow’s milk cheese made from cooked, pressed curds. It is a washed rind cheese that I would classify as semi-firm. For some reason, my photo of the cheese has disappeared, so I found on their site.

It’s a pretty cheese, with a nice looking rind and a pleasant taste. The cheese is ripened for at least 90 days. It peaks at 150 days, and has a shelf life of 9 months. I found the aroma to be quite nice. It reminds me of pecans sautéed in a little butter. There is a definite buttery note to the cheese as it warms up, and a faint herbal note as well. The flavor is rich and buttery. There’s there is the tiniest hint of caramel, and as it melts on the tongue, you get just a touch of brown butter flavor. Near the rind, the flavor flattens out a little bit on first bite, but then delivers a stronger, more nutty taste than towards the center.

I tried this with a Norton Malbec. Initially, they both kind of neutralized each other, but then the cheese got a little fruity. Interesting. During the recent tasting panel I also tried it with several wines, results listed below.

Wine Score
Norton Malbec 0
Clif Family Climber White 0
Mattabella Chardonnay 0
Buehler Russian River Chard 0
Clif Gary’s Improv (Syrah) 0
Santa Carolina Carminere +1
Santa Carolina Cab -1
Kit’s Killer Kab 0
Pinord Moscatel 0

According to the website, the cheese would pair with a fruity white wine, dessert wine, or beer. The 0 scores aren’t bad. Basically, the wine and cheese really didn’t do much for each other, but they didn’t hurt each other either. I’ll have to keep on the lookout for some more to try with more wines.

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Dante – Wisconsin Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Posted by fromagebob on June 29, 2009

Dante is a seasonal sheep’s milk cheese, made by the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. The cheese is made between February and September. The milk comes from flocks located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. The ewes are pasture fed for most of the year. The cheese is aged for at least six months. An extended aging process develops toasted nut and brown butter aromas, and gives a sweetness to the cheese. I find that it has a nice, rich, flavor.

The paste is a gold-ivory color, shifting to light brown near the rind. The color is probably from the carotene in the pasture diet of the animals. The cheese is coated with an edible plastic rind, which I’m not particularly fond of – it gives the cheese a strange texture – but it’s easily peeled off. The flavor is quite nice. Near the center, I find a slightly salty-sweet flavor with grassy notes and a touch of butter. Near the rind, the flavor deepens, giving a hint of pecans and brown butter. Allowing the paste to linger and dissolve in the mouth gives a more intense buttery flavor, with a little lemony taste at the end. The finish is nice, and lingers pleasantly for a while.

I tried this cheese with some Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin. This is a value wine that I quite enjoy. It’s not the greatest zin, but it’s a pleasant drink, and a nice day-to-day wine. It has a nose of chocolate and berries, with spicy undertones. There’s a hint of white pepper, vanilla, and a little tobacco. The flavor is a little tannic, with white pepper, chocolate, dark fruit, and berries. The finish is medium, and pleasant.

It’s a nice combo with the cheese. The cheese brings out the fruit in the wine quite a bit. The wine makes the cheese taste a little sweeter, especially on the finish. At the first hit, the cheese feels saltier, but that dissipates into a pleasant combo. I wouldn’t say that either elevates, but I would certainly give this a +1 as a paring.

Other scores for this cheese with some recent parings:

Wine Score Comment
The Clif Family Climber White Blend: -1 Developed a metallic taste. Not pleasant
Mattebella Chardonnay: 0 Not bad, not great, but it worked. Nice for a party
Buehler Russian River Chardonnay: -1 Sour taste, not pleasant at all.
Clif Gary’s Improv (Syrah): +1 Nice. The wine made the cheese better, the cheese didn’t hurt the wine
Santa Carolina Carminere: 0 OK, neither was hurt, neither was improved.
Dracula’s Blood: -1 Sucked <g>
Santa Carolina Cab: -1 The cheese killed the wine
Kits Killer Cab: 0 Was OK. I almost gave this a -1, but the finish wasn’t bad

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese, Sheep Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Cypress Grove Midnight Moon

Posted by fromagebob on June 22, 2009

What a GREAT wine cheese! We’ve tried it with so many different wines, and almost everything works. It’s really surprising and REALLY versatile!

Midnight Moon is from Cypress Grove Chevre, in Arcata, California, about 200 miles North of San Francisco, and about 70 miles South of the Oregon Border. Cypress Grove specializes in goat cheese (hence the name!), and is the creation of Mary Keehn, one of America’s cheese pioneers. She started raising goats in the 1970’s, then moved from cheese hobbyist to cheese producer in 1983. They make very high quality artisanal cheeses, and have won many awards. I’ve tried a number of their products, and they are really quite good. I’ve listed most of them at the end of the post – I strongly encourage you to try them!

Midnight Moon is an aged goat cheese that is made in Europe for Cypress Grove. According to their website, the cheese is aged for a minimum of 6 months, and has a pale ivory paste with a nutty, brown-buttery flavor, and some caramel notes. I find flavorful crystals in the cheese as well. The aroma is slightly herbal, with a buttery, creamy smell with a very faint sour note. It’s pleasant, and not overwhelming. I find that near the center of the wheel, the flavor is more brown-butter with a nutty hint and some herbal notes. Towards the center, it’s more sweet butter and less herbal, with a little caramel. Near the rind, it moves towards hazelnuts, butter, and caramel.

Wine parings… Wow. Tonight, I am drinking a Cervoles 2004 Spanish Red. Works great. I’ve tried this with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, malbecs, cabs, and lots more. Recently at the tasting panel for Talking About Wine, I tried it with the following (using a 5-point scale, with +2 being nirvana, and -2 being barf!):

Clif Family The Climber White Blend:    +2 (delish!)

Mattebella Chardonnay:        +1 (not bad!)

Buehler Russian River Chardonnay:    0 (neutral)

Clif Family Gary’s Improv (Syrah):    +2 (great)

Santa Carolina Carminere:        +2 (yum – really improved the wine)

Dracula’s Blood (Romania):        +1 (improved the wine, thank goodness!)

Santa Carolina Cab:            0 (neutral, not bad)

Clif Family Kits Killer Cab:        0 (neutral, not bad)

The scale, if you’re interested, goes like this:

0 is neutral. Not good, not bad, edible, drinkable. Wine and cheese remain separate components, but neither harms the other

+1 is good. Better than neutral. One component elevates the other, but is not harmed or lost

+2 is great. Something new comes out of the paring – wine _+ cheese = something new, delicious.

-1 is not good. One component hurts the other, making it worse. It might not be bad, but it’s not something you’d repeat

-2 is barf. One or both components are not only destroyed, so are your taste buds!

This is similar to the scale that Max MaCalman uses in his wonderful classes at Artisanal Cheese in New York.

Cypress Grove Cheese are:

Fresh Chevre

Purple Haze

Fromage Blanc

Humbolt Fog

Bremuda Triangle

Fog Lights

Truffle Tremor

Midnight Moon

Lamb Chopper

Try them!

Posted in Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »