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Archive for the ‘Wine & Cheese Paring’ 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 »

Protos Ribera Duero Roble 2007

Posted by fromagebob on November 1, 2009

According to the label, this wine is made from 100% Tinto del País, which is another name for Tempranillo. According to the label, this vintage was aged for 4 months in new American oak; their website says six months. Either way, it’s not oaky at all, with just a hit of the wood’s contributions.

The nose shows red fruit, distinct alcohol, currants, slight cigar-box, some white pepper, a touch of licorice, and some spiciness. Left sitting, the alcohol dissipates but the other notes remain.

The initial taste is smoky cherries, dark plums, some tannins – soft but noticeable. A bit of pepper, slightly vegetal , with a little chocolate and licorice. The finish is medium. The tannins initially produce a sense of dryness, but the wine sweetens and softens a bit, they lies there and gradually fades away.

I wouldn’t say this is a terribly complex wine, but it’s tasty and nice. I received this as a gift, but a search of the web shows a retail of under $40.00; certainly keeping a few bottles around.

I tried this wine with several cheeses. The first was a delicious triple crème, Cathedrale de Meaux. This is an industrial brie-type cheese made in the artisanal fashion. The mold is mixed into the milk, instead of being sprayed on at the end. The nose of the cheese is buttery, soft, with a hint of the pasture. On the tongue, pure bliss! Buttery, with a slight sour note that makes it pleasant. Hints of pasture, straw, and rich cream. It is addicting. This cheese is widely available at grocers with decent cheese counters. Try it.

With the wine, the flavor of the cheese was much subdued; the tannins in the wine cut the fattiness of the cheese. The cheese became a back-note to the wine, which became more fruity – the red fruits came out quite a bit. The finish changed completely; no tannins, but a pleasant buttered-fruit combo that was pretty nice.

The next cheese was the Beaufort, a delicious French cheese that I’ve written about in my blog. This is a great pairing. Initially the wine takes on a spicy taste, but then elevates the beefy character of the cheese. Again, the fat content of the cheese tones down the tannins in the wine, making a great combination. As it lies in the mouth, the tannins are very, very soft, and the taste evolves into something reminiscent of a rich beef stew. Yum. I’ve found Beaufort locally from time to time, but it does not hold a bougie to the real French version!

The last cheese is Manchester Consider Bardwell, a delicious goat cheese from Vermont. This is a washed-rind cheese with a really funky looking rind that’s actually quite tasty. The aroma is slightly funky, with a hint of barnyard, hay, nuts and butter. The flavor reminds me of chewing contentedly on a piece of straw; it’s a little spicy, vegetal, with a strong sense of nuts and grain. With the wine, it’s neutral. Neither is elevated, neither is hurt. The wine almost disappears, the cheese takes on a very, very slightly more intense flavor. Verdict – I’d serve these at a party, but nothing to write home about. A friend brought this back from Murray’s Cheese in NY – you can order it online at their website.

Finally, the winery’s website has a lot of other possible food matches you can check for yourself.

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

Pondering Pairings

Posted by fromagebob on September 4, 2009

I think that what I enjoy more than wine or cheese (or food) is the idea of paring things up to see what works, especially when one of the two components is wine. When I was preparing for the classes, I had to create material that talked about pairings, what they were, and how to make them work. During the various classes, I got to see my ideas through the student’s eyes, and found it very interesting. I like to teach, because it forces me to explore more deeply the subject I am going to present, and understand it better.

A pairing is bringing together two components – in this case, wine and something else but it does not have to be wine – in such as way that one of three things occurs:

  • The two components come together and create something brand new (A Great pairing or a horrible one)
  • The two components come together; one affects the other, getting lost in the process (A good or a poor paring)
  • The two components coming together neither helping nor hurting each other. (A neutral paring)

I use the same 5-point scale that I adapted from two places: a class I took with Max McCalman at Artisanal Cheese in NY, and (believe it or not) a way we used to evaluate software systems when I had my IT business years ago.

You can probably think of a lot of good parings – asparagus and hollandaise sauce, peanut butter and jelly, mozzarella and tomatoes, lamb and mint, and so on. Each of them combines in your mouth to create a taste sensation that is pleasant, sometimes stupendous (and sometimes not…). The idea is to work with components that complement each other in a positive way. What makes it complicated is when you start bringing multiple flavors into the mix.

A Great Paring

To me, a great paring is when two components come together in your mouth, and create a new, delicious, flavor. Something that does not exist outside of the confines of your taste buds. Something that really lights you up. On my scale, this is a +2 (it’s a -2 when they come together and create something horrible). It’s a hard thing to do, because often, the +2 exists for you, but not for someone else. You may achieve it with one vintage of wine, or one producer’s cheese, but not with a different mix. And, when you’re planning a meal, it’s almost impossible to achieve.

A Good Paring

This is where the two components come together in your mouth, and one component improves or elevates the other, but is itself lost in the process. For example, a good Sauvignon Blanc pairs wonderfully with most goat cheeses. The flavor of the cheese intensifies and becomes quite delicious, but the wine is often neutralized. It’s not a bad thing, because the overall affect was positive and yummy. But it doesn’t rank as a great paring because you still had the wine and cheese, but the wine vanished. Another one is lamb and Pinot Noir. The pinot works with the lamb and makes it much more flavorful, but the lamb is often too much for the Pinot, and shuts it down. There’s no unpleasantness, just a weakening of the wine.

A Neutral Paring

The components neither help nor hurt each other. They retain their basic identities – the wine is still the wine, the cheese the cheese. There’s some interaction, but neither has an impact on the other. This is not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it’s often a worthy goal if you have complex dishes, or if you are in a restaurant and everyone orders something different. That’s actually a good example: Suppose you are at dinner with a friend. You order a broiled flounder; your friend orders roast lamb. What wine do you choose? For the Flounder, a Chardonnay or a Riesling is probably a good choice, but for the lamb? It would kill the wine. On the other hand, a wine for the lamb – a cab or a zin, would kill the fish. About the only option here is a Pinot Noir; it will be too much for the fish, but not overwhelmingly so, and not enough for the lamb, but not overly weak. The result is a pleasant meal with a tasty wine that works, but doesn’t impress.

You might object to that, but the alternative is to have one person consume a meal that is overcome by the wine, which isn’t much fun for at least half the party.

I find that with parties, both casual and dinner, it’s best to divide the courses up into Arrival, Meal, and Dessert, and pick wines for each. You have better control over what each guest will enjoy, and you can better plan the menu around several nice wines. The worst that can happen is you end up with a couple of open bottles of wine – call me! I’ll come over and help you drink them!

Relax! Have some Cheese! It’s good for you!

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Now, THAT’S Italian Cheese Pairing

Posted by fromagebob on September 2, 2009

Here’s the pairing score sheet we used in the class, with my scores. The idea was to pair each wine with each cheese, and decide how the paring went. I’ll describe my method in the next post. Basically, we tried the wines alone, then the cheeses, then paired them. The wines were scored on their own on the same scale, as were the cheeses. What we were looking for was if the paring improved or hurt one component or the other. My scores for each pairing are highlighted in yellow. For the +1/-1 parings, the component that was helped or hurt is in green.

Gavi Paired With Burrata

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Asiago Presato

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Robiola Bosina

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Montegrappa

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Ubriaco Franglino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Piave

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Marzolino Pecorino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Tallegio

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Caciocavalla Silano

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Gavi Paired With Castelmagno

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Burrata

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Asiago Presato

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Robiola Bosina

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Montegrappa

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Ubriaco Franglino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Piave

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Marzolino Pecorino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Tallegio

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Caciocavalla Silano

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Oriveto Paired With Castelmagno

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Burrata

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Asiago Presato

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Robiola Bosina

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Montegrappa

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Ubriaco Franglino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Piave

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Marzolino Pecorino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Tallegio

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Caciocavalla Silano

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Il Baciale Paired With Castelmagno

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Burrata

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Asiago Presato

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Robiola Bosina

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Montegrappa

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Ubriaco Franglino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Piave

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Marzolino Pecorino

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Tallegio

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Caciocavalla Silano

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Ripasso Paired With Castelmagno

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

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

Cheese Class Session 2

Posted by fromagebob on August 24, 2009

Last class this coming Thursday, the 27th! Sign up at danteMiami.org/cheese!

We had our second cheese class this past Thursday. What a blast! 13 cheeses, 5 wines, tired students. Perfect!

We featured these cheeses:


Capricho de Cabra, a fresh goat cheese from the Murcia region of Spain
Mt. Vikos Manouri, a fresh sheep & goat Manouri from Thessaly, Greece
Ricota Salata, a fresh Sheep Curd and Whey cheese from Italy
Amarelo de Biera Baixa, a semi-soft Portuguese sheep’s milk cheese
Herve Mons Camembert, a bloomy-rind French version of the real thing
Tarago River Triple Crème, a GREAT bloomy-rind Triple crème cheese from Australia
Le Chevrot, a surface-ripened goat cheese from France
Munster Gerome, a washed-rind cheese from Alsace
Millstone, a nice semi-soft Alpine cheese from Rolf Beeler
Idiazábal, a smoked, semi-firm sheep cheese from Navarre, Spain
Aged Gouda – 5 years, from Holland
Monte Enebro, a nice, creamy, goat blue cheese from Avila, Spain
Maytag Blue, a great blue from Iowa!

The favorites were the Capricho de Cabra, the Amarelo, the Triple Crème (the favorite of the favorites), Le Chevrot, the Millstone, and the Monte Enebro. The least liked cheeses were the Camembert, the Munster, and the Idiazabel.

Our wines were a Von Buhl Halbtrocken Riesling, Groth’s Sauvignon Blanc, Domains Bunan Mas de la Rouivere Bandol, George Duboef Beaujolais-Villages, and Dona Paula Los Cardos Malbec. The Bandol and the Beaujolais were the favorites, although the Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc improved with the cheeses. The Malbec got better after it aired out. We ran out of time for all the parings, but I will work my way through some of those and report back!

Posted in Cheese Education, Wine & Cheese Paring | Leave a Comment »

Cheese Class Success

Posted by fromagebob on August 14, 2009

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!

Posted in Cheese Education, Wine & Cheese Paring | Leave a Comment »

Cheese Class, T minus 1!

Posted by fromagebob on August 12, 2009

Well, I’ve lined up the cheeses and the wines for the class! The theme is Cheese for Entertaining (which evolved from my getting – inadvertently – in the middle of a battle between husband and wife over what cheeses to buy for a party).

We’re going to taste the following cheeses:

Le Petit Brie
Parrano
Garroxta
Bucherondin
Pecorino Toscano
Meadow Creek Grayson
Cypress Grove Midnight Moon
Appenzeller
Gorgonzola Dolce

And the wine parings are going to be:

Wente Chardonnay from Riva Ranch
Lapostolle Merlot from Chile
Marcel Deiss Gewurtztraminer

Should be fun!

You can still sign up, just let me know that you did!

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Cheese Boot Camp

Posted by fromagebob on August 4, 2009

Line Up! March In! Forks Ready! Now EEEAAAATTTT Cheese!

Just got back from New York, and Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp. 15 hours of cheese over three days. It was WONDEFUL! I’ll be blogging about it in detail, but here’s a “taste” (ha ha):

Day 1: Friday 1830 hours (6:30pm for the uninitiated)

Arrived at Murrays, headed upstairs to the classroom. Walked past (slowly past) the cheese counter, feeling those tastebuds kicking in.

Yes, as you can see the temptations were many ,but I persevered an headed upstairs. They have a great classroom that looks out over their busy cheese floor, so we got to watch the interesting variety of customers that walked in the door.

My seat is there in the foreground, with my cute red umbrella. Ready to eat!

Here’s what greeted me when the class started (well, I had already hit the Ricotta…)

Doesn’t that look YUMMY! From the top (going clockwise):
Calabro Fresh Ricotta
Westfield Farm Capri
Brillat Savarin
Epoisses
Queso de la Serena
Mongomery’s Cheddar
Pecorino Ginepro
Podda Classico
Bruyere
Roquefort

Day 2: 1030 hours: Down Into The Depths

We spent the first session of the 2nd day in the caves, trying LOTS of cheeses and seeing how they are aged. Murray’s has quite a bit of subterranean real estate dedicated to their aging caves, and I just love wandering around down there!

This is the natural rind cave. Those are Stiltons on the top left, provolone’s hanging from the shelves, and Saint Nectaires on the lower right.

Day 2: 1530 Hours: Back In The Classroom

The afternoon of Day 2 was in the class, learning about Old World – vs – New World Style cheese making.

Oooooo. From the top, clockwise:

Valencay
Humbolt Fog
Constant Bliss
Camembert
Grayson
Brachensteiner
St. Nectaire
Chester
Sartori Stravecchio
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Day 3: 1030 Hours: She Blinded me with Science!

This session covered cheesemaking and cheese science. Very interesting, and fascinating how similar, and how different cheesemaking is to winemaking. I think that cheesemaking is WAY harder, and much more volatile. Didn’t get a photo of the cheeses in this session because they came out later.

Day 3: 1530 Hours: The Ultimate Sacrifice

The things we do for our hobbies! 6 wines! 6 beers! 6 cheeses! WOOO (hic) HOOOOO!

My somewhat decimated place in class. I actually remember most of the session too! Good thing I took notes!

Tune in to this station for more details about boot camp, coming soon.

Posted in Cheese Education, Wine & Cheese Paring | 1 Comment »

Amarelo: A Portuguese Cheese

Posted by fromagebob on July 19, 2009

I ran into this cheese at Sunset Corners. By coincidence, I had tried another Portuguese cheese Saturday evening at a friend’s house, and it was quite good. My only other exposure to Portuguese cheese was Azetao, but the portion I got was way past its prime, so I had no way to judge it’s quality. I was at Sunset Corner’s great Saturday tasting (noon – 4 every Saturday!), and spotted this cheese in the case. I’m still trying to pick the cheeses and wines for the first Cheese Class, so I thought I would give it a try.

It’s quite good. The paste is off-white, with a creamline tending towards a dark ivory. The aroma is of fresh cream, with notes of straw and earth. On the tongue, it’s got a pretty distinctive flavor that reminded me of clotted cream, with brown butter and grassy notes. It paired quite nicely with a Cline Viognier and St. Francis’ Red.

This is a raw milk cheese, with sheep and goats milk. It’s a semi-firm cheese; some of the references I found noted that was pretty aggressive, but I didn’t find it so. It was somewhat intense, but not unpleasantly so.

Posted in Cheese Shops, Miami Cheese Scene, Mixed Milk Cheese, Portuguese Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Wine and Cheese Tasting at Casa Toscana – Part II

Posted by fromagebob on July 16, 2009

The cheeses were wonderful. They were all from Il Forteto, a rather interesting producer in Italy. According to the representative at the tasting, the farm was founded to help disadvantaged youth find a place to prosper, and from their initial foray into cheese making, the project blossomed into a full-fledged farm producing a variety of wonderful products. You can check the website for more information on this.

There were three cheeses: Pecorino Stagionato con peperoncino, a Brillo Pecorino Di Vino, and a Boschetto al Tartufo.

Pecorino Stagionato con Peperoncino

This translates to “Aged Pecorino with red pepper” and that’s what it is. The cheese is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk, and aged for at least three months. The ingredients are simply milk, rennet, salt, a fermentation microbial, and the peppers. The paste is kind of crumbly, but moist; it’s in between a semi-firm and firm cheese. The aroma is slightly herbal, with hints of straw and cream. In the mouth, it’s spicy with a nice peppery taste, and flavors of brown butter and cream. It was quite nice. We paired this with the first wine (2006 Toscana Rosso). It was quite nice. The two paired well, but the alcohol content of the wine (14%) really “hotted up” the peppers. Eating a portion of the cheese with no visible peppers went well, but with the peppers started OK, but got pretty warm. I found that after a couple of bites and sips, my mouth was on fire – pleasant – but hot. The wine and the un-peppered part of the cheese rated a +1, but the wine and the peppers got a -1. I guess that evens out to a zero. I would probably serve this cheese with a dark beer, or maybe a lower alcohol Sancerre.

Brillo Pecorino Di Vino

These cheese are matured in wine in clay pitchers, for about four months. According to the website, selected cheese are washed, dried, then placed in terra cotta pitchers containing a mixture of Tuscan wines (doesn’t say what wines, but I would love to find out). The website suggest that they need constant attention; I suspect that they are turned and rotated periodically to make sure they age consistently. The cheese wheel is dark red, with distinct wine-y aromas emanating from the wheel. The cheese itself has a nice aroma of cream and butter, with a hint of the wine off the rind. The flavor is almost fruity, with some citrus notes. I also tasted butter and herbal notes. The cheese has a pleasant, tart finish. We pared this with wine #2 (the Rosso de Montalcino). I gave this a +1. The wine faded out a bit, but it made the cheese fruiter and more creamy. Nice paring.

Boschetto al Tartufo

What’s Emeril say? BAM! Good description for this cheese. Tartufo is “Truffle” in Italian, and you could see the truffles embedded in the wine. This cheese was a fresh cheese, and is 30% cows milk, 70% sheep. The flavor is rich and luscious. With a wonderful truffle notes. The aroma is truffles, cream, and roasted nuts. The flavor was really truffles. You got some cream and butter from the cheese, but the truffle flavor just stood out.

I got to try this with the third and fourth wines (the Nero De Casanova and the Sassontio). I gave the cheese and the Sassontio a +1 – the wine enhanced the truffles, and actually got a tiny bit fruiter. Then I tried the cheese with the Nero de Casanova and the sky lit up. It was a stellar paring, a definite PLUS TWO! The wine and cheese just came together into something quite delicious – I actually forgot to take notes, it was that good (don’t worry, I will get more of both!).

What happened was this: they were coming around with wine #4 and the cheese, but I still had wine #3 in my glass, so I told the pourer to hold off. I tried the cheese with wine 3, and after the fireworks stopped, I got some of wine #4. My table-mates were commenting on how nice the cheese and the Sassontio were. I tried it, and it was good – but not as good as with the Nero. So I told them. Naturally, we all had to get more cheese and some of the Nero (the research involved in this is just excruciating!!).

One girl stayed with wine #4, but another had an interesting experience. When she first got the wine in her mouth with the cheese, she commented that she liked the other paring better, but then her eyes widened, and she said “WOW”. She described it like this: “At first, the wine and the cheese were separate, and I didn’t think it would be better, but then they came together in my mouth, and it was amazing!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

The cheeses are available from Casa Toscana – visit their website to order. The first three wines should be available at Whole Foods – going to check that out myself.

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