As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

cheese and wine opinions

The other day, Katie Bell, a friend who also happens to be an accomplished food and wine columnist and freelance writer asked me to make some wine pairing recommendations for an article she was working on. I wrote my reply at lightning speed late at night and was in fact a bit tipsy but upon review this morning, while sitting down to make a blog entry, I decided that I should just share the rant with you all. I haven’t had many of the cheeses but I think im familiar enough to take a crack at it...anyway,. here is the letter and reply to her query.

As always, I am flattered that you have asked me to participate and make contribution to your story. It’s a genuine pleasure sharing a perspective on a part of life that I truly love. Thanks again for the opportunity. I find it oddly paradoxical that noshing grubb or what I think of as historically casual nibbling foods have become a cerebral exercise in the wine and food world. For me, in the same way that we drank unpasteurized raw cow’s milk, farmed all our own veggies and drank crystal clear well water, growing up amid a house full of traditionalist foodies took really amazing classical cheeses and meats and made them and the eating ritual common. For years, cured meats and cheeses were always just simply there and available. No hype, no big deal,…it was just the way it was. Wines were had a similar application. Water, juice or wine with your hunk of Wabash cannonball? I dunno,…in any case, my point of all this is that, so many years later…like so many things in the gastro world, we have found a way to bring complexity and exactness to a food and or occasion driven by food that really has always been staple, standard and sort of ordinary. I’ll give it my best crack now that ive had some years to pay attention and have since formed an opinion. Thanks again!

Chapel Hill Creamery's Carolina Moon, a buttery, rich camembert, quite luxurious with a slather of blueberry compote.-
for me camembert, especially domestic camembert with fruit always screams late sunny morning October breakfast barefoot on the patio . I immediately want a warm Parisian loaf like the generic kind you might find in any random corner grocer in Paris. Bromated flour, plenty of commercial yeast, yet still warm enough to get over the generic-ness of it all. If I had to pair wine I might move the setting to après dinner and with the blueberry angle,….well,….id say let’s stick with bubbles and go with a bottle of the NV Langlois- chateau, Cremant De Loire Rosé, Saumur, Loire Valley, France . This and other Loire sparkling rosé have both a textural elegance and serious earthiness balanced by great spicy fruits. Cabernet Franc in this form is a favorite bloomy cheese pairing.

Sequatchie Cove's exquisite Cumberland Cheese modeled after a French Tome de savoie has a melt-in the-mouth smoothness finished with an earthy punch.- TDS is one of my all time favourites! I haven’t seen a domestic version that quite captures that nutty smoothness and deep grassy flavour but it sounds like this might be the one? When I think TDS, I think of white not red. Assuming that this is not as assertive as the Rhone version, id go with a bottle of the 2007 Marcel Deiss, Beblenheim, Riesling, Alsace, France. Alsatian to the core, this friendly wine is loaded with zesty lemon and great minerality that both serves the grassy spirit of the tomme and contrasts the nuttiness to drive the cheeses mouth feel and round comforting character.

Spinning Spider's Stack House is an elegant, soft creamy and luscious young goats milk cheese has an ash coating that imparts a unique minerally flavor.- when I think of ashed goats milk cheeses, I normally think about selles sur cher, or judy Shadd and her Wabash cannonball. I also have been a mega-uber fan of Jeremy and jessicas Lumiere at sweetgrass back when that stuff was around…wow! What happened to that stuff eh? So, while I drink sauvignon as often as anything else with goats milk cheeses, I think the ash sometimes enjoys a white with a bit more oxidative, creamy, almost clotted cream like character with ample levels of minerality to underscore the charred veggies. For this cheese, im going with the Domaine Laurent Chatenay, “Les Maisonnettes”, Montlouis Sur Loire, Chenin Blanc, Sec. Yum!

The bodacious Sweetgrass Dairy's Asher Blue Cheese makes a statement. Its robust personality marry's well with walnuts and fresh, sliced Arkansas Black apples.- I have a serious problem with pairing most reds with blue cheese. I find that disharmony comes to an apex when the molds from the cheese clash with the tannins of a firm red. It’s possible that some late harvest Spanish reds have worked late night with a chunk of cabrales but that stuff needs and deserves a good beating. For something domestic and a bit more tame, as far as the world of blues is concerned, I’m almost always looking for smooth, silky, rich and decidedly sweet. One of my very favourite stickies these days is a little wine from Ken Forrester in Stellenbosch SA. He makes this lovely sauternes rendition called Ken Forrester “T” Stellenbosch from Chenin Blanc. Lush, melons, pineapple and zingy, bright acidity to balance the heft of residual sugar begs for a nip of smelly salt and spoiled cream.

Andouille- like marinara, this stuff can be so many different things. I keep links of the old chef K Paul version in my freezer so ill use that one for this pairing. I also think it’s fair to note that for me drinking wine with Andioullie would be an abnormality. Typically when I find myself eating Creole or Cajun foods, im not in a wine mode. This is not to say it’s never happened but just for the just sayin….In any case,..for this,.. I would pair a thick, oily rich white with this spicy sausage. Immediately, the glorious and often overlooked Rhone blends come to mind. Rousanne , Marsanne, Grenache blanc and viognier all lumped together act more like a pack of wolves in sheeps clothing than they do wine varietals. I’d go with a new Rhone selection from Betts & Scholl,..the 2006 Hermitage Blanc, France

Rabbit Brandy Boudin- I remember eating boudin off a foil wrapped stick purchased from a roadside vendor just over the bridge from Lake Ponchatrain. It was the Wednesday after fat Tuesday, I was 16 years old, driving a Puegeot stationwagon and we had spent the last 200 interstate miles shooting roman candles out of the car window as we drove through the night. The boudin was laced with rice and as such, felt more like encased pilaf than it did sausage. I have loved this stuff ever since. With the added gaminess of bunny and the sweet brandy, im going with the Jorge Ordonez value anomaly du jour,..the 2008 Paso a Paso, “old Vine” Verdelho, La Mancha, Spain. This wine has exotic richness, oodles of plump glyceral fruits, and a good citrus oil backbeat that would provide some reprieve from the certain intensity of the meat and brandy combo while holding its own in terms of intensity and richness.

Petit Sec and Figatelli---salami style pork 'snacks' cobbled together with pork liver, red wine, garlic and fresh herbs, they are air-dried.- this kind of thing just begs for tradition to me. Like I mentioned above, I think a lot of different wines, accoutrement, breads and cheeses work well with this sort of food stuff but in the end, if I must choose, id go with something Italian. Let’s use the wine from the often misunderstood, regionally confused, biodynamic producers, Avignonesi. They plant their vineyards on concentric circles and I think I love this family. This wine and all of their other wines for me are more like elixirs than wine. For this,…lets go with the 2007Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Exceedingly “old world” in its bowels, the wine is fruity, laden with hippie smoke shop like aromas, and normally has a nip of my favorite barrel infection Brettanomyces, affectionately known throughout the wine world as “brett”. This controversial wild yeast, imparts a gamey quality that just adores cured pork product and also drives a hint of sweetness to the very front of the palate which keeps you coming back for more as the salts and fat from the sausage makes its mark. For me, Sangiovese and salami are timeless and rightfully so.

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