Wine and Cheese – Great Combinations!

Just back from another fun Wine and Cheese Cruise – had some very interesting wine and cheese combinations with a diverse and interesting group of people.  The Spanish Cava and Fluer Verte was a wonderful surprise and the Shiraz and King Island “Roaring 40s” Blue was stunning.  As the saying goes:  “What grows together goes together” and in the case of the Australian Blue Cheese combined with the Australian Peter Lehmann Shiraz – this idea is an understatement.  Here are the wines and cheeses we had tonight – the wine comments are mine and the cheese notes, as usual, are from my favorite cheese expert David Bennett.

Codorniu Brut Reserva Cuvee Raventos NV – Spain   Made with same process as Champagne, The grapes for this sparkler are the traditional Cava blend (50% Xarel-lo and Macabeo grapes) with the addition of Champagne white grape Chardonnay (50%).   Fleur Verte Cheese– Elegant, fresh, herbed goat’s milk cheese from France.  The  tarragon & juniper berries promote a visually stunning holiday theme and fill the nose with wonderful scents.  The fresh goat’s milk cheese is slightly tangy and delicious. Paired with our sparkling wine, this is sure to make a thrilling start for our cruise.     

De Chanceny Brut Rose NV – France  Light pinkish-red color delicate fresh red fruit aromas.  Flavors are crisp with hints of strawberry finishing dry with slight mineral at the end – a luxurious French sparkling rose.   Brillat Savarin Cheese– “Decadent” is the best word to describe this fabulous triple cream cheeses from France.  The taste is delicious, complex, and compelling.  Visually, it’s beautiful and the texture is silky/gooey/marvelous.  Named for the influential French gastronomic writer, Brillat-Savarin, who once said, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are”  (“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es”)

Frattina Pinot Grigio – Italy   From a few miles north of Venice.  Fresh and bright, this wine is immediately juicy mouthful of citrus and tropical fruit flavors.  The finish is clean and dry with toasty and nutty elements.   Robiola Bosina Cheese– Remarkable mixed milk (cow and sheep’s) from  Langhe region of northern Italy.  Creamy, satisfying, and delightful. The inside is gooey and satisfying.  Mixing 2 different kinds of milk lends a subtle complexity to this luscious cheese.    

Peter Lehmann Shiraz – Australia  A dark wine with deep garnet color, this Shiraz is a serious wine with generous dark fruit flavors within a fine tannin structure.   The finish lingers but never turns bitter – a great example of Aussie Shiraz.   Roaring 40’s Blue Cheese – Fabulous blue cheese from King Island Dairy, Tasmania. Sweet cow’s milk, produced in a pristine environment, is used in creating one of the world’s great blue cheeses.  This handcrafted cheese is full flavored with an amazing finish.  We pair it with a bold Australian red but a dessert wine would also work well.

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Portuguese Wine Dinner (Featuring Esporao and others)

Having recently returned from a visit to beautiful Portugal, we thought the best way to give our good friends a taste of our trip was to share food and wine like what we tasted in Portugal!   A highlight of our travels was a visit to the Esporao winery, situated in the beautiful golden rolling hills of the eastern Alentejo region, only a few miles from Portugal’s eastern border with Spain.   This region is stunning and we kept wondering if the kind people who live there know how gorgeous their home region is…   The folks at Esporao are just as serious and professional about wine as the landscape was beautiful, and the operation is quite impressive – we understand that last year the winery produced around 16 million bottles of wine – a big number for any winery in any part of the world.   Not only is the production large, there seemed an equal commitment to quality as evidenced by the completely separate and different wine making facilities for whites and reds, allowing the reds never to mix with whites and the whites to be cold fermented and kept entirely separate from the red wine making processes and equipment.   Separate red and white wine making facilities require a sizable financial commitment, but given Esporao’s apparent desire to become better and more respected, it seems there was probably little hesitation to making this investment.  The winery is led, as it has been for many years now, by David Baverstock – an Australian who makes Portugal his wine-making home.   After a tour of the winery we were treated to a tasting of several current wine releases and an olive oil tasting – the breadth of wine styles and tastes was impressive and quite interesting for us.   Should anyone decide to make a trip to Portugal and travel through the Alentejo Region, I highly recommend taking a tour and having lunch at the winery, the foods and wines are matched expertly and the entire staff seemed professional and yet truly friendly – a great experience for all.

Here is what our Portuguese Chef and friend (Toni Pais) put together for our group of 40 people to share a taste of Portugal:

Aperitivo  – Crostini with Sardine, AND Portuguese Chickpea and Spinach Soup  Casta Baga Vinho Espumante Bruto Rose  (LUIS PATO, Anadia – Portugal)

Entrada  – Feijoada de Mariscos (Seafood Cassoulet)  Reserve White 2008  – (HERDADE DO ESPORAO, Alentejano – Portugal)

Salada  – Mixed greens with Anchovies and Red wine vinegar

Prato Principal  – Braised Lamb in Red wine with Saffron Rice  Quatro Castas Reserva 2008  AND Reserve Red 2007  (HERDADE DO ESPORAO, Alentejano – Portugal)

Sobremesa  –  Fig Almond Tart  Vintage Port – 2000  (OSBORNE, Douro – Portugal)

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