Wine and Cheese Iberian Style – Tasty Stuff!

Another Wine and Cheese event at Marty’s Market (http://martysmarket.com/), another sold out crowd – even had an active waitlist for this event!   Given the tasty wine and cheese line-up combined with Marty’s Market’s gracious accommodation; I am not surprised this was a popular event.   The friendly and engaging atmosphere was typified by the quick offer from our wine-enthusiast friend Jerry P. to help pour and distribute the wines (more than 200 glasses total!), despite the fact that he and his wife came to relax and enjoy the event – I was missing one helper, so Jerry stepping in was certainly appreciated.    My Co-Conspirator David “Cheese-ologist” Bennett and I especially enjoyed the intelligent and thoughtful comments from the attendees, even when sometimes disagreeing with one of us!  We are looking forward to our Italian tasting on April 18th….

The four tastings below are all wonderful individually, and in some cases the combinations were positively romantic – one person commented that the final combination of Valdeon and Rioja Reserva caused her to want to “make out with someone”!   Sounds good doesn’t it!??!

Here they are in the order we tasted:

FIRST COURSE

GARROTXA – Garrotxa is a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s milk. The cheese is named for the area of Catalonia where it was traditionally made. It has a firm white interior and a natural grey rind. Garrotxa is produced in small, two-pound wheels. Production of this cheese almost completely disappeared until a revival in making it during the 1980’s.

ANNA DE CORDONIU CAVA – From ultra-historic-and-famous Codorniu Cava house in Spain—not far from Barcelona—30% traditional Cava grapes compliment a heavy dose of 70% Chardonnay. The wine is produced using the French “Methode Traditionale”. The light effervescence and delicate flavors provide a satisfying start to any event.   (PLCB Code: 33033)

SECOND COURSE

AZEITÃO – Azeitão is a distinctive raw sheeps’s milk cheese that is coagulated with cardoon thistle instead of traditional animal rennet. Azeitão is named for the villaige where it is made in the foothills of the Arribida mountain range in Portugal where sheep feed in lush pastures of grass and herbs. There is a simple farmhouse beauty to this round shaped cheese, and the taste is exquisitely gourmet.

ESPORAO RESERVE WHITE – From Portugal’s Alentejo district, east of Lisbon near the Spanish border, this medium to full bodied white wine is unapologetically rich and full flavored with notes of stone fruits and spice. Blended from indigenous Portuguese grapes, the Esporao Reserve White shows the complexity and sophistication of a fine White Burgundy.  (PLCB Code: 45923 $18.99)

THIRD COURSE

ZAMORANO – Zamorano is a hard sheep’s milk cheese very similar to Manchego, but it has a more robust taste and a much smoother texture.   The cheese is made in Zamora, Spain, where it is aged 6 months.  The cheese is rubbed with olive oil, which results in a brownish rind (whereas Machego is more green, they both have the same zig-zag pattern on the rind).  The milk is from 2 breeds of cold weather sheep, the small Churra and the Castilian sheep.

QUINTA DOS MURCAS ASSOBIO – From Portugal’s famous Douro Valley (where Port has been made for past 400 years).   This wine has a deep, vibrant red color and the spicy aroma of berries and violet. In the mouth the delicious flavor blend of berry and black cherry envelope the mouth with long persistent finish.  (PLCB Code: 38001 $15.49)

FOURTH COURSE

VALDEÓN – Queso de Valdeón is wonderful blue cheese from the northeast province of León, Spain. It is wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves, and is often compared to its sharper cousin, Cabrales. It’s a mixed milk cheese, in that it uses milk from both from cows and goats. I am often asked which cheese is my favorite, and usually this cheese is at the very top of the list.  You can pair this cheese with a BIG red, or sometimes it goes equally well with a port.

MARQUÉS DE RISCAL RIOJA RESERVA – From Spain’s most famous wine producing region, the Rioja Valley, this Reserva contains 90% Tempranillo grapes with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo to finish the blend.   Winemaking includes two years in American Oak casks (possibly some from Pgh Region!) and minimum one year in bottle before distribution.  An elegant wine with vanilla and red fruit notes, the finish is full and smooth.  (PLCB Code: 6372 $18.99)

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French Cheese and Wine at Marty’s Market

Who doesn’t like cheese ?!?!?  – Certainly we love cheese, especially when paired with wine! (there’s an idea!) – so when Owner of Marty’s Market (http://martysmarket.com/) asked my good friend and co-conspiritor David “Cheese-Guy” Bennet and me to do a series of Cheese and Wine tastings – our answer was an enthusiastic YES!

So we figured we would start out with one of the world’s top Cheese/Wine producers: FRANCE!   David and I have some reliable combinations and totally enjoyed sharing them with a sold-out crowd at Marty’s Market.   Can’t wait for next month!

Cheese notes below are from David Bennet, wine pairings from me:

Brillat-Savarin – Brillat-Savarin is a triple cream cow’s milk cheese that is named after the 18th century French food writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  A triple cream cheese is made by adding cream to the milk to enrich the flavor (and decadence). The cheese was created in the 1930s by cheese-maker Henri Androuet.  Brillat-Savarin is produced Burgundy and comes in 5 inch diameter, 1.5 inches tall, and is aged for one to two weeks.  There is a very similar cheese called Pierre Robert that is aged longer and therefore has more intense, earthy flavors. The taste is often butter, salt and cream, sometimes mushrooms, hazelnuts or truffles. The interior paste is buttery-white in color with a dense, moist and slightly chalky texture. The best reason to buy Brillat-Savarin is to pamper someone.  It pairs best with Champagne, Crémant de Bourgogne or Rose.

Paired with Cremant de Bourgogne Brut NV – Made with same process as Champagne, but in region a few miles to the south of Champagne, this Cremant is fresh and crisp with tightly focused flavors – a great starter.

Ossau-Iraty – Ossau-Iraty is an extraordinary sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrénées Mountians, in the Basque Region of France. The name dates from 1980 and comes from the combination of 2 place names, but the cheese is ancient, traditionally made by shepherds in mountain huts as they worked their way up the mountains with their flocks in spring and back down in autumn.  It’s always better to look for the raw milk version of this cheese, it features an extraordinary nutty taste and an exquisite texture.  This is truly one of the world’s great cheeses.  The milk is mostly from Manech Ewes,  hardy mountain sheep with black or red heads.  Aged for at least 90 days in caves.  Ossau-Iraty is creamy and buttery in the mouth with flavors of nuts, fruits and herbs. Ossau-Iraty pairs with both red and white French wines. Esspecially wonderful with a dry white Bordeaux or Sauvignon Blanc.

Paired with 2010 Chateau Merlet Bordeaux Blanc Sec – Traditional white Bordeaux Blend – 55% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle.  This white is light, tight, citrusy and fruity – a fine compliment to summer foods!

Mimolette – Mimolette is a cow’s milk cheese produced around the city of Lille, France.  It was originally made at the request of Louis XIV, who was looking for a French made cheese to replace the very popular Edam imported from Holland.  To differentiate Mimolette from Edam, he made it orange using annatto, a natural colorant. It has a grey exterior crust and an orange interior color, very much like a cantaloupe.  Cheese mites are intentionally introduced to create a distinct flavor.  One thing to appreciate about Mimolette is to understand the distinctly French qualities of the cheese, despite its origin as a copy of the Dutch.  The taste is butterscotch and caramel, lemony and sweet.  Mimolette has a unique crumbly or chalky texture. Pairs well with red wines from Bordeaux or Côtes du Rhône.  Also goes nicely with Ales.

Paired with 2009 Chateau Cabous Bordeaux Rouge – Traditional “right bank” Bordeaux Blend – in this case 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Earthy red fruit with some background smoky elements. Smooth and silky, easy drinking.

Fourme d’Ambert – Fourme d’Ambert is a cow’s milk blue cheese from the Auverge region of France.  Fourme d’Ambert is one of France’s oldest cheeses, and dates back to Roman times. It has a distinct, narrow cylindrical shape. ‘Fourme’ comes from the Latin ‘forma’ (form), referring to the container used to make the cheese.  The semi-hard cheese is inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti spores and aged for at least 28 days.  A likeness of the cheese can be found sculpted above the entrance to a medieval chapel in La Chaulme (Auvergne, France).  The texture is smooth and creamy, very moist, even for a blue cheese.  The taste is exquisite and fruity.  Some detect anise, nuts or mushrooms.  Pairs well with Sauternes, Port or a bold Côtes du Rhône.

Paired with 2010 J.L.Chave Selection “Mon Coeur” Cotes du Rhone – Roughly equal parts Grenache and Syrah, this wine is produced by the uber-famous J.L.Chave family (“from father to son, since 1481”).   It is a rich and muscular wine that seeks to express the rustic terrior of the Southern Rhone.