Wednesday, November 18, 2009

By the Glass - Domestic Cheese Edition

We've been delving further into domestic cheeses lately with some very good results, mostly. It continues to fascinate me, the challenge of pairing wine with cheese. In my opinion, which in this case is even less well informed than most of my other opinions, red wine is just too difficult to pair with cheese. They both tend to have such powerful aspirations, how can they avoid doing battle with one another? I find myself wanting to drink whites with cheese, the only question being whether or not the wine should have residual sugar. We've tried the cheeses I mention below several times, with various wines. Here are a few recent pairings that worked. Please feel free to chime in with any suggestions of your own.

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, paired with 2002 Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Les Coteaux, $28, Louis/Dressner Selections. Jasper Hill Farm might be the last great hope for artisanal cheese in Vermont. Mateo and Andy Kehler raise their own cows and make their own cheeses, but they also cellar small-batch cheeses made by other dairy farmers, including the famous Cabot's Cloth Bound Cheddar. Their Bayley Hazen Blue is a raw milk cheese that's aged for at least four months, and it is distinguished by its great balance. Not too salty, not too sweet, this cheese tastes of fresh butter, with herbs and roast nuts. It is crumbly and dense, not creamy like St. Agur. There are many wines that would be great with this cheese, but after one nibble, I knew that I wanted something sweet. The wines of the Savennières appellation are typically dry, but in 2002 the Domaine du Closel made a sweet wine. It was a great match, the herbal flavors of the wine enhancing the same flavors in the cheese. The rich, somewhat viscous texture of the wine enhancing the cheese's lean and sprightly characteristics. I've had this wine as an apértif in the past year, and it was far better with cheese than it was on its own.

Jasper Hill Constant Bliss, paired with 2007 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Blanc, $18, Jean-Marie de Champs Selections. This is a Chaource-style (in the Champagne region) cow's milk cheese. It is aged longer than Chaource cheeses (thank you, flavorful bacteria-averse FDA regulations), and the Jasper Hills folks say that it doesn't really resemble the cheeses of Chaource. This is delicious cheese, plain and simple. The best wine pairing I've found so far is the fabulously over-achieving everyday Bourgogne by Paul Pernot, which in the classic vintage of 2007 manages to be both lighthearted and serious. It shows hints of everything that makes white Burgundy wine so great - ripe fruit, delicate floral and stony aromas, and inner layers of texture that fade in and out.

Scholten Family Farms Weybridge, paired with 2007 Agnès et René Mosse Anjou Blanc, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. This cheese is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. It is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese with a bloomy rind, aged for 20-30 days. It quite sensibly ripens from the outside in, offering a lovely contrast between the creamy outer layer and the more chalky inner paste. I found the texture to be the most interesting thing about this cheese. The flavors are nice too, but more simple. The Mosse Anjou Blanc was nice here, its earthy and woolly notes adding complexity that I found the cheese to lack. Somehow, though, the wine showed almost no acidity when paired with the cheese. Strange...

Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson, paried with 2006 Pierre Frick Sylvaner Cuvée Classique, $13, Fruit of the Vines Imports. This is a raw milk washed rind cheese from the mountains of south-western Virginia, made somewhat in the style of the classic Italian Taleggio. Meadow Creek Dairy practices an earth-friendly form of cattle farming and cheese making. I have no data to back this up, but I hereby assert that Meadow Creek dairy is partially responsible for the fact that in the recent Presidential election, the great state of Virginia voted Democratic for the first time since 1964. In any case, this is delicious cheese. It is not a runny washed rind cheese, it retains its bouncy form even after several hours at room temperature. It is pungent, but not at all overpowering, with grassy and fruity flavors. Better to cut around the rind though, in my opinion, as it offers little to no flavor, and it adds an unpleasant brittle, waxy texture. Frick's bone-dry Sylvaner is great with this cheese. The floral aromas bookend the pungent, buttery cheese perfectly, and the almost startlingly dry wine accentuates the cheese's clean grassy flavors.


Jon from Bkln said...

Cheese from the Coop! Great stuff. If you get a chance, the Dancing Cow is wonderful as is much of the cheese from Switzerland we've had lately.

While overall I still think it's a cheese section catering to six year-olds (who actually buys all that tasteless camembert?), it's better than it used to be.

Peter Liem said...

I agree that red wine is vastly overrated with cheese. Here in France, it's taken for granted that the tannic, oak-aged red you just drank with that leg of lamb is going to be the perfect partner to the cheese course, and it almost never is. Your comment about the '02 Closel Coteaux being better with the Jasper Hill than it is on its own is quite interesting — this seems to happen very infrequently, for me, anyway. I find that if one of the two is enhanced, it's usually the cheese, and I like to see the wine benefit as well.

Brooklynguy said...

hey Jon - i will try the Dancing Cow. Are there more than 1, or is it only the one. i like the coop's selection (although why no morbier?). there problem, in my opinion, is that the cheeses aren't properly cared for while they wait to be purchased. I've experienced greater variation there than i think is necessary.

hey peter - i thought it was interesting too. sometimes cheese rubs out the edges of wine, makes it less distinct to me. Like the Mosse Anjou. Sometimes I find that the flavors and aromas just lock well together, and that's fun. Infrequent as you say, but fun.

the vlm said...

I'm with Peter and you on red wine with cheese (Peter and I maybe even discussed this), it almost never works well.

I'll go even further and say that when in doubt, chenin blanc based wine is what I serve with cheese, unless I have a suitable wine from the region. Frankly, I think chenin blanc based wines are even better than the proposed regional wines sometimes.

Clarke B. said...

The most spectacular cheese and wine pairing I've had recently was the insanely delicious Clos Larreyda Jurancon Sec with a handful of cheeses of different animal origin, softness, and pungency. The wine was voluptuously rich, but with knife-like acidity, and it was big and broad on the palate--completely handling the cheeses.

On that note, lots of people think Champagne and cheese work well together because of Champagne's bubbles, but in my experience, cheese usually just massacres the delicate flavors and textures of the Champagne. What do you think of that pairing?

Brooklynguy said...

hello mr.monkey - an honor and a pleasure to see you 'round these parts. my problem with chenin blanc is that i really think it goes with almost all foods. i have a weakness for rare bloody cuts of grass-fed skirt steak with savennieres. sounds ridiculous, i know, but it's really good.

hey clarke - had that same wine recently, and liked it too. i was thinking that it would be good with cheese. as far as champs with cheese, I've not enjoyed it for the exact reason you mention. but peter obviously has better insight into this than i do.

Leif Erik Sundstrom said...

Red wine and cheese, not so good - I agree. The only times I've had a harmonious red wine and cheese pairing it has usually been older Burgundy, where the tannins have softened to the point of not being present anymore, with something like Delice de Bourgogne.

Champagne and cheese can work very well, in my opinion, but the selection of both the wine and the cheese must be very acutely prescribed. Something like a Vilmart Champagne with a delicate creamy cow's milk works well; also, Cote de Blancs, like Guy Charlemagne with a firm and not-so-aged cow's milk cheese. Overall, when simply questioning Champagne and Cheese together I would generally agree with Clarke though.

I recently had a Cauhape Ballet d'Octobre with some very mild french blue, that was gorgeous.

But, perhaps I should explore more of our domestic cheeses...thanks Neil.

Sam Ehrlich said...

Hey BG, my name is Sam, we met a little while back at the Lassaigne tasting at Jenny Lefcourt's office. I work for Blue Ribbon, at our wine bar in the west village, and as I said when we met I am a big fan. This post happened to particularly prick my interest as we are now working, through Murray's, with Jasper Hill. We are serving a steady rotation of cheeses from their affinage, including Bayley hazen, but also Vermont Ayrshire, Landaff, Hartwell, Twig Farm, if you ever wanna pop in. Sorry for the shameless plug. You continue to do fine work. Keep it up.

whesly said...

first of all from my side, sound comes to heard "red wine + Cheese"'s quite awkward...!
how it can be possible...!

The Bloggers @ 67 Wine said...

What about flur wines with cheese?? I love having a cheese plate with a sherry or a arbois . . . one that has undergone that special thing!
I'll take a more serious look at the coop cheese selection (first for some jasper hill). I am disappointed that we have no good mozzarella though.