About a month ago I ate Wensleydale cheese from Neal's Yard and loved it, and most callously called it a Cheddar, which in fact it is not. Bronwen Percival, the cheese buyer at Neal's Yard, discussed this at the end of the post in her comments. Bronwen knows about a lot about cheese, which is kind of like saying that Stephen Hawking knows a lot about physics.
Well, it's been a long time coming, but I finally tasted the mack-daddy of cloth bound Cheddars, the king, if you will. I speak of Montgomery's Cheddar from Neal's Yard.This is a raw milk cheese that is aged for at least one year. I think Neal's Yard's description of the cheese is right on:
Rich, sweet, fruity, nutty, beefy flavours. Sometimes reminiscent of the caramelised edge of a Sunday roast. The texture is drier than most other cheddars with a grainy and crystalline crunch as it ages.A friend and I enjoyed this cheese alongside a piece of Wensleydale the other night. Eating them together provided, for me anyway, a clear definition of Cheddar. Wensleydale shows some moistness at room temperature, and tastes of butter, cream, and grass. Montgomery's is more golden in color, harder and crumblier, and much different in flavor. As the above tasting note indicates, the flavors here are more savory. Both cheeses are wonderful, and I have no favorite. This might sound odd, but there is something about Wensleydale that makes me think of it as a morning cheese, and Montgomery's is for afternoon or night time. That said, breakfast this morning was Montgomery's on a slice of 7-grain and it was absurdly delicious.
Sadly, at breakfast I did not indulge in the beverage pairing that my friend and I did when eating this cheese the other night. We drank N.V. Bodegas Hidalgo Jerez-Xérès-Sherry Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, $24, Imported by Classical Wines. Pastrana is a very special wine, a single vineyard barrel-aged Manzanilla that offers all of the briskness and sea salt one would expect from a good Manzanilla, but also shows an amazing depth, intensity, and complexity that for me elevates it above most Manzanillas.
Now, we had some wine with dinner before we arrived at cloth bound and Sherry, and I wasn't taking notes. I love this Sherry, but I think I might prefer to drink a dark beer with Montgomery's. Somehow the flavors of the Sherry and the cheese competed with instead of elevating one another. I love Pastrana with cheese, but I've had it only with aged goat cheeses. Perhaps it's not the best pairing with the king of Cheddars. Perhaps I should have tried them together again at breakfast. One day when I'm retired I'll do things like that.