In between my exploration of wines around the world, and comparing the same varietal from different regions, I continue to go to specific tastings. "Buy local" is a big trend right now, with farmers' markets and Whole Foods selling local cheese and produce. So I decided to try a tasting with the Institute of Culinary Education on pairing local wine and cheese. The advantage here is that the class instructor, Richard Vayda, has 20+ years of experience. While Astor wines had a woman who knew wine more than cheese, and is newer in the industry, Mr. Vayda has experience in both food and wine. In this class, we paired 12 wines with 8 cheeses. Highlights of the tasting are below.
Finger Lakes Blanc de Noirs, Chateau Frank, 2006 and Coach Farm Fresh Goat Log from Pine Plans, NY - a wine to serve chilled, the Blanc de Noirs is very clear, bright, and the color of light straw. It has no off odors, and has fresh light odors such as citrus, green apple, and unnripe white peach. It has small bubbles, mild acidity, minerality, and a slight flavor of apple and peach, with no finish. Because it is a fresh and simple wine, the goat cheese goes well with it. The cheese is slightly tangy, salty, and acidic, thereby not overpowering such a light summer wine.
North Fork Chardonnay, Peconic Bay Winery, 2010 and Kunik, Nettle Meadow from Thurman, NY - The cheese is aged goat cheese soft-ripened with a light, edible rind. The wine is dark yellow, and smelled of ripe apple and pear, and very rich. It has a medium body to match the medium density of the cheese, and the taste is of a bitter-edged tropical fruit. The fruitiness of the wine balances well against the richness of the cheese, while the wine's acidity still cuts through the cheese fat to make it easier to eat. A great pair.
Hamptons Rose, Wolffer Estate, 2010 and both goat cheeses (above) - If you have put aside old stigmatisms about pink wine, you most likely have embraced Rose. The Wolffer Estate is know for making consistenly good Rose, and Rose is a varietal whose flavor is more consistent than many whites. Not only known for going well with many foods, Rose is refreshing and flavorful. This Rose has high clarity and a salmon/peach color, and is very bright. It smells of fresh red fruits and feels light and acidic in the mouth. There is a little tanin in the wine, which pairs with the acidity to balance cheese fat. It tastes clean, of red fruit and a little stoney. A more flexible wine that whites, it went well with both goat cheeses. Neighbors, dry this Rose next summer!
Hamptons Cabernet Franc, Wolffer Estate, 2008 and the Cowtipper from Calkins Creamery, Wayne County PA or Cabot Clothbound Cheddar - this wine, like many European wines, was made to be consumed with food. Carrying a wood and cedar odor, tasting of casis and wood in a bitter way, the cheeses really complement the wine in a way that makes you love it. The Cowtipper is a pressed raw cow milk that tastes nutty and strong on its own, but loves blending with the wine. The cheddar is an American favorite, easy to find, and being a bit dry and strong, pairs well with the wine.
North Forks Merlot, Raphael 2001 and Smoke Signal Cheese from Calkins Creamery or Point of Origin's Six Points Diesel from Sprout Creek, NY - The wine is a typical ruby red Merlot color, and had a mellow cedar odor to it. Delivering a lot of tannin, it paired well with the fatty cheeses. The wine tasted of dense, dark fruits such as casis or plum. Smoke Signal cheese is a semi-pressed and smoked raw milk cheese. The dark flavors of the wine balance well against the smokey flavor of the cheese. Six Point Diesel is a beer reference, letting you know that the beer is used to flavor the cheese. This moist and tasty cheese liked the wine's tanin and both were digested well with each other.
Atlantic County (NJ) Vidal Blanc Ice Wine from Tomasello Winery 2010 with Baylen Hazen Blue Cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, VT - As you know, ice wine is made in colder climates because the wine is made from frozen grapes. The wine is always sweet, as this wine is. The wine is cloudy and very golden-orange in color. You can smell honey, apricot, and white grape from this wine, but you taste soft spicey sweetness, and stone fruits (meaning fruits that have pits in them). Because of the wine's strong sweetness, the Blue Cheese balanced it well with its typical strong earthy-salty flavor. If you don't like blue cheeses, the wine can also be paired with pecan pie, a less sweet nut cake, and foods prepared with clove.
There were additional wines that we tasted, but they did not pair well or as easily with cheese, so they were not mentioned in this blog. Enjoy your local goods!