Local Wine, Local Cheese If you have ever been in Western Europe like Chianti country, then you know that a popular cuisine concept is to pair local food with local wine. With the Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, and Long Island wineries in New York state, Astor wines presented the first attempt at pairing local / regional wines with local /regional cheeses. Below is what was paired, and my palate's reaction.
Eve's Cider, Van Etten, NY & Old Chatham Sheephearding Co. Camembert from Old Chatham, NY - The cider was bittersweet, made from apples that came from England, France, and the USA. The cider was nicely dry, and the bubbles were not too big because the cider was made by the "champagne method" (curious what that is? leave a comment). On the nose, there was apple, pear, and tropical fruits. I did taste apple in the cider, and noticed a fair level of acidity. The cheese was very creamy, very good, and very rich. In my opinion, the cider's flavor was much too subtle for the cheese. It wasn't a bad pairing, but not spectacular either.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes 2011 & Nettle Meadow Kunik from Warrensburg, NY - The wine had a very light straw color with a tinge of green. The flavor was crisp with a citrus and green apple flavor. The Finger Lakes are a cooler climate, which produces more acidity in the wine, and I also tasted a smooth tangy flavor. The cheese was made from goat milk and cow cheese, and was tangy and creamy. The joint tanginess of the pair, and the possibility of the wine's acidity cutting the creaminess of the cheese is probably what brought about this pairing. I was not crazy about this pairing either, though. They were okay together, but the flavors of the wine and cheese didn't pop as a result of the pairing.
Channing Daughters "Scuttlehole" Chardonay 2010, South Fork Long Island, NY & Consider Bardwell Manchester from West Pawlet, VT - The vineyard does things the old fashioned way, hand-picking the grapes and pressing them by stomping with their feet. The wine was a golden yellow and had a big water line, and tasted very crisp. I tasted Pineapple, bitterness, and smelled nuttiness. It was fruity without being sweet. The cheese was a hard, aged goat cheese and tasted nutty. The smell of the wine and taste of the cheese both being nutty is probably what caused the pairing, but I thought the cheese was too strong for the wine.
Millbrook, Tocai Friuliano 2011 from Hudson River Valley, NY & Twin Maple Farms Hudson Valley Red from Ghent, NY - The wine was golden yellow with a big water line. The grape and region gave the wine a color that is dark for how young the wine is. On the nose it was earthy with a hint of bitterness, and a little fruity. The wine tasted savory with a bit of peach and floral flavors. The cheese is nutty and "beefy", and had a washed rind. Once again I thought that the cheese was stronger than the wine, but I liked the wine, and would drink it happily with something else.
McCall Pinot Noir 2009 from North Fork, Long Island, NY & Spring Brook Tarentaise from Reading, VT - The wine was oaked in French oak, and was dark red. It smelled of black cherry, smoky spice, and musty. I tasted fruit, smoothness, and a hint of tannin. The cheese was hard, using the alpine style of making cheese. This was my favorite pairing, and 40 % of the tasters there agreed with me. The wine alone was very popular, but what made the pairing was that the tannin in the wine was softened by the fat in the cheese. Similarly, the cheese was easier to like because of the tannins in the wine.
Atwater Estate Vineyards Meritage 2009 from the Finger Lakes, NY & Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Greensboro, VT - A Bordeaux style wine that is a blend and not permitted to use "Bordeaux" to describe the varietal. When American wines decided to find a name for this varietal, there was a competition for the new name. Someone came up with "Meritage" by combining "merit" and "heritage". The wine is dark red but not inky or purple. On the nose was smoke, dried fruits, spice, green pepper, and tannin. I could also taste the tannins and dark red fruits. If you know Cabot cheddar, then imagine how much better it is if clothbound. It was another nice pairing. The wine would also go with grilled and braised meats. 40 % of the tasters also liked this pairing -- again, the tannin from the wine and fat from the cheese cancelled each other out.