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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to Class!

Last night's wine class was Robust Reds and Stinky Cheeses! Even though the class was originally sold out, I was able to squeeze in due to a last minute cancellation--it was the most packed class I'd been to yet! At around 7:05 we all poured into to ICE's wine tasting room and naturally, I selected my usual seat in which I had sat all throughout "Wine Essentials." Before me was the handout for the evening's class. We were to taste nine wines and ten cheeses. Once everyone had selected their seats, Kati, Professor Vayda's assistant, handed out the (wine and cheese) description packets.

After a brief introduction and bio, Prof. Vayda briefly ran down the wine list, giving a few details about each. We would be tasting a variety of reds that evening including: Châteauneuf-du-PapeNapa, Cabernet Sauvignon; and lastly, a Porto--"... something warm to send you on your way." On to the cheeses, there was a variety from: soft-ripened to blue, England to Italy. After professor briefly described each cheese, he went on to describe the process of cheese-making.

In the U.S., all cheeses are categorized into four categories: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard. But in Europe, there are seven. 
  1. Fresh
  2. Chèvre / goat
  3. Soft-ripened
  4. Wash rind
  5. Semi-hard / hard
  6. Blue
  7. Processed
After we were formally introduced to the process of cheese-making, we moved on to tasting some of the wines. The first wine to impress me was the Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Ripasso), 'Campo San Vito,' Villa Monteleone 2004. As valpolicella wines are made using the corvina grape, a valpolicella ripasso (meaning "repassed") wine is passed through the "pomace" (leftover grape skins) from amarone, a "rich, dry Italian red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the corvina, rondinella, and molinara varieties." As the valpolicella is passed through the pomace it absorbs some of the richness and flavor. So, it's almost like getting a 'valpolicella-amarone blend,' without the cost of buying amarone.

Naturally, I was interested in the valpolicella because it's one of my favorite red wines to buy--simply for its 'ease of drinking.' But this valpolicella was much more impressive than my usual bottle. It lingers in your mouth much longer and you might even notice some hints of wood as well. $24.

My favorite wine of the night (before moving onto 'sweet wines') was Stellenbosch, 'Fusion V,' De Toren 2007, made using all five Bordeaux grapes (hence the name, "Fusion V"). On the nose: a smoky scent; and for the feel: length on the tongue and a hint of acid. $44.

My final two wines of the night found noteworthy are: Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Joseph Phelps 2006 and Toscana I.G.T., 'Nanerone,' Piandibugnano 2006. The napa cab was sweet and smoky ($47) and the toscana nanerone had a sweet, "jammy" taste to it, similar to that of "wild country berries." ($32 for a half bottle)

don't they look sweet?

My favorite cheeses for the night were:

Pico (France)
Crottin de Chavignol (France)

Wash rind
Taleggio (Italy)

Semi-hard / hard
Raw milk, cellar aged Comté

Shropshire Blue (England)
Queso de Valdeón (Spain)

As we tasted the cheeses, I also picked up a few interesting tips from Prof. Vayda. One: with soft-ripened cheese, pierce into and poke the center to see if it's ready (ripe). If it gives, it's ready; "there's nothing worse than biting into a chalky piece of Brie."

The pico (made from goat's milk) was nice, with a touch of white [good] mold flowering on its rind. And the crottin (also made from goat's milk), completely soft, could even be left to harden and grated over pasta. (another tip)

The firmer tallegio (cow's milk) was tangy; and even firmer: the cellar aged comté was nice too--somewhat hearty, and a few milk crystals.

And finally, our blue cheeses: shropshire blue (a blue cheddar) was very good and the queso de valdeón (wrapped in leaves; made from goat, cows and ewes' milk) was good also, yet gentler than the shropshire. (I think the valdeón was definitely the prettier of the two; the shropshire blue was quite arresting [and a bit odd-looking] with it's bright orange color and bits of blue running through it)

All cheeses sourced from Garden of Eden Marketplace.
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