Best of Wines and Cheeses in Costa Rica
During our time in Costa Rica (much longer than we expected) we’ve been finding some really nice wines and cheeses. This trip we’ve had more purchasing options since we’ve been traveling around the country more. This has allowed us to find brands and shops that we never visited before. We’re also aware that it isn’t crucial to refrigerate cheese immediately so we’ve been fine taking the chance of driving home with it for a couple hours without thinking twice.
Our first week started and finished in San Jose so we had to take the time to go out to a wine shop, we’d only read about, before. Not only did they carry our Unicorn Wine Ocio but they were giant and there was so much more to try there. They even had a tasting bar but there wasn’t time so that will have to wait until next time. Here we found the Escorihuela Gascón Syrah from Argentina. Neil is always on a quest for Syrah so we knew we’d have to pick up a bottle. So happy we did because it had so many complex flavors, a nice texture and a level of smoke that even I could enjoy.
I really like white wines but I find it easier to try new wines and brands that are red wine. During a recent trip out to Ojochal, we found a place serving wine with lunch and they had a “by the glass” menu. I was so excited because they had the Martin Codax Albariño from Spain listed on there. Having heard good things about this grape, I tried a glass. Once I picked up the minerals and the cleansing affect I was happy I did. Later that month in our local grocery store, we saw the bottle and we picked one up. Isn’t that how the “by the glass” menus should work?
Our website started just as pairing wines and cheeses but like many people, we want to have wines with dinner too. A couple years back Neil and I switched our diets to be mainly vegetables and beans which can make for some tricky wine pairings. I figured it was worth mentioning which wines went really well so that you can check them out if you’re having similar challenges.
Last year we came across the brands San Huberto and Indomita from the case of wine that we ordered from San Jose. Remembering that we liked them before we bought the San Huberto bonarda and Indomita Carmenere again. Not only are they good on their own but they also went very well with our dinners. The Bonarda’s spice got even more elevated with our lentils and the veggie elements in the Carmenere shined through with our stir fry.
We also tried the Torrontes by San Huberto for our tasting flight but I wanted to get some Chardonnay this year instead. We picked up both their entry level bottle and the Reserve. It really surprised us how good the entry level one was since it was so affordable. Since we both enjoy Chardonnay it was nice to have both of these to drink whenever we felt like it.
The brand Agustinos from Chile is another one worth mentioning from our case of wine. Of course it’s too hard to top the Ocio Pinot Noir that we tried this year, but the Pinot Noir from Agustinos came pretty close. We noticed a lot of similarities and made a note to order it again when we have the opportunity.
Gato Negro is a brand that we first tried back in Ecuador (2016), which seems like a million years ago. It didn’t make a huge impression on us back then but when we found the 9 Lives Reserve wine, this year, we wanted to try it again. It’s a red blend and apparently this was our year to start dabbling in Reserve wines. I really liked that it had a little bit of everything in the flavors/aromas. When I went back, it was nowhere to be found. Darn it! Would have been a great wine to have waiting and ready to drink.
Another reason we found so many new wine brands this year is because we started going to a new grocery store, BM. Their wine section is refrigerated and makes me a lot more excited to try new brands. We found both the Legado Muñoz Spanish Grenache and the Italian white wine Ca d’Archi there.
We tried the Italian white at a virtual happy hour with my brother and drank the entire bottle without even thinking so of course we bought another one next time we went there. The Grenache was nice on it’s own and with our meal, when the flavor of rhubarb came out of the wine. How interesting. I should see if I can find this one again!
One of the new wineries we’ve been tasting this year is Adobe Reserva Chilean wines. We first tried their rosé during a pairing, http://wineandcheesefriday.com/emiliana-adobe-rose-and-goats-milk-brie/. As of now I’m declaring it my favorite rosé this year. Gold star to you Adobe winery! Next we tried their Pinot Noir to celebrate Pinot Noir Day. Another tasty wine. On deck, we have their Sauvignon Blanc for an upcoming WineAndCheeseFriday pairing. This seems like our next go-to brand for wines.
Before we wrap up the wines, there has to be a sparkling wine in this list too. We’ve been tasting through quite a few as they are just so easy to drink, but I must say they haven’t been working in our food pairings. Then, we tried the Trapiche Sparkling Rosé and got a winner. Fruity aromas and fruity flavors that I figured out were similar to pink grapefruit. That’s a new one for me in a rosé or a sparkler so I was impressed.
And onto the cheeses, all made here in Costa Rica, beginning with the brand Le Chaudron. We found this brand over on the Caribbean side when we first arrived. Having a slight photographic memory, I knew I’d never tried this Costa Rican brand before. Not only was it new but they had a goat cheese that looked very French (Sainte Pierre) and a tomme (Tomme Guayabo) which I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything of this class here either. I was excited and rightfully so because they were both so tasty. See our entry where they were featured here.
As luck would have it, we found this brand again during a trip to Ojochal. Yet again, there was another kind of cheese that I’ve never come across, Gruyere. Yes! One of the funky Swiss cheeses we can always get excited about! No official entry but we celebrated Pinot Noir Day with it.
For those of you Cheeselovers out there, I’m sure you’ve heard of Burrata. Would you believe that we only first tried it a year ago? I know I can’t believe it either! The brand Bocatto díSole is made here in Costa Rica and was another new brand during this trip. We put it on some bread from a local bakery and nearly ate the entire ball. So yum!
We heard about Quesos QM, artisan cheese made here in CR, a year or two ago but tried them a lot more this trip. Their Maduro Caprino wedge kicked it off for us and sparked us to see what else we could find at our local grocery store. Then there was the tomme with the musty, crusty rind during my Podcast with Lori Budd. Wow was that good! The tipo brie was really good too. So glad we decided to taste through their catalog. It’s delicious!
It’s hard to believe there were still more artisan brands to find! Quesos Biamonte is sold in Dominical, the local beach town, at the natural grocery market. The first time we found them, we picked up Crescenza and its smaller counterpart Delicaprino semi-maduro. It was hard to resist that cute goat on the label. Then when we returned to Dominical, the same brand had a purple cheese that looked like it must be soaked in wine, Morabia. We featured this cheese in a recent entry. It was my favorite of the three so far, now I wonder what else they might carry.
All of the cheeses so far have been widely distributed brands, well maybe not widely, but I’ve come across them in a few stores. Our local farmer’s market, the Feria Agricultor, carries some cheese as well. When we came across the booth for Pedrogoso Lacteos and tasted their Manchego, we were super excited. Strangely enough, we never saw them there again so I’m not sure where they went. Sadness!
Putting together this entry was a great refresher for me. Now I’ve got my grocery list for the next time I head out to the store! Always great to have some standby wine and cheeses when you’re in a new place. Tell us some of your favorite wines or cheeses from 2020 in the comments below!