Wine And Cheese Friday http://wineandcheesefriday.lan reviews of Wines, Cheeses and all things related Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:36:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 6 Mile Cellars Wine Tasting, Erie, PA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/6-mile-cellars-wine-tasting-erie-pa/ Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:28:13 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2956 6 Mile Cellars 1

We had so many wine experiences during our summer trip to Pennsylvania that we still have a couple we haven’t told you about yet. Today’s entry is about our wine tasting at 6 Mile Cellars with Aunt Kathy, Marilou and myself. 6 Mile Cellars is just down the road from Aunt Kathy’s house but strangely, we had never visited. That’s likely due to the fact that it’s only open on Saturday and Sunday, so we made a point to check it out during our past trip. Although Aunt Kathy gets to enjoy the wines we bring back from the wineries, she’s never had the chance to come wine tasting with Neil and I. Neil’s sister, Marilou, was in town too so we decided to take a girls day out and enjoy a little vino.

6 Mile Cellars 3

This winery is relatively new, having only opened in 2012. Curious about the name 6 Mile Cellars? It refers to the creek that runs just behind Aunt Kathy’s house (6 Mile Creek). We enjoyed seeing the grapes on the exterior of the tasting room but found out that they only grow Niagara grapes on their property. The rest of their grapes are purchased from neighboring vineyards including Mazza, Arundel, and 21 Brix*.

6 Mile Cellars tasting menu

When we arrived, we were the first people there to taste the wine but we happily signed up for the set of 5 wines for $5 which included our souvenir glasses. All of us chose different wines but I do have a list of a few of the wines Marilou and Aunt Kathy tried in addition to my own notes.

Pinot Grigio
Strawberry Traminette
Derby Red
Derby Red Sangria
Cabernet Franc
Marechal Foch
Old Snapper

I began my tasting with the Pinot Grigio. This wine had dry, pear aromas and a little bit of a toasted flavor. The other white wine that I tried was the Riesling. I mentioned in our entry about Johnson Estate Winery that I was doing a bit of an experiment and trying all the Riesling’s I came across during this trip. The Riesling at 6 Mile Cellars smelled floral but tasted like fruit and oak. Aunt Kathy tried the Niagara, that is grown on the property, and knew she liked it. She decided to take home a bottle of it that day.

6 Mile Cellars 2

Marilou tried the Strawberry Traminette and decided it was just what she was looking for to sip on that Sunday afternoon. She brought home a bottle to share with her cousin. She also tasted both the Derby Red and Derby Red Sangria. I was familiar with the Derby Red after trying it a few times from relatives that live nearby. This wine is a blend of Concord and Fredonia grapes and I like that it’s both flavorful and light bodied. The Derby Red Sangria is a blend of the wine with fresh squeezed lemon, lime, orange, strawberries and pineapple juice. Both of these wines come in a can, and are so convenient, as well as tasty. It was an easy decision for Marilou to purchase both of those that day as well.

6 Mile Cellars wines

I had fun to watching them taste and enjoy their wines while I spoke with the tasting room associates and learned more about the winery. I found out that they use Hungarian Oak barrels because this type of oak has thicker grains. The wine can spend less time in the barrel for the same oak flavor that would take longer in other types of barrels. Pretty cool! Also 6 Mile Cellars is the same climate as Toreldego, Spain, I never would have guessed that. They were also excited to tell me that they are in the process of making some coffee wines in the future. How different! We’ve never tried anything like that before.

6 Mile Cellars wine tasting

I tried two red wines that day. My first red wine, Cabernet Franc, had berry and floral aromas. The flavor was light, with dark berries, black pepper and a hint of dryness. I liked it and decided I should purchase a bottle. The other red wine was Marechal Foch, one of the lesser known grapes that grows in this area. This wine had aromas of red licorice and flavors of cranberry, raspberry, and dark fruit. It was also a dry wine that I enjoyed.

I finished out my tasting with the Old Snapper, Ginger Snap Cider. I’m not usually a fan of beer but it seemed like something that would have all my favorite flavors of Autumn. I really liked the apple pie aromas, bubbles, and light ginger snap flavor. It was very nice and fun to try something a little out of the ordinary.

I’m glad I finally got to have a wine tasting experience with Marilou and Aunt Kathy and from the amount of wine we brought home, I’d say they liked it too. I even got a couple suggestions of other areas of the US that have wine trails to look for in the future. What a nice wine trip on a Sunday afternoon! And now we’ve been to 6 Mile Cellars, a place we had driven by so many times and always wondered about.

*We went to 21 Brix on a past trip out to Pennsylvania,

6 Mile Cellars Derby Red, Derby Red Sangria, Niagara, Strawberry Traminette, Cabernet Franc

Sideways Wine Tour http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/sideways-wine-tour/ Fri, 31 Aug 2018 23:17:20 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2953 Sideways Wine Bottle, Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

For how many times Neil and I have watched Sideways, we’ve never been to the region to try the wines. We made a point to take a trip to the Santa Rita Hills AVA this summer to follow the Sideways tourist map. We were calling it our Sideways Wine Tour and it would begin outside of Santa Barbara and end in San Jose with us stopping every day or two along the California Coast.

We’d be staying in Air Bnb’s in each location and including some beach time in addition to all the wine tastings. Our route included Carpinteria, Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, and Carmel.

We’re still working through all those wine tasting notes so today’s entry is just the introduction but you can see all the wineries we included in the tour. Miles and Jack would have been so proud of us for the quantity of Pinot Noir that we tried. And honestly, I don’t think we tried any Merlot in any of our tastings!

In the end we tried wine from Santa Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains, Carmel Valley, and Arroyo Seco. Find the winery list below and a few of the photos from this Sideways Wine Tour. And be sure to check back on this entry in the next couple weeks to find the links to the full entries for each winery.

Pali Wine Company, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Pali Wine Company

Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Fiddlehead Cellars

Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

Hitching Post Restaurant

Andrew Murray Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Andrew Murray Syrah

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Eberle Winery

Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA

Dracaena Wines

Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA

Brecon Estate

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Holman Ranch Estate Vineyard & Winery, Carmel, CA

Holman Ranch Estate Vineyard & Winery

Scratch Wines, Carmel, CA

Scratch Wines

Vinebox 3 with Campo cheese http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/vinebox-3-with-campo-cheese/ Tue, 21 Aug 2018 23:59:44 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2948 Domaine de la Renne, Château Les Palais, and Reserve de la Roncière Cuvée traditionelle with Boxcarr Campo cheese

Have you been following through our gift subscription to VineBox? Well this is our last entry of the 3-month subscription. Did you miss our introduction explaining Vinebox? We’ve really enjoyed this service and might even start it back up again if we end up staying at the same address for more than a week. Today’s entry has all French wines; one white wine, 2 red wines and another North Carolina cheese by Boxcarr Handmade Cheese.

Domaine de la Renne 2016, Sauvignon blanc, Loire-Touraine, France
Château Les Palais 2016, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Languedoc-Corbières, France 
Reserve de la Roncière Cuvée Traditionelle 2016, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Côtes du Rhône, France

Vinebox 3

We began our tasting with the Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley, after Neil took a quick peek at the tasting cards to rearrange the wines. The white wine was screaming peach aromas to me but Neil identified lemon and orange citrus. I found this wine to be crisp and tart with juicy peach flavors and a little funk in the finish. Neil noticed lemon-orange citrus with butter flavors and a hint of caramel. I really liked it, too bad there’s just a small sample of each wine.

Then we moved onto the cheese. I knew I wanted another North Carolina cheese to wrap up our Vinebox entries but I must have stood in front of the cheese counter at Whole Foods for 45 minutes trying to pick one out. We’ve had the Boxcarr Handmade Cheese brand before ( and it was delicious so I finally decided on the Campo.

It was definitely a stinky cheese! There was funk coming out while it was sitting next to me. So much funk that it tingled the inside of my nose. The funk flavors were milk, hay, pungent, feet and then baby powder. Once I tasted it, the cheese was smooth with a rind that was ashy, like it was burnt. Neil thought the texture was rubbery and soft. Although Neil recognized the flavor, he was having a hard time placing it. He knew it was a strong cheese with maybe flavors of a grassy field, or maybe hay but a little sour. I thought it had a hint of sweetness and brine. We both had input on what the rind tasted like. Neil picked up seeds and nuts similar to sunflower seeds and I thought it was like mustard and herbs. What a flavorful cheese!

You know how it works, next we paired the Sauvignon Blanc with the Campo cheese. I found the wine to get more tart but still peachy while developing a grapefruit flavor too. Neil wasn’t a fan when he tasted a huge mouthful of cheese funk during his sip of wine. Neil and I both noticed the cheese to get buttery from the pairing. I liked the pairing a lot but Neil said it was a No!

Our first red wine was from the Corbières region of Languedoc, France. This wine smelled really good when I swirled it and I picked out red and black fruit, vanilla and earth aromas! Neil found big berry and black pepper flavors and aromas. He said it was a jammy wine that had a lingering flavor of black pepper. This purple wine had dark fruit and vanilla flavors with black pepper spice. We’ve recently determined we like this region of France quite a bit. Curious about other wines to try from this affordable part of France, check out our post from Languedoc Day.

During the pairing of Château Les Palais and Campo cheese, I thought the cheese turned buttery again. I could also smell more earth in the wine but the wine lightened up and it wasn’t as good. The earthiness really stuck out from the earth in the wine and the earth in the rind of the cheese. Neil thought the spice decreased in the wine and it became drier. We both felt the wine would be better alone.

We ended our Vinebox samples with the Cuvée Traditionelle from the Rhone region of France. I didn’t think this red wine was quite as aromatic as the wine from Corbières. I only picked up aromas of red licorice but Neil was able to identify black fruit, prunes and black pepper. This was another purple wine that had spice but it was pretty dry. So dry that I didn’t notice much flavor either. Neil agreed that it was a very dry wine with spice as well as black cherry.

When we paired this dry wine with the cheese, there seemed to be more aromas in the wine and I noticed a flavor of graphite. The cheese helped the wine and it became more milky with some funk. Neil thought the wine got less dry with the cheese too. He even noticed a little more red fruit in the wine. Strangely though, he found less funk in the cheese, but did agree that it was more buttery.

In the end we disagreed if the cheese helped or overpowered the wines. Neil thought the cheese was too big for the pairings. I found the cheese to be very versatile because it turned buttery with both the red and the white wines. And regarding the wines, Neil and I both liked the second wine, Château Les Palais from Corbières, but my favorite was the white wine.

Overall we really enjoyed our Vinebox subscription. It was so fun to have 3 mysterious wines show up each month and I enjoyed the surprise of seeing what they sent each time. Is there a rosé? Are they sweet or dry? Where are they from? Also it was kind of fun to just get a sample of each! It was plenty for each of us to have a taste and even some to pair with cheese. I also really enjoyed having 3 different wines to pair with each cheese so we could try all kinds of pairing options. We’d both recommend giving Vinebox a try if this sounds like something you’d enjoy .

vinebox 3 with Boxcarr campo cheese and info cards

Eastern European 102, Wine Tasting Class at Bar Brunello, Durham, NC http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/eastern-european-102-wine-tasting-class-at-bar-brunello-durham-nc/ Fri, 17 Aug 2018 18:39:47 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2940 Bar Brunello in Durham, NC

During my time in Durham, NC, I was keeping my eye out for wine tastings and other wine experiences. When I came across the calendar of events at Bar Brunello, I was so excited to find such titles as Orange wine, South American wine classes and Eastern European tastings. Not only have I never tasted wines from this part of the world, to be honest, I wasn’t even sure what countries would be included in this area. Once I finally made up my mind to attend the Eastern European tasting, the first one was sold out, but luckily there were 2 so I promptly booked the second event.

The space was kind of small with around 6 tables and a bar in the back. It was open seating so I found a seat in the middle of the room. Our tasting was lead by Esteban, the owner of Bar Brunello. His ethnicity is part Czech and said he offers this tasting as a way of honoring his heritage. He let us all know that although we may not be familiar with this region for wine, it is an up and coming region with easy drinking wines at affordable prices! Sounds like some wines I definitely want to try.

Esteban Brunello at Bar Brunello, Durham, NC

I’ve gone to my share of wine tastings but there was so much to learn at the Eastern European tasting! Esteban let us know that if you want to cleanse your mouth between wines, it’s best to eat a small bite of cracker. He said that drinking water will cause you to water down your next wine. How have I never heard this before? He was really funny telling people how to taste their wine too. “Put your nose in it, Get Nasty!” “Then swish it around your mouth like it’s mouthwash.” Also we know that you should chill your white wines, as well as a your reds for a bit, but if the wine is too cold, you won’t be able to taste anything.

I loved how interactive the class was! He kept asking us to guess the alcohol level of the wine and asking “What level of acid did we think it had?” I thought it was pretty funny that he said they all had medium to medium plus acidity since I only noticed a hint of acid in a couple of them. He also had us yell out our flavors and aromas that we noticed. There were definitely people shy to shout out their answers but I felt right at home, feeding on that type of interaction.

I know all of you are curious to hear about the specific wines we tried so here you go!

Budimir, Tamjanika, Zupa, Serbia 2015  13% alcohol
Château Vartely, Feteasca Regala, Codru, Moldova 2014  12.5% alcohol
Limba, St Laurent, Limbach, Slovakia 2013 12.5% alcohol
Arbëri, Kallmet, Mirditë, Albania 2013 12.5% alcohol
Manastira, Mavrud, “Ilaya”, Reserve, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria 2011 12.5% alcohol

bold words are grape names

Zupa and Codru wines at Bar Brunello, Durham, NC

The tasting included 2 white wines and 3 red wines. We started with the Zupa, a Serbian wine that had aromas of petrol, light funk and a hint of sugar. This wine was tart and crisp with some acidity and flavors of peach and lemon. The other white wine was Codru from Moldova. This wine had a very yellow color with chalk and mineral aromas. The flavors were soft but still a bit tart, including apple and lemon with a smooth finish.

When Esteban was telling us about the Limbach, our first red, he said it would be similar to a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. He also let us know that he only had one bottle remaining in the shop to sell tonight but if we want to purchase a bottle, we could come back the next day. I don’t know if it was the buildup of the wine or not but this was my favorite.

Limbach and Mirditë at Bar Brunello, Durham, NC

This Slovakian wine had a light red color and smelled like cheese, chalk and berries. It was definitely a funky, stinky cheese aroma. I think some people even said feet! But those of you who know me, know that it made me want it even more! I guess it was the light body and funkadelic smell that made Esteban compare it to Burgundy. The flavor was light, acidic, funky, tart, earthy and smoky. Very interesting and different!

The Mirditë wine from Albania, had a darker red color. This one smelled like funk, flowers, red fruit and red licorice. It was a little sweet with red fruit flavors and a black pepper finish. Then it was dry with a cherry finish and it kept alternating between the two flavors in the finish.

Ilaya at Bar Brunello in Durham, NC

Esteban described the Ilaya from Bulgaria as “Very Barnyard” which was surprising after tasting the funky Limbach. He said this wine has been made since the days of the Knights Templar, that’s a long time! As I swirled this dark red wine, I noticed aromas of earth and blueberry pie. The flavor seemed sweet and sugary to me and another girl at the table, Megan, described it as caramel. It was definitely caramel! This wine was so easy to drink and not at all barnyard for my palate. That’s ok with me though, I just sat there and savored the flavor.

So my impression of Eastern European wines was a positive one. All of the reds were so interesting and the whites had a pretty good range of flavor, although we only tasted two. Another note about the red wines, none of them were super heavy and I didn’t have a black tongue when I was done. Very drinkable!

This tasting was toward the end of my time in Durham, so I decided not to take any bottles home that day but I’ll definitely keep my eye out for wines from this region in the future. And if you’re in Durham, NC, go visit Esteban for one of his wine tastings at Bar Brunello, it will be a great time!

Maria at Bar Brunello Tasting

Johnson Estate Vineyard Walk & Brunch, Westfield, NY http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/johnson-estate-vineyard-walk-brunch-westfield-ny/ Sat, 11 Aug 2018 00:33:50 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2932 Johnson Estate Vineyard Tour 1

Neil’s mom, Linda, works at a vineyard in New York, so while we were planning our trip to the Erie, PA area we made reservations to attend the brunch at Johnson Estate. Although we’ve visited the Lake Erie Wine Trail a handful of times, we’ve never done an official vineyard tour there. I was so excited to learn about some of the grapes local to the area and what a bonus to have brunch and a wine tasting included!

As the day approached, we heard there was rain in the forecast. That Sunday, we were given a few options, attend the vineyard tour while dodging rain drops, come an hour later for the brunch and then take the tour after the meal or get a refund. Since I was so interested in learning all about the vineyard, we chose the second option: to go for the tour after the meal. Apparently we were the only ones who chose to do the tour later because when we arrived, everyone was in the field. We were greeted by Jennifer, one of the owners, who guided us to the area where we could meet up with the tour group. We ended up hearing the tail end of the tour with Fred Johnson. He’s the third generation of the Johnson family and is currently the farm manager.

Fred was wrapping up his speech about the vineyard when we learned that they use mechanical shakers to pick the grapes. We’ve heard of these machines in vineyards before and I guess it only makes sense that you’d need equipment like that in order to handle 118 acres of grapes. We were standing next to the huge stainless steel tanks where the wine was stored. He mentioned that long oak sticks hang in these tanks in order to give the wine their oak flavor.

Johnson Estate Brunch 1

Then we all made our way into the winery in order to enjoy our brunch. They had one long table that we all shared together. Cheryl & Anne were there to serve the food that they had prepared the day before. It all looked wonderful! There was quiche, a frittata, fruits, meats, bread, cheese, and dessert. I wasn’t shy to get a little bit of everything and make my way back to my seat.

Johnson Estate Brunch 2

Our meal began with the Ruby Dry Rosé, their new wine made from Marechal Foch grapes, using the saignée method. It was light, had strawberry aromas and citrus flavors. Then we tried the Liebeströpfchen, a white wine made from Delaware grapes, that had sweet and floral aromas and the flavor of sweet candy. Linda told us this wine is always a favorite in their tasting room. We were kind of bouncing around from sweet to dry and then red since there were so many wines on the table to try.

The Chardonnay was the next wine we tasted. Neil and I both liked its delicious aroma of butterscotch, flavors that were oak and crisp and it’s buttery finish. We had tried the Seyval Blanc a few days before at Linda’s house, and it reminded me of a Chardonnay so I was excited to taste the two side by side. The Seyval Blanc smelled more toasted than the Chardonnay. Although I thought it was like the Chardonnay, Neil described it as a slightly sweet Sauvignon Blanc. Jennifer let us know that we were both right and those are the two flavors that it typically bounces between. We also paired the Seyval Blanc with the sharp cheddar and pear cardamom butter. The wine stood up well to this pairing since none of the flavor was lost.

Their Pinot Noir was dry with cranberry aromas, graphite flavors and a nice berry finish. It was one of my favorite wines that I tried that day. When I paired it with the pesto toast, the wine lost it’s berry finish. And if you’re wondering about the other foods served with all this wine, the quiche was delicious! Toward the end of our meal, dessert was paired with the May wine. This wine is a blend of Vidal and Sweet Woodruff grapes that had peach aromas, tiny bubbles and a nice dry flavor. I found the wine flavors to stay the same when it was paired with the almond cookie and peach jam but to me the better pairing was when we tasted a slice of peach with the wine.
After all these wine tasting notes, you might be wondering if there were other cheeses. Yes, we tried a smoky cheddar that was yummy and good. Before we wrapped up all the tasting, we tried one more wine. The Riesling smelled like minerals and had a crisp flavor. I had been making a point to taste Riesling at all the places we visited this trip and this was the best by far. The ones at the other wineries all had a musty element to them. We told Jennifer about this tasting experiment and she said they have noticed variations in the quality of this grape across the region too.

As we wrapped brunch, everyone was getting ready to leave, but we still had our vineyard tour to attend. It ended up being a private tour with only Fred, Linda, Neil and I. What a treat! Fred began by telling us about the history of this massive 330 acre property. As we mentioned earlier 118 acres of it is grapes, but there are also other fruit trees, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and a few buildings. We started our tour at the farmhouse where Fred and Jennifer currently live. William Peacock, a big landowner in the area, had lived in the house originally, but a long time before that the area had many Native American tribes including the Seneca, Iroquois and Erie peoples. This area was such a prime piece of real estate because it was on a high hill, near the water. Also the current route 20 was once the beachfront for Lake Erie and then later was used as a train route.

Fred’s grandpa moved to the property in 1911 where he used the farm for apples and other types of agriculture but no grapes. Fred’s dad planted the grapes but only stuck to the local labrusca varietals. It wasn’t until Fred and his brother took over the business that they began planting hybrid vinifera varietals and other experimental grapes, of which there are now 13 different varietals planted.

Johnson Estate Vineyard

Neil and I were so curious about the grapes that grow in the vineyard so we were asking all types of viticulture questions.

Neil: How do you prepare the vineyard for winter since it is part of the snow belt and can get up to 200 inches of snow per winter?
Fred: We need to cover up the part of the stem where the graft union is to protect it from frost. As long as this area is covered with a mound of dirt, the plant can survive. Also if the buds are under the snow, they will survive.

Maria: What type of soil do you have in this area?
Fred: We have a few different zones of soil amongst their property. One zone has lots of organic matter and shale. Another zone, where the Concord grapes are planted, has more of a clay soil. I do help contribute to the organic matter by adding the lees back into the soil for compost.

Maria: How far apart are the plants in each row?
Fred: 4-9 feet depending on the varietal.

Maria: When does your harvest begin?
Fred: The first grapes are ready right around Labor Day.

Maria: What level of brix are you looking for to declare that it’s time for harvest?
Fred: 18-19 brix.

Vineyard Tour Labrusca grapes

Maria: How do you tell the Vinifera grapes from the Labrusca grapes by quick glance?
Fred: As the vines blow in the wind, the underside of the Labrusca leaves are white but the Vinifera leaves are green.
This was a big help as we drove through this wine region the rest of the trip. A majority of the grapes in the area are Labrusca varietals, specifically Concord grapes used by the Welch’s brand, and now we could confirm that by seeing the white undersides.

Fred: Why are these vines different?
We three all looked pretty intensely to get the right answer, and then I said “there’s no grapes!”
Fred: Ding, ding, correct answer. For some of the pinot noir vines, we removed all the grapes in order to help the plant establish itself and not use all its energy feeding the grapes.

Johnson Estate Vineyard Tour 2

Maria: How do you choose which grapes to plant in the vineyard?
Fred: We use the knowledge that we are close to the same latitude as Germany.

How cool, I didn’t realize that! Another connection they have to Germany is the closures they used on their bottles are glass stoppers, not corks. These stoppers are made in Germany and have incredibly specific bottle measurements to make such a tight seal.

Since the vineyard has many types of grapes, there are a few differences in how the vines are cared for. The vinifera grapes have grafted vines and they are a bit more work. The labrusca grapes are not grafted because they are adapted to living in the colder climates of New York.

Maria: Why do these vines over here look bushy and the other ones are mounted on wires?
Fred: The grafted vines grow on wires by using the vertical leaf positioning method. These vines are mechanically trimmed by using machines called leaf strippers to remove the outer layers of leaves to uncover the grapes for them to ripen in the summer. The labrusca grapes are a little less maintenance because they are grown by the 4 arm method of vine growth and can be a bit on the bushy side.

Here was another way to tell the type of vines when looking around the vineyard. And if you need one more, the labrusca grapes tend to have larger berries.

Johnson Estate Retention Pond

Fred told us he is one of the few vineyards in the area that irrigates his grapes. From my previous vineyard tour knowledge, I asked if it was because they want their vines to struggle and achieve a better flavor. He said it’s because the other farmers just don’t feel it’s worth the equipment required or the time and money involved. It was clear that Fred was approaching his grapes more from a wine making perspective than the “I’m just growing grapes for Welch’s” view. These are certainly different ends of the spectrum. He did tell us the water for irrigation comes from a retention pond though so it wasn’t as if he had to pay to water the grapes. Also he said it’s more of a back up plan for those rare parts of the summer when there is no rain at all.

Fred: Have you ever heard of a “dipper” in a vineyard?
Maria: No, what is that? That’s a new term for me.
Fred: It means a shoot that gets buried to start a new plant.

I knew some people used clippings for new plants but this was pretty interesting that you could just bury something that was still attached to the vine.

Tour through the woods at Johnson Estate

There were so many amazing facts to learn, we didn’t think the tour could get any better until we found out we were going to walk through the woods and over a creek! The creek is called Freelings Creek, and you can find that name on their reserve line of wines. And better still was the view overlooking the retention pond and grand landscape of the vineyard.

Freelings Creek at Johnson Estate

This part of the vineyard had the Delaware grapes, a red grape used to make the infamous NY champagnes. Although many vineyards don’t make this type of wine anymore, it is a good grape to eat and they use it as a part of the Liebstropfchen wine here.


As we were wrapping up our time in the outskirts of the vineyard we came across an example of phylloxera. Those of you winelovers know that this is like the four letter word of vineyards, but it was only on the wild grapes growing off to the side. Grapes that are grown in today’s vineyards have a natural protection to this devastating grape disease that produces galls on the leaves and then a bug that feeds on the rootlets of the plant. Having only heard of this affliction, it was pretty cool to see it in person.

Johnson Estate Wine Holding Tanks

Our tour ended next to those huge stainless steel tanks we had seen at the beginning of our time here and we found out that they each hold 8000 gallons of wine. Wow! We thanked Fred for all the wonderful information he had shared and I hoped that I had taken enough notes to remember it all. We made our way into the tasting room so we could pick out a few goodies to take home.

Once we came into the tasting room, we were met by Jennifer again, who asked if there were any wines we didn’t have a chance to try yet. I had heard people talking about the White Ipocras at the breakfast so I asked for a sample. You can smell and taste the spice of this mulled wine made with ginger. I tasted the ginger flavor in the finish of the wine. But wait, there’s ice wine too, “Wouldn’t you like a sample of that?” Ok, so we tried the Vidal Blanc Ice wine that smelled like peaches and had a smooth honey flavor. And then the Sparkling Rosé ice wine made from Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin. There were bubbles, peaches and a flavor that reminded Neil of raisin bread.

We tasted so many wines that day and Johnson Estate has even more that the we didn’t get to try. Oh and they also offer New York Spirits, which we decided to save for another day. We couldn’t have asked for a better visit. The vineyard had dried from the early rain by the time we did our tour, breakfast was delicious and my #winenerd desires were fulfilled with all that learning about the local grapes. Thanks so much to everyone at Johnson Estate and to Linda for starting her job there and introducing us to another part of the Lake Erie Wine Trail!

Johnson Estate Vineyard Tour 3

Johnson Estate Winery

Garnacha y Valdeon, Spanish Wine and Cheese pairing with @JustTheBottle http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/garnacha-y-valdeon-spanish-wine-and-cheese-pairing-with-justthebottle/ Fri, 27 Jul 2018 15:40:21 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2923 Santo Cristo Garnacha y Valdeon iPad Just the Bottle Chat

When I was approached to be the guest on Just the Bottle we talked through a few ideas of what the theme would be. I had recently done two Spanish wine and Spanish cheese pairings, ( and that were well matched, so I suggested the idea. Christina, the hostess, happily agreed since she is a fan of Spanish wines. This was our chance to get better acquainted with a new region for wine and cheese. We’ve had Grenache from California and quite a few blue cheeses but neither one from Spain so when we came up with the idea of Garnacha and Valdeon, it was settled.

The date of the #winechat with Just the Bottle coincided with Wine And Cheese Day, don’t you know. What a fun plan! In order to ensure we could find the wine and cheese we wanted, we scooped them up as soon as we could and did the pairing. We took a bunch of photos and countless notes in order to cover all our bases for the chat.

Maria tasting Garnacha y Valdeon for Just the Bottle 1

As the date got closer we finalized the theme of the chat and what we planned to discuss. Being new to this region for Wine And Cheese, I studied up so I’d be ready. I found out there’s a website called Catavino, that was so helpful to get my introduction. I pre-answered my questions in the allotted number of characters for Twitter and waited for the chat to begin at 9pm.

This chat was a little different than my previous guest appearance on #WiningHourChat, about six weeks ago, Instead of giving me exact times that the questions would appear, we just had a list of ten questions to pull from. This made it a little easier for Neil and I to not have to fool around with alarms going off through the evening. The other side of that though, was that after only 5 questions, it was already 945pm. It was a much more relaxed environment than last time. Although it was “easier”, there was still a good amount of back and forth with questions from the hostess and the audience. Another difference with this chat was that quite a few pairing suggestions came up for us to try in future entries. I happily recorded those so we can continue discovering the regions in Spain.

In case you were wondering about the questions we discussed, here’s the list, complete with the answers.

Q – Maria, which is your first love – wine or cheese?
A- I’ve always enjoyed eating cheese but it wasn’t until we started the blog back in ’13 that I found out how cool it was to pair wine & cheese.

Q – What’s a common misconception of wine and cheese pairings?
A- There’s a lot of people that will tell you that it’s easier to pair white wine with cheese but it totally works to pair red wine and cheese too. It’s all about what you like!

Q – What’s your favorite Spanish wine and cheese pairing?
A- We’ve actually only done a few Spanish Pairings on the blog but it was a huge improvement once I discovered there were other grapes in Spain besides Tempranillo! Learning some of the grapes of the region really helped get us excited about Spain.

Q-Which Spanish wine and cheese are you pairing tonight? #WIYG
A-Garnacha y Valdeon. We chose the Garnacha because I’ve had Grenache before but never from Spain. The Valdeon is a blue cheese and the first I’ve ever found from Spain. Let the education begin!

Q – Why choose Spanish cheeses over other countries?
A-I like a hard cheese that has some funk to it. Many of the cheeses that we’ve tried from Spain are aged and have either Sheep or Goat’s milk and the funk and complexity that we are looking for in a cheese.

Q – Which cheese and wine pairing from Spain excites you the most?
A- Back in the Spring, we tried both a red Rioja with sheep cheese and a white Rioja with goat cheese. It was fun to learn about the different aging requirements for Rioja wines and that there were both red and white wines made under the Rioja name.

Q – What’s one wine and cheese pairing that you felt would be perfect and failed? Why?
A- We paired a red blend that had notes of black pepper with a cheese encrusted with black pepper but when we tasted the cheese, it really didn’t taste like black pepper. It really took time for the black pepper in the cheese to build up.

Want to know more? Search the hashtag winechat on Twitter to read the entire chat. #WineChat occurs on the last Wednesday of every month at 9pm (eastern time). Why not check it out sometime?

Some of you may be wondering how our Spanish wine and cheese pairing worked out? Don’t worry, it’s time for that now.

wine and cheese in window

Between Neil and I, we noticed quite a few aromas in the Garnacha wine. I found a nice mix of berry and spice, red and dark fruit but then a strange aroma of permanent marker that may have just been alcohol. Neil picked up pepper, cassis and a musty wine cellar. As we tasted the wine, there were many flavors too. I tasted blackberry and prune, felt it was warm and dry but also spicy. Neil identified pepper, dark fruit and cassis flavors as well as calling it dry, musty and funky. It was definitely interesting!

When we purchased the Valdeon, the cheesemonger said “When it’s cold it will crumble but when its warm you can spread it.” How versatile! For our tasting, we ate it at room temperature. Similar to the wine, this cheese was pretty complex!
As I smelled the cheese, I picked up the pungent blue funk in addition to the salt and acidic aromas. Neil found a strong barnyard funk aroma that reminded him of penicillin and fall hay. I called this cheese “Tasty!” after identifying salt, milk, and butter flavors. The texture was soft and smooth, not crunchy, such a pleasant, not funky, blue cheese. Neil agreed that it was a “Very good blue!” It was nice and soft, rich, and very balanced. The rind was flavorful and the cheese tasted like hay. He loved how smooth it was and that it melted in your mouth. We were so happy to discover this new blue cheese. We’ll certainly keep our eye out for this one in the future!

Now the true test, how do the Garnacha and Valdeon influence or enhance each other? I thought the wine smelled fruitier and fresh, with red berry flavors and no more spice. It definitely changed! It was hard to tell if the flavor of the cheese changed. There may have been more salt, less funk, and a hint of tartness. Neil thought the cheese got more tart and he didn’t like it in the pairing. He thought the wine changed the same way that I did and liked how the cheese influenced the wine.

This wine was pretty good but the cheese stole the show. There was some of both leftover so we tried the pairing a second time about a week later and the funk of the cheese, really came out in the wine.

I’m really glad we chose the theme of Spanish Wine and Cheese for our #winechat with Just the Bottle. Many of the wines that we pick for WineAndCheeseFriday come out of curiosity but it wasn’t until we added a Spanish cheese that we began to look forward to Spanish wines. We’ll be doing more Spanish pairings in the future and thanks to the chat, we have a few suggestions all ready to try.

Wine Tasting in Pennsylvania 2018 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/wine-tasting-in-pennsylvania-2018/ Sat, 21 Jul 2018 05:23:35 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2907 Lake Erie Wine Trail 2018

As we began planning our time in Pennsylvania, I knew we’d take our annual trip out to the wineries with Neil’s cousin Diane. I created a list of all the places we’ve visited in previous years as well as some of the brands that had been shared with us at picnics and dinners. Then I consulted the Lake Erie Wine Country website, my go-to guide when we come here. The wine trail goes up and down Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and New York. This year I chose two wineries in Pennsylvania within 10-15 minutes from where we were staying as I figured this year could be more of a relaxed wine tasting trip. The first winery was Presque Isle Wine Cellars, which was not only close by but also their website suggested you could bring a picnic lunch and sit near the creek (locals pronounce this “crick”). The second winery, Penn Shore Winery and Vineyards,, also made note of relaxing with a glass of wine as you take in the vineyard views. Sounds like just the break we could use!

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Tasting Room

We were a little confused about which part of the Presque Isle Wine Cellars property the tastings were held. This organization offers winemaking supplies and chemicals as well as being a winery so their website has quite a bit on it. There was also mention of a restaurant but it seemed they were making some changes. Luckily when we arrived, there was a sign that said “Tasting Room” so we found our way in. Khila, our wine server for the day, was in the process of filling some holes in the wall in preparation for painting the walls so apparently the transition away from restaurant was taking place now! Well that explains it!

Presque Isle Wines

The wine tasting list was quite extensive (with over 30 wines) and there were a couple different options: $3 for 6 tastings or $5 for 6 premium wines. Diane and I chose the regular tastings and Neil chose the premium tasting.

Here’s the list of what was available:

Dry Wines (0% residual sugar)
Merlot 2013
Dornfelder 2016
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Ripper Red
Noiret 2016

Pinot Grigio 2016
Pinot Blanc 2016
Chardonnay 2015
Viognier 2013

Semi-Dry Wines (1 to 2.5% residual sugar)
Freeport Red
Freeport White
Riesling 2016
Reflections 2015
Traminette 2016

Semi-Sweet Wines (3 to 4% residual sugar)
White & Rosé
Bianco Fresco 2016
Blue Note

Sweet Wines
Blushing Heron
Pink Catawba
Creekside Red
Creekside Blush
Creekside Concord
Creekside Niagara

Falling Waters 2015

Fruit Wine
True Blue

Premium Wines
Pinot Noir 2016
Cab Franc 2016
Chardonnay Cuveé 2016
Touriga Port
Scarlet Kisses 187ml
Eskimo Kisses
Cinnful Kisses
Hot Kisses

Then came the hard part of deciding which wines to taste. Luckily they were already separated into dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, sweet, sparkling, fruit and premium. I think between the three of us we chose at least one from each category. Diane typically gravitates to the sweeter wines and Neil and I generally enjoy drier wines. Although this trip I had a different strategy: choose some of the more popular wines for the area instead of trying to only stay in the dry categories. Some of the well-known grapes of the region are Concord (emphasis on the second syllable), Niagara, Catawba and Fredonia, but you can find Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some of the more traditional wine grapes too.

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Awards

One of the things that was hard to miss about the tasting menu was all the medals the wines had won! We tried so many Gold and Silver winners that day. Another thing we made note of was that the wines really did taste like the tasting notes on the menu, pretty cool.

I began my tasting with the 2013 Viognier, making note of the butterscotch candy aromas, the light body and the toast flavor. Diane started with the Reflections, the wine of the month, and it didn’t disappoint her. She picked up a hint of champagne, a light body, and a hint of fruit. She’s not usually a white wine drinker so it really surprised her when she decided to take a bottle home! Neil, being the Pinot Noir lover that he is, began with his standby. I’d say it was pretty true to it’s varietal with a little funk, pepper, and earthy aromas. The flavors included pepper, very earthy flavors yet a light body and it was dry.

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Wine Tasting

Continuing through the Semi-Dry white wines I picked out the Riesling and Traminette. I knew that Riesling could grow in this region but I’m not sure if I’ve tried it in past trips. The initial aromas were a bit dry and musty but then it changed to lemon aromas. This was also a light wine but there were noticeable flavors of sweet grapefruit. Another wine true to it’s notes! I’ve heard of Traminette during our previous trips but I was pleasantly surprised when it had perfume aromas and a sweet but not too sweet flavor! Diane noticed similar notes when she tried the Blusé, a semi sweet rosé. She said it wasn’t quite dry or sweet but she did pick up watermelon and blueberry flavors.

Let’s check back in with Neil and his Premium wines! Next on his list was the Carmine, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carignan. Wow that sounds really interesting! It’s so cool how the grape growers up here have to be creative with the grapes they choose to grow since the conditions are so different from the other US regions. Neil picked up dark chocolate aromas and fruity flavors similar to cherry and raspberry. Next up he tried the Cabernet Franc, another grape commonly grown in these northern US regions. This one reminded him of a Chianti with pasta sauce and grassy aromas and a super slight cherry jolly rancher flavor. It seems neither of these wines matched up with the tasting notes but that’s all part of wine tasting, right?

Diane and I both found a handful of wines to try in the Sweet Wines category. There were two blush wines in this section and we both started with the Blushing Heron, which Diane described as a great blend of Concord and Niagara grapes. The past 3 times that we’ve gotten together for wine tasting (and then the following party with all our goodies) we always have a wine with these 2 grapes so I was certainly curious to give it a try too. It smelled sweet, floral and very good! The flavor was crisp & sweet but also smooth like honey. Diane picked up a hint of strawberry, a light body and fruity flavors. She knew she’d want to bring a bottle to the party next week so she purchased one of the 1.5L bottles to share with everyone. The other blush wine is called Creekside Blush but as Khila suggested, if you like the Blushing Heron, you aren’t usually crazy about this one. Diane found it to be too light on taste, and she couldn’t decipher the fruit. Although it was blush, it was more of a strawberry red color. We both tried the Creekside Red, one of their newer wines, a blend of Fredonia and Chambourcin. These grapes were also familiar to me for this part of the US. I was surprised when I thought it smelled like vanilla birthday cake but then it changed to strawberry shortcake. This light wine had cranberry flavors and a smooth finish. I knew it’d be a good one when we hung out in the hot tub the next day and it didn’t disappoint! Diane noticed the familiar flavor of the Fredonia grape but thought it tasted different than other Fredonia wines she’s tried.

Presque Isle Grape Growers

Presque Isle Wine Cellars purchases their grapes from many of the local growers as well as some local blueberries for their BluSecco and True Blue wines. Diane tried both of them and thought the dry flavor of the BluSecco would go well with chocolate cake. I thought it had a good amount of bubbles and could smell the blueberry aromas. Diane picked up the blueberry flavors in the True Blue and we were all intrigued when Khila suggested having it with shortcake and vanilla ice cream. Another cool thing was that Diane knows a lot of the grape growing families around area so she picked out quite a few familiar names on the list.

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Hot Kisses

Neil was content in trying his other set of wines while Diane and I chose similar tastes. It seems he probably began with the Chardonnay Cuveé as I continue to write this up since white wines come before reds so let’s not miss out on that one. Neil picked up apricot aromas, citrus, honeydew melon, and slight mineral flavors. Another one of those traditional wine grapes that can also grow here. Have you tried wines from this area before? If you have, you probably know what type of wine Neil finished his tasting with: Ice Wine! Presque Isle Wine Cellars makes 3 ice wines with the same base and then they have different things added to them. Neil had the chance to try the Cinnful Kisses with it’s apple pie aromas and cinnamon sweetness. He knew it would be one that the group would like next week so stay tuned for how that will pair with cheese! And if you know Neil, you know he couldn’t resist the Hot Kisses with a Thai pepper floating in it! It was very spicy, with big sweet grape and apple flavors. He was sad when he finished out that sample!

Creekside Picnic at Presque Isle Wine Cellars

What a fun way to start the day but after our 6 tastes each, we were ready to have that picnic by the creek! We made our way down the picnic table and pulled out all our goodies. It was our traditional mix of meats, cheese, veggies, and nuts but definitely helped to get us ready to taste another set of wines. It was so peaceful, we could have stayed there all day!

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Chemicals

Before leaving, we stopped in the shop to see the wine making supplies and chemicals. It’s been a while since I’ve worked in a winery so it was fun to be exposed to that side of things once again. If you dabble in wine making yourself, check out their website for any supplies you might need!

Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard barrel head

Just a short 10 minute ride toward the Lake and we arrived at Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard, This building seemed more industrial than the first winery but the giant barrel head with their name on it certainly caught my eye. We walked under the pergola of grapes and entered the gift shop area. After a quick look through the wine trinkets, we began our tasting with Jenny. She let us know that we could taste up to 7 wines for only $2 and all the wines on the list were included in this pricing.

Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard Pergola

There was quite a collection of wines available:

Table Wines
Crystal Lake White
Pink Catawba
Dry Concord
Red Wine

Sparkling Wines
Bubbling Niagara

Vintage Wines
Seyval Blanc
Baco Noir

Specialty Wines
Holiday Spice

The way the wines are broken down on the menu, it was a little tricky to figure out what order to taste them in but luckily Jenny gave us a hand. We all checked off the wines we wanted to try and began our tasting. The Vintage Wines part of the menu had some dry wines so let’s get started. Neil’s first wine was Seyval Blanc, a super tart, lemon, mineral flavored white wine. Diane and I began with the Reflections wine, a Riesling with the same name as the other winery, that’s confusing! Diane found it to be sweeter and not too dry. I thought this one started musty too but then it was sweet and tangy. I guess the Riesling is a little different here in PA. Neil and Diane continued on to red wines in this category. Neil tried the Chancellor, that smelled like a black cherry cordial but tasted “musky” with a little smoke. Diane tasted the Merlot, and questioned how she smelled the lake and old cheese. The wine was light with a full taste and a rich flavor. That’s quite a difference in flavor and aroma!

Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard Wine Tasting

My tasting path brought me over to the Table Wines section with the Burgundy wine. This wine is made from Marechal Foch, a local red grape. I picked up cranberry and light berry aromas. The flavors were sweet, black pepper and some acidity. Neil also tasted this wine and thought it smelled like a sweet cordial. He found musky, dark cherry and a hint of sweet flavors.

Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard Medals

Before the Burgundy, Neil tried the Dry Concord, which he described as very Concord, very good but not too sweet and a little puckery. There were a few Concord wines on the tasting list. In addition to the Dry Concord there was a traditional Concord. The aroma of the Concord wine transported Diane to a familiar scent that you pick up all over this area in September. Did you know that this area is famous for growing the grapes used in Welch’s products? Well now you do! She found the flavor to taste like Grape Koolaid, that’s pretty close to Welch’s grape juice so that makes sense. The final Concord wine, Lambruscano, was a blend of Concord and a hybrid grape. It had that token Concord aroma but also berries. The wine has a tangy, Concord flavor with a bubble gum finish. Diane noticed pretty much the same notes, she tasted the Concord grape, bubble gum and said it was not too heavy. Jenny told us that the Concord wine always wins gold and double gold medals. And when asked about the most popular wine she said it’s definitely the Lambruscano. We must have known since all of us tasted these wines.

Now back to some white wines. Neil and Diane both tasted the Diamond wine. Diane found it to have a great taste that was like tangerine with a light body. Neil found grassy and lake aromas but agreed with the citrus flavors similar to tangerine. He called it yummy and thought it tasted fortified. Diane found citrus flavors in the Crystal Lake White wine also. This one tasted like tangerine and mandarin but she didn’t care for the perfume aromas. I found it to smell floral too but there was an aroma of petrol, as well. The wine was tart but also sweet tangerine.

Penn Shore Winery and Vineyard Pink Catawba

I guess I started to have some palate fatigue at this point because every wine from this point on started to have bubble gum flavors and aromas. It all began with the Pink Catawba that smelled and tasted like bubble gum, weird! Luckily that didn’t happen to everyone. Neil liked the floral, perfume aromas, made note of the color being similar to a Provence rosé but it was a very, very sweet grape! The Bubbling Niagara was another wine that confused us. Neil could smell yeast aromas and it seemed almost beer-like but he thought it was really good. I liked the texture of the bubbles but tasted more bubble gum. Darn!

We closed out our tasting with the Specialty Wines. Diane found the Kir to be on the lighter side and to taste like blackberries. I noticed earth and berry aromas but then found that bubble gum flavor again. Diane was excited to finish her tasting with the Holiday Spice wine. Many of the local wineries offer a wine like this and they suggest that you serve it warm. She said it definitely smelled like the holidays and had flavors of cinnamon and warm apple pie. She plans to go back in the Fall to pick up a bottle.

We were grateful for all of Jenny’s help that day and her guidance through the wines from the oldest winery in PA. Another cool tidbit about the winery is that they use the Champagne Method to make their champagne, so it’s unofficially a “champagne.” Due to it’s labor intensive process, they have a limited quantity and don’t offer tastings of it. Shucks!

Before we got going, we all talked about which wines we should purchase. Diane continued to surprise herself when choosing to take home 2 white wines, Crystal Lake and Diamond. Neil really liked the Dry Concord and decided to get two bottles, one for our group tasting and another just to enjoy. I liked the Lambruscano but thought the Dry Concord was pretty good too with the different levels of flavors in the wine. The winery did offer a self-guided tour too but we decided to save that for another day.

Penn Shore Winery Self-guided tour

After all our wine tasting, we weren’t ready for our day to end so we made our way into New York to visit Cadwells Cheese Shop, We’d been here before but it was such a beautiful day, how can you pass up taking a drive through the country? You know I had no issue extending our day to include some cheese. 🧀

Cadwell's Cheese House

Well, this impromptu trip certainly added to our haul to bring home. Diane knows how much her parents like the Cranberry Wensleydale and NY sharp cheddar so she didn’t have to think too hard about what to get. I remembered there was a terrific selection when we stepped into the store. Would it surprise you if I told you Neil and I took home 5 wedges of cheese? I know it wouldn’t. Funny thing though is that we picked out 3 that looked so tasty without even considering them to pair with wine. We just wanted to eat the Mango Ginger Stilton, Sage Derby and Onion and Chive cheeses! We also needed a couple cheeses to include in our Wine and Cheese Gift basket. We figured the NY cheddar and Blueberry stilton would be a nice complement to the sweet NY red wine we had in mind.

Mango Ginger Stilton, Sage Derby and Onion Chive cheeses

We always have such a good time wine tasting with Diane on the Lake Erie Wine Trail! There are so many vineyards, farmhouses and beautiful views of the lake. It’s definitely on my list of happy places and it should be no surprise that we already have the wineries picked out for our visit up here in 2019.

Curious about our other tastings on the Lake Erie Wine Trail?

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Creekside

Lake Erie Wine Alliance

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Creekside Red

Vinebox 2 and Carolina Bleu Marble http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/vinebox-2-and-carolina-bleu-marble/ Fri, 06 Jul 2018 16:26:31 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2901 Vinebox 2 and Carolina Bleu Marble 1

Our second Vinebox shipment included a White, Rosé and a Red; what a great mix! Oh, you’ve never heard of Vinebox? Why not read our introduction explaining Vinebox in the entry from our first shipment. ( Now to figure out which cheese to pick? We had our eye on a North Carolina blue cheese that looked like marble, lets try that. It will be interesting to see how this blue pairs with all the colors of wine!

Here’s our tasting flight for the day:
Domaine de la Roche Moreau, Coteaux du Layon, 1er cru Chaume, Loire Valley, France 2016 (Chenin Blanc)
Chateau de Brégançon, Rosé de Provence, France 2017 (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah)
Ca’ De Lion, Piedmont, Italy 2017 (Grignolino grape)

Carolina Bleu Marble by Ashe County Cheese

Vinebox 2 Domaine de la Roche Moreau Coteaux du Layon, Rose de Provence, and Ca’ De Lion

The first wine by Domaine de la Roche Moreau was a white wine from Loire Valley. This wine had a bunch of details included with it, not only is it from Loire but the specific part of the region is Coteaux du Layon and it is classified as 1er cru Chaume. Since we aren’t all that familiar with wines from the Loire Valley, we began swirling to see what aromas we could identify. Neil started by noting its caramel color and wine legs. There are cards with each wine describing the tasting notes but we love to figure out our own notes before consulting them. This one was a bit of an issue because it had sweet caramel aromas leaping from the glass. And then a taste confirmed, “This is a sweet one.” Oops, guess we messed up our palates a little.

Oh well, we can still continue taking our notes since we know it’s sweet now. Maria picked up apple, pear, floral, pineapple and honey aromas. Neil agreed with the apple and pear but he thought it was caramel too. When we tasted it, we knew it was a thick, sweet wine. Neil called it candy sweet like a jolly rancher or lollipop and maybe some apple. I thought it tasted like caramel and it wasn’t at all what I expected. Knowing that it was a white wine and it was in the first position of the Vinebox, we had guessed it would have been a dry white. The “cards” called it a “wildflower honey-scented snow cone” so it was no secret once we took a peek at those.

This cheese was made by Ashe County cheese and is called Carolina Bleu Marble, What a cool idea, a blue cheese that was marbled. Never saw anything like that before! As I looked more at the cheese I noticed there were tiny specks of spices in it and it was kind of slippery. I think it needed to breath a bit once we took it out of the shrink-wrap. Neil could smell it throughout the house so we knew it had a strong blue aroma! There was definitely a pungent funk emanating from it as well as milky, herbal and blueberry aromas. Neil found it to have a strange subtle sweetness in addition to the milky, blue flavor. I thought it was tart, tangy, dry and creamy with an acidic finish. This cheese coated my tongue too which is usually a set up for how it will pair with the wine.

And speaking of that, let’s see how it works with the Domaine de la Roche Moreau Chenin Blanc? We guessed they would go well together since they were sweet and funky. Neil noticed the wine to tone down the strong funk of the cheese but somehow the wine became even sweeter. He didn’t think it was a good pairing. I smelled sweet pineapple aromas in the wine but it was drier going down my throat and it heated up my tongue. I don’t think there was much of a change with the cheese. I’m not sure about this pairing and we ran out of wine so I guess my time was up to make a decision. At least there are two more wines to try.

The second wine was a Chateau de Brégançon, Rosé de Provence but you really needed to look hard to see the pinkish tint. This is one of the characteristics of rosés of this region but aside from that, I need to taste more wines to know more about this huge rosé producing area. And that we will! I liked how aromatic this wine was, some sweetness, berry, and bubble gum. Neil thought the scent was a little strange when he noticed it smelled crisp and like cotton candy, but then he picked up the lavendar floral aromas. Way to go Neil, those flowers are a symbol for the Provence area! Once I took a sip of wine, it was light and tart with a flavorful finish and acidic too. The second sip was different than the first but then it was full of flavor again. I’d be curious to try this iconic type of rosé again! Neil picked up flavors of strawberry and bubble gum but called it tart and light. He found it to be an interesting wine and made note that it was his favorite wine of the tasting.

After we learned about this Provence rosé, there was still the task of pairing it with the Carolina Bleu Marble cheese. Neil found the wine to become a delicate, light, strawberry flavor, while the cheese gained flavors of orange spice with funk and milk. As I swirled the wine to see how it may have changed, I noticed the aroma of a balloon, and a flavor that bounced between tart and flavorful. The cheese seemed to be more tart and tangy. Neil’s notes sound better than mine, how is it that we can pick up such different things?

The first thing we both noticed about the Ca’ De Lion from Piedmont, Italy was the color! How many wines have you come across that were blood red? Neil and I picked up all kinds of aromas with this one including berries, a slight hint of tar/graphite, red licorice, cherries, and hot cinnamon. The flavors were similar to the aromas and it certainly had a lot going on! We found the wine to be tart and crisp with flavors of graphite and cherries. I took another sip a few minutes later and the wine tasted dry. The wine cards called this a red wine-rosé hybrid. I need to find out what that means! After searching a few articles, I guess they were referring strictly to the color of the wine, the skin of the Grignolino grape doesn’t contain a ton of pigment, so the wine is light in both color and body.

Let’s see how it pairs with the cheese! The wine had a similar flavor but the cherries went away and it seemed drier. Neil had the opposite thing happen, he found the cherry flavor to get bigger. I noticed the cheese to get creamier but Neil thought the milk flavor in the cheese went away and it became more like a funky blue cheese!

Vinebox 2 and Carolina Bleu Marble 2

After trying all these wines, I’d like a little more time/exposure to the rosé and the red. There was so much happening with both of them and I need more wine to study than just the sample in the Vinebox. These are definitely wines that I’ll keep my eye out for when we’re wine shopping in the next couple months.

Regarding the cheese, THIS IS A BIG CHEESE! I think it’s even too big to pair with wine. Neil and I certainly found such different things during the pairings too. I did think it would be nice in a salad with strawberries and walnuts, so we made one a few days after our pairing. We were right, what a delicious salad. We had so much cheese leftover that we actually made it two days in a row!

Do you think you’d like to try a Vinebox subscription? Click this link to see how the wine club works. We have it for 3 months so there’s still one left for us to review, and pair with cheese. Stay Tuned!

Summer Salad with Carolina Bleu Marble Cheese

Goat Lady Dairy Farm Dinner, Climax, NC http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/goat-lady-dairy-farm-dinner-climax-nc/ Fri, 22 Jun 2018 18:02:32 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2893 Goat Lady Dairy Farm Dinner 1

Does the idea of a farm fresh dinner get you excited? Would it help to add in that this farm is a goat dairy that makes cheese? If you know me, then you know I was sold on this idea! Neil and I decided to group together our birthday and anniversary celebrations from the Spring to gift ourselves this farm dinner. As some of you know, we have been staying in Durham for the last few months. Durham is a pretty hip place that is a former tobacco town. That means there’s tons of old factories turned into commercial and residential spaces but not much for farmland or country. Once we got the idea to visit a farm for dinner, we had to figure out where to go. Goat Lady Dairy is about an hour and a half west of Durham, but I was sold once I watched their cheesemaking video online, It was settled then, we’d pick the date and make our reservation.

Since we don’t have a car during our time in Durham, we borrowed Neil’s cousin’s car. We chose to go the road less traveled (the longer route) and enjoy some countryside on our way out. Surprisingly though, we ended up driving through the area with all the grocery stores and restaurants. We did find that farmland we wanted for our last few miles though. Goat Lady Dairy is pretty far out there, down a winding road but they do have a sign so just keep your eye out for that.

Porch Snacks at Goat Lady Dairy

Upon arrival, everyone was getting settled into the front porch and hanging out on the lawn. Our first treat of the evening was a porch snack. It was smoked trout with dill and capers on a cucumber. How tasty and gluten free, they were starting off great! After about 30 minutes of relaxing, it was story time.

The former owner, Steve told us all about how Goat Lady Dairy was formed by his sister Ginnee and her two pet goats. She became known around town as the Goat Lady and the name stuck! This property was an abandoned tobacco farm and started out as just a hobby farm. Ginnee would make cheese, kind of just for fun, and, every now and then, share it with the locals. Then about 10 years later Ginnee convinced Steve that he and his family should move down and become part of the local food movement. Well they didn’t call it that back then because they were doing it before the movement actually began.

Farm Tour at Goat Lady Dairy 2

Today, Goat Lady Dairy is owned by Carrie Routh Bradds & Bobby Brads and, as far as we know, is the second largest creamery in the Southeast region. They not only have grown their herd to 300 goats but their cheese is being sold up and down the entire East coast in Whole Foods stores as well as many other places. Their herd is housed offsite at Lindale Organic Dairy and is made up of 3 breeds of goat: Nubian, Saanan and Alpines. Each breed can either be identified by their ears or their color. Nubian goats have long floppy ears. Alpine goats have ears that stand up. Saanan goats are all white. Bobby Bradds told me he’s happy the herd is offsite because there’s less poop to deal with and they can concentrate on the cheesemaking. They do have a few retired goats on the property, which was nice so we could see a few during our tour. And just like Bobby said, as soon as we met one of the goats, it pooped and peed right in front of us 😃 I still gave it a quick pet, despite my childhood fear of goats.

Farm Tour at Goat Lady Dairy

One of my favorite parts of the tour was when we learned the Things You Think You Know about Goats, but are Wrong. We were all city folk after all! Having a bunch of goats in your yard won’t help you mow the lawn, they eat woody food, not grass. No, they don’t eat everything–like cans and boots–but they do put a ton of stuff in their mouth. That’s how they touch things since they have hooves. And yes, they do eat poison ivy but that’s just because they are crazy. It doesn’t hurt them though and some of their immunity to poison ivy may actually be passed to humans by eating their cheese. And have you heard the expression, Someone got your goat!? Well that’s a funny story. Goats love to be around other animals and can actually produce a calming effect on their friends. So if someone frustrates you, you must not have that goat there to help you stay calm, in other words, someone got your goat! One last bit of goat trivia, goats are the most intelligent type of livestock and rank up there as smart as dogs.

Goat Lady Dairy Farm Dinner 3

Now that you know all about the herd and the farm, let’s talk cheese! The cheese course was the beginning of the sit down meal and was plated in a circle like a clock. Before describing each cheese, Bobby told us the location on the fictional clock. First up was the basil and garlic chèvre at 12:00. This is one of their original cheeses that has lots of garlic as well as basil flavor. I really liked the flavor but thought it might not work in a wine pairing. It did however work very well with the strawberry chutney! At 3:00, was the Smoky Mountain Round, and it was pretty smoky. In the 5:00 position was the Snow Camp, a bloomy rind cheese named after the town where the goats live. This cheese is a mix of cow and goats milks and reminded Neil of the 3 milks Robiola by Luigi Guffanti. Lindale, a raw milk cow Gouda, was at 7:00. It’s been aged for at least 6 months and had both a creamy and tart flavor. The final cheese, at 9:00, was their fig and honey chèvre. It had a great flavor! This course was served with a Vinho Verde rosé from Portugal. It was a pretty effervescent wine with a strawberry flavor. And it’s a wine I’ve only heard of, so I was excited that it was included with our meal.

Goat Lady Dairy Farm Dinner 4

The formal dinner began with the soup course. The soup of the day was Ajoblanco Malegueño, a chilled almond soup. This dish had a nutty broth, grapes that were full of flavor and there was even the flavor of the grapes in the broth. It was unlike any soup we’ve had before and it was the standout course for Neil! Next up was a spring greens salad with pine nuts and a very flavorful lemon vinaigrette dressing. Our main course was braised pork shoulder with ginger and scallion sauce served with squash. The pork was very tender and had a sweetness to it. Neil liked the squash, which is unusual for him because he’s not usually a fan of summer squash. Maybe it was because there was also celery in there? Dessert was a peach cobbler. All of us at the table pondered if it had whipped cream on top or some sort of handmade goats milk yogurt? The peaches were fresh and the cake part was really tasty. They even made a special version of it for Neil without the cake. Each dinner at Goat Lady Dairy finishes with a cheese truffle coated in cocoa. Wow was that good!

We both had a cup of coffee with our desserts and hung around for a bit talking to our new friends at the table. The crowd dissipated while we talked North Carolina, food and life. The cheeses were on sale on the way out so I needed to figure out which one we’d take home. Do you have a guess which one we picked? The Snow Camp seemed like a cheese we could definitely pair with wine so we settled up and it was time to get going. And remember that country road we were hoping for on the way in? Well we found it on the way out. Not quite as enjoyable at night but we eventually came to the highway and it was smooth sailing. We enjoyed our ride home filled up with farm fresh goodies and tranquility. Definitely a fun trip out to the farm!

Goat Lady Dairy Farm Dinner 2

Goat Lady Dairy 1

A Behind the Scenes look at a Twitter Chat-WineAndCheeseFriday is featured on #WiningHourChat http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-a-twitter-chat-wineandcheesefriday-is-featured-on-wininghourchat/ Fri, 08 Jun 2018 21:40:42 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2884 Ad for #wininghourchat

During a WiningHourChat in the beginning of the year, a suggestion was made to have a Wine and Cheese Theme on a future Tuesday night. So immediately after the chat ended, I contacted the hostesses to figure out what time of the year would be good for all of us. We decided to hold it on National Cheese Day in June. This got the ideas flowing in my mind. What would we talk about? What wines and cheeses should we taste? What would my role as guest be? The hostesses will tell you that this spurred a bunch of ideas and messages from me in the coming days.

Fast forward to May, the #WiningHourChat was fast approaching and I wanted to be ready and as prepared as possible. I went to the store to figure out which wine and cheeses I would bring to the party, when a bottle of wine that had a “Bad Ass Babe” caught my eye. Not only was the label cool but it had Cabernet Franc as one of the main grapes. It was settled, that was my wine. Next up, which cheeses? I started thinking about what cheese would pair well with this big red and I wasn’t quite sure. As preparation for the rest of the people attending the chat, I created a Pinterest Board) with many wine and cheese pairing suggestions. I figured I should use it for me too so I could see what types of cheeses might work with this wine. Armed with my list of like 6 suggestions, I headed over to Whole Foods. I was pleased to find out that there were a ton of “cheese noses” in the bin. For those of you that don’t know this term, its the tiny left over pieces that remain after the larger wedges are cut to size. Wouldn’t you know it, there were 3 that fit my suggested pairings, so I was armed and ready.

I’m a bit of a type A personality but it really only applies in terms of being prepared. So I had my wine and cheese and it was like two weeks before the big show. A week or 2 before this shopping spree, I was also beginning to gather information on cheese to share that night. I had come up with a handful of questions and sent them over to our hostesses to be pre-approved. Once I got their ok, I meticulously answered all of them and entered them into Twitter to make sure I had the correct number of characters. (Those of you that use Twitter, know what I’m talking about here). There’s certainly a technique to getting that to line up.

So what about the wine and cheese you ask? Well, Neil and I paired them early so I’d be ready with photos and descriptions before the chat. This also helped for advertising the chat. The wine had aromas of red berry, spice, earth and red licorice. It was smooth and dry with a spicy finish. There were big fruit and earthy flavors that made it so drinkable! All these aromas and flavors lasted throughout the week of enjoying this wine.

The cheeses were all kind of ringers, because none of them were super new to us…We began with the Borough Market Cheddar from the UK. We have certainly had cheddar cheese before but this type of cheddar was new for us. It had a great set of aromas including salt, nuts, herbs, veggies, butter and charcoal. The texture was crunchy and dry with flavors of salt, milk, butter and mustard. Neither one of us could believe that it tasted like mustard! Up next we tasted the Cave Aged Gruyere from Switzerland, a cheese we’ve had a few times. This was funky with smoke, salt and sour aromas. The flavor was definitely distinct, I called it garlic mushrooms. It was good, flavorful and the rind added to the mushroom flavor. Try this smooth cheese with a lingering funk! Our final cheese of the three was Pyrenees Brebis, a sheep cheese by Herve Mons in France. We first tasted this cheese at a Cheese Tasting back in SF, man do I miss having access to Cheese Plus! Neil could smell the sheep milk funk in the cheese. It was soft, smooth and oily. The flavors were milky, hay, and a mild funk. It was a pretty delicate sheep’s cheese that I might have guessed was made from cow’s milk. The rind on this cheese is edible too and contributed a vegetable flavor to the cheese. We give all these cheeses a YUM rating but Maria was pleasantly surprised by the Borough Market Cheddar with big notes of mustard.

As you know, we are all about wine and cheese pairing, so of course we paired all of these cheeses with the Intrinsic wine! According to Maria the wine made both the cheddar and gruyere seem drier. Neil felt the cheddar began to taste like yeast or a sweet beer flavor and the gruyere got a lot creamier. The pairing of wine and Pyrenees Brebis was our favorite due to the way the cheese changed. Maria noticed the cheese to get stickier and it lost the funk. Neil said the cheese got more complex and he identified both hay and grass flavors.

We did notice the wine to change a bit from the pairings too. The cheddar cheese turned the wine to a tart cherry for Neil and Maria picked up a lighter wine texture but a very full berry flavor. The funk of the gruyere got transferred to the wine during Maria’s pairing. Neil thought the wine gained a big berry flavor. And for the final pairing with sheep’s cheese, the wine took on a big spice for Neil and a black berry flavor for Maria.

And yes the chat was still a week away. We even made our video intro a few days ahead too so I didn’t have that “I’m so nervous, I’m going to throw up” look on my face.

The night before we came up with our game plan. I knew that I wanted Neil by my side for this because twitter chats can get so hectic. Another way I prepared was to find out if the hostesses knew what time each question would be released. You never know what’s going to happen on twitter! Sometimes the questions never show up on your feed, despite the fact that they were released. So I had Neil there and the times, with appropriate alarms set on my phone. Yup, type A! I was as prepared as I could be!

We still had a bit of the wine left and some cheese, set up between us. The room smelled like wine and cheese, that helped to calm me down a bit. The clock struck 9pm and we were off. Both Neil and I were frantically reading through the twitter feed while I glanced at my notifications. After about 5 minutes, I decided there was no way I could keep up with the notifications. The dynamic worked out really well because Neil would catch the audiences questions before I would and we’d discuss out loud and then he’d answer. Meanwhile I was entering our answers to each question and attempting to keep one eye on the chat as it raced past us. Probably around 9:20pm I was sweating out of control but we persevered. Neil and I both retweeted wine and cheese pairings as an attempt to capture all our info. And with a blink of an eye it was 10pm and the chat was wrapping up.

Curious about what we discussed during the chat? Here’s the list of Q&A:

Q1a How and when did you start pairing wines and cheeses?
A1a I’ve always enjoyed eating cheese but it wasn’t until we started the blog back in ’13 that I found out how cool it was to pair wine & cheese. We got started with pairing by using a lot of the Wine and Cheese Charts.

Q1b What is it about wine and cheese that attracts you?
A1b Well besides the fact that they are both delicious, it’s the reactions that come from the pairings. We’ve found big flavors appear, new flavors come out of left field & sometimes there’s an interesting reaction in our mouth.

Q2a Do you have a favorite wine and cheese pairing?
A2a We’ve done so many Wine&Cheese pairings! Over 100 according to our site. 🤓 Some favorites: Gavi & Morbier, Pandemonium White Blend & Double Cream Brie, Boccalino & Pecorino Ginepro, Pinot Noir & Jasper Hill Harbison

Q2b Which wine and cheese are you pairing tonight? #WIYG?
A2b We are pairing a WA blend with “Bad Ass Babe” label. And there’s Cab Franc in it! Since we’re celebrating #NationalCheeseDay, we tasted 3 🧀s: Cheddar, Gruyere & Pyrenees Brebis #Overachievers Watch for Friday’s entry about this.

Q3. Maria @winecheesefri, can you tell us a few of your favorite cheese facts?

CheeseFact 1: A little about 🐐 cheese. Goat cheese is white because when goats digest the chlorophyll in the grass, all the color is removed. Milk production of goats, unlike cow’s, is only from mid-March through October.

CheeseFact 2: Cheese was a peasant food at first. Rich people could kill the cow for the meat but you could get more food out of a cow if you milked it! Cheese was used as a way to preserve the milk before it went bad.

CheeseFact 3: Blue cheese can be made from any type of milk! It becomes a “blue cheese” once it’s been injected with strains of pennicillum mold and then “needled”. Want to learn more about blues?

Q3b How do you choose which wines and cheeses to pair on WineAndCheeseFriday?
A3 Once we got a little experience, we knew to pair funk & funk, butter & butter, sweet wine & blue cheese, other times both are from the same location/geography, but many times both are random.

Q4a When pairing wine and cheese, do you notice any new flavors as a result? What is your experience @winecheesefri?
A4a That’s our favorite part of wine and cheese pairings! The Pandemonium White Blend & Double Cream Brie (mentioned above) had a new flavor of nuts appear during the pairing!

A4b Our favorite pairing from tonights 🍷🧀 was with the Pyrenees Brebis. Maria noticed the cheese to get stickier and it lost the funk. Neil said the cheese got more complex and he identified both hay and grass flavors.

Q5. #WiningHourChat Do you have a suggestion for a wine and cheese pairing that Maria should feature on WineAndCheeseFriday?

What an intense hour of chatting about Wine And Cheese! We had a great time and it seemed like everyone else did too. I had such a collection of notifications by the end of the night, and the next day, and the day after that. Think we might finally be reaching the end of them now. We also took the time to go back through the entire chat to make sure we saw everything that flew at warped speed past us that night. Thanks to everyone who was able to attend. We appreciate all your support!

If you have a twitter account and want to see even more details of this chat look for #WiningHourChat. And to those of you wondering, yeah, we’ll probably do another chat with wine and cheese again soon.

Intrinsic Red Blend and Borough Market Cheddar, Cave Aged Gruyere and Pyrenees Brebis