Sparkling Wines and Cheeses, as we begin our California Wine Adventure
We continue through the month of February with more sparkling wine! We did this tasting with Always Five Star (Pam) and her husband, John, during our trip out to California. Their home on Seal Beach was our first stop in the state. And really who else would you expect us to drink sparkling wine with? They already had a cheese shop picked out for us to visit, Cheese Addiction. Sounds right up my alley! We didn’t need an occasion to eat cheese and drink sparkling wine but it just so happened that Pam hit 10k Instagram followers while we were there! Let the celebrating begin.
I did have a tentative idea of which cheeses to look for when we arrived at the store but there was such an exciting selection of new cheeses that we still spent an hour there just taking it all in. Pam really enjoys wine and cheese but appreciated having a cheese expert with her for some guidance. People sometimes wonder how to find the right mix of cheeses when putting together a cheese board. If you read our entry about Co-hosting #WiningHourChat with Wine101 Hamden, you may have learned some tips and tricks to this art. One of my key pointers is to include all different types of cheese: with different milks, different textures, some that are smelly, and others that are mild. Make it interesting, that way everyone will find something they like but also have a chance to try something new. That’s why it takes me so long in cheese shops because I’m trying to come up with that perfect mix!
After we had all our cheeses, they stopped at the store and found two of their go-to sparkling wines. I was super excited to see that one of them was Vueve Clicquot. I’ve seen this wine around but never had a chance to try it. Who knows what is special about this wine? Yup, it’s an actual French Champagne! So it comes from the Champagne region of France, uses méthode champenoise and follows all the other regulations to the be the real thing. How awesome to drink French Champagne for the first time with Always 5 Star. It only seems appropriate! https://www.always5star.com/blog/how-to-serve-the-perfect-glass-of-champagne
The other wine they picked out was another well known bottle, Gloria Ferrer from Sonoma, CA. Here’s one of their articles about their visit out the winery. I never had a chance to visit this winery when we lived in California but I can only imagine it would be so fun to do a tasting with almost a dozen sparkling wines. With a quick glance, it seems they have the whole range of dry to sweet sparklers. Sounds like I just planned a stop on our next trip out to CA! Maybe we could go with Pam and John?
We cracked open both bottles and after that wonderful “pop”, began sipping. The Champagne smelled toasted and tasted like honey. We did make note of the playful, tiny, fine bubbles. The California sparkler was pretty different with fruit aromas and some mineral flavors. Both of these wines are made with the same grapes and similar processes. How interesting too see that they would be so different!
Our first cheese of the evening, Salt Spring Island Chèvre, was beautiful! How often to you find a cheese that has edible flowers on it? Can’t say I remember having many cheeses from Canada either. The flavor was so rich! We wondered if it could have been made with a higher percentage of milk fat? This goat cheese was so smooth and creamy that it coated our tongues. This created a great setup to pair with the bubbles. The fresh floral cheese reminded us of springtime; light and sunny.
Up next, another goat cheese but the Pave de Jadis was very different than the first. It was from the Loire region of France, with earthy aromas that transported us to a rocky cave in the winter time. It smelled super funky but had less funk on the flavor as well as some salt. Pam really liked both goat cheeses!
When drinking wine from France, French champagne no less, it seems only appropriate to have more French cheese. This cheese, Delice de Cremiers from the Burgundy region of France, is made from cows milk and it smelled salty and rich. It was a soft-ripened, gooey cheese. What a hit, everyone raved! Someone even exclaimed “This is why you go to France.” It seems we were traveling through the four seasons of the year because this one was like Autumn in the woods. I made note of tangy flavors that tingled my tongue.
For our final cheese, Cinco Lanzas, we traveled to Spain. In many cases, when creating a cheeseboard, I like to find one cheese that contains sheep, goat and cow’s milks all together. The Cinco Lanzas, filled that role for us. This was also our only aged cheese and the trick to fully enjoying aged cheeses is perfectly thin slices of cheese. We used a cheese slicer and it made the delicate, rich flavors come out. You could even taste the “crunchies” that I find are key in a nice, hard cheese.
So after all this cheese tasting, you’re probably wondering which one was the favorite? Well, John stood out by saying he liked the Delice de Cremiers the best. Pam and Neil were more diplomatic about it and said “They were all equal and different.” Seems I did my job as the person choosing the cheeses if they both liked all of them. I didn’t choose a favorite that night but I think I was too busy taking notes to share with all of you.
We had such a great night enjoying wine and cheese with Pam and John! They had a nice patio to sit outside and enjoy the Southern California evening. And let’s not forget, we were drinking Champagne from France. After all that wine and cheese, we even ate a great meal on the BBQ. We had to scale it back a bit though because we had all that delicious wine and cheese in our bellies. Thanks so much for hosting us and I promise to find another great mix of cheeses next time. Cheers to you both!