Stemmari Nero D’Avola and Monterrey cheese
For this week’s Wine And Cheese Friday entry we’ll be featuring our first pairing during this trip to Costa Rica. We love visiting Costa Rica, but have found it challenging to find a wine and cheese selection that coincides with our palates. Wine can be found in local grocery and liquor stores here in Pérez Zeledón, but the selection is usually limited. Sweet wines are more popular here, whereas we prefer something drier and more complex, and most wines we find are from Chile and Argentina. Since we’ve visited three times previously, we’ve found our staple brands to enjoy on a regular basis, but are always hoping for something new and interesting. Imagine our surprise when we came across a Sicilian brand that had been previously featured on #WiningHourChat! We made a mental note and went back a week later to pick up the bottle of Stemmari Nero D’Avola.
Cheese in Costa Rica is mainly of the fresh variety, as aging can be difficult with the warmer temperatures. Primary uses for cheese here are frying, melting onto food, and putting on a sandwich. For this reason, the texture is different and it seems more like a squeaky cheese. Strange description but not really when you think about a fresh cheese vs an aged cheese. During our visit last year, we were delighted to discover a few aged cheeses, one at the farmer’s market and another in our favorite grocery store, Luferz. They have a large selection of goods, including Costa Rica and US brands, gluten free options, and great prices. When we found the Monte Azul brand, we were excited to find some artisanal cheese to pair with some wine (check out that entry here)!
Cara Mia and the rest of the #WiningHourChat ladies have showcased the Stemmari brand on their twitter chat multiple times. I had never come across it in my wine shopping so I was super excited to find it here in Costa Rica. I definitely had to give it a try! As we swirled this red wine, I identified prune, earthy, and dry aromas. I couldn’t help but notice hints of milk chocolate aromas, too. Neil found spice, earth and dark berry aromas. We were off to a great start! The wine was tart, spicy, earthy, and had flavors of grapes with a juicy acid. Neil described it as spicy, fruit forward, earthy, and very dry with a big flavor. We both thought it was delicious and such a step above a lot of the other grocery-variety wines we find here!
Monterrey is a cow’s milk cheese that we learned from the cheesemaker was modeled to be similar to Monterrey Jack. Since it is an aged cheese, we let it warm up for an hour and then used a mandolin slicer to create perfectly thin slices. Just from looking at the cheese I could tell it was waxy and oily, both signs of an aged cheese, and it even smelled aged. Woohoo! There were also milky and salty aromas. Neil added in that it smelled tangy and like a barnyard. As I tasted the Monterrey, I picked up tart, smoke flavors that were creamy and tingled my tongue. I exclaimed “Wow!” It reminded me of the flavor of dessert or cake. Neil called it “a very interesting cheese with funky and tangy flavors!”
Since they seem so good individually, let’s see what happens when we pair the Nero D’Avola and Monterrey cheese. I thought it was a great pairing where the wine and cheese both influenced each other. The wine smelled like prunes, blueberries and chocolate but tasted a little lighter, tangy and earthy. Then there was a big spicy finish. The cheese smelled the same but tasted fresher and milkier. Neil found the wine to become more fruity and less spicy. He also had the flavor of maraschino cherry appear during the pairing. The Monterrey changed to become more peppery and a lot creamier. Wow, so we both found a noticeable difference!
We’d both put this down as a good pairing. I’m sure it may have helped that we were sipping good wine and good cheese, under a tree in Costa Rica, on a Sunday afternoon but who’s keeping track? Definitely one that we both enjoyed! We were very pleased to find this wine and this cheese to enjoy while we are here!