Annual Wine and Cheese Party at Aunt Kathy’s
It was getting close to the end of our time in Pennsylvania and Aunt Kathy turned to me and said “We haven’t done our wine and cheese pairing yet!” That was all I needed to get planning. During our next trip to Aldi, I found a couple cheeses I’d like to contribute. I grabbed a bottle of Prosecco too just to mix things up a little for this crowd. Then a few days later, we took a trip out to Reverie Creamery, our go to cheese shop in the area. We always enjoy their Tom but of course we started tasting and found two more to bring.
Aunt Kathy said “Don’t buy everything, other people want to share their favorites too!” Our time was running out to have the party so I started checking availability with the family and we had a date planned. “Please bring your favorite wine or cheese with you to share!”
We actually rounded up quite a crowd of folks who were around, and all of them brought tons to share! We ended up having six cheeses and nine wines which was a pretty tall order! Here’s the list below:
White Stilton with Lemon from Aldi
Peach Bellini from Aldi
Tom by Reverie (NY)
Cheese Ball coated in Maple Roasted seeds by Reverie
Urban Sted Street Ched (OH)
Cranberry Cheddar from Aldi
Old Marauder Hard Cider (NY)
Gallo Sweet Apple
Wilhelm Winery Rustic Redberry (PA)
Arrowhead Midnight Proposal (PA)
Willow Creek Winery Sweet Rambo Red (NY)
Woodbury Blue Raspberry (NY)
Woodbury Peanut Butter Cup (NY)
Blueberry Sky Farm Winery Dandelion Wine (NY)
Since there were so many options to choose from, I kind of left it open to everyone what notes they wanted to write down. We had a few WineAndCheeseFriday veteran tasters so they provided me so many notes. Thanks, you know I love it! We also brought in a new person, Sue, who works at a winery and was happy to be involved. Even Neil’s mom, Linda, was around to have some wine and cheese. Look for her in a couple past entries too!
Let’s start with the wine tasting notes. I suggested that the Prosecco would be the driest wine and a good starting point, so that’s where we’ll begin. Aunt Kathy agreed that it was very dry and found it to have little taste. We do know this crowd though and they are more acclimated to sweet wines. Linda is more used to dry wines so she was able to pick out apple and lime flavors. Both Diane and Brian compared the prosecco to a champagne flavor but neither really cared for it. Neil and I have tried this wine before so he kept it simple by just saying “Yum!” and I filled in the blanks with more notes, citrus aromas, nice bubbles and a hint of sweetness in the flavor. Although there were mixed reviews, I think it’s always nice to begin with some bubbles!
In order to change things up, Linda brought a can of local hard cider, Old Marauder. Always fun to try something new! This one had quite a varied response too. Neil was really the only one that liked it in our group. He described it as light with a yeast aroma and a clean, light, mineral flavor. Linda thought it was refreshing but dry and a little metallic too. I always want to try new things so I was excited to have a taste. It passed the aroma test because it smelled like apple cinnamon but then it went a little towards vinegar which I shifted into mineral notes. I was trying to be positive but not a drink for me. Other’s weren’t so politically correct, chiming in with notes of wood shop with a sour taste, and another note for woodsy but there was also a “Yuk!” No problem there, we’ve got so many others to try!
Now that we’ve done the cider, let’s keep the same fruit and try the Gallo Sweet Apple wine! This is a wine that Aunt Kathy knows that she likes and was excited to see what others thought of it. Diane and I both found a little bit of fizz in the wine, but that’s something I enjoy! I picked up citrus in the aroma besides the obvious apple but found it to taste sweeter than it smelled. Brian had it going in the sweet direction too when he identified a little bit of maple, maybe from being aged in a barrel? According to the label, this wine was made from green apples but none of us identified a tartness.
It’s time to move into the local wines! Since so many of them would be semi-sweet to sweet, I was trying to gauge which one to begin with. It seems it was a toss up between the Rustic Redberry and the Midnight Proposal. Neil noted that the Rustic Redberry was tart but there was also a good amount of sweet. Sue found flavors of grapes and cranberry in the wine so I’d say that follows through with Neil’s notes. Diane agreed with the cranberry flavors but Brian was still tasting the barrel. Aunt Kathy said its was tasty and smooth, so she liked it! I was noticing a few things when I found sweet berry and flower aromas. Then it had a tart flavor with some more fizziness and then tart and sweet finish. Guess that’s why I wasn’t sure where to put it in the line up.
We already mentioned the Midnight Proposal blackberry wine so lets discuss that one now. From reading the notes in advance I can tell you that this one was very fruity! Some of the fruits that were mentioned were plum, berry, blackberry, and a vote for fruity! Linda added in that it was a full bodied wine. Diane found it to have a rustic smell and a woody taste. Sue was the one that brought the wine so she didn’t say too much, except, spoiler alert, it worked well with all the cheeses! I thought it reminded me a lot of the Rustic Redberry since it was both sweet and tart. I wonder if they might be made with the same types of grapes? Well Brian, described it as a “good, deep Concord taste!”.
Ok now I need to search for both of them to see what grapes were used! It seems they are both traditional grape wines with another fruit juice mixed in. For all the tasters that noticed cranberry in the Rustic Redberry, you are right, there’s cranberry juice besides the grapes. And as far as the Midnight Proposal being made from Concord grapes? Well I didn’t determine that because it just says grapes with blackberry wine. Maybe that’s why I was noticing the similarities because they both had something mixed in?
Aunt Kathy started us off with the Rambo Red and determined it to be “no bueno!” Since Brian and Diane brought it, Brian gave it a taste and was disappointed to announce that it had been open for too long and we wouldn’t be including it in the tasting.
The next set of wines are surely sweet, lets try the Woodbury Blue Raspberry! It was the color of a blue popsicle but Diane thought it was fruity and had pizzaz. I like that for describing a wine! Aunt Kathy said it was very good. A couple people didn’t get around to rating it but Neil thought it was the flavor of a blue snow cone. That was so true! I described it as having aromas of a sugary candy, a fizzy texture, and a sticky sweet texture, but we know I’m not one for sweet wines.
The peanut butter cup wine really surprised me though! I guessed it too would be so sweet but admittedly I love peanut butter cups. I could smell nutty oak aromas that I really liked. It tasted tart but like a peanut butter and jelly. I thought it was actually pretty good! Curious how they created that peanut butter and jelly flavor? The wine was made from concord grapes with peanut butter and chocolate flavors added. So how did the others like it? Brian found it to be deep and rich as well as sweet with the peanut butter flavor at the back of his tongue. Diane described it as smooth and creamy and she was the only one that mentioned the chocolate. The only one that tried it and didn’t like it was Sue but since she works at a winery, maybe she’s not into sweet wines either?
Only one wine remains on our list, Blueberry Sky Farm Winery Dandelion Wine, unfortunately it wasn’t up to par for the tasting. I guess it had gone bad. We had to dump that one down the drain but if it peeked your interest, we’ve tasted it with Diane and Brian during a previous tasting, https://wineandcheesefriday.com/wine-and-cheese-tasting-at-aunt-kathys-house/.
Let’s begin with the cheeses now. If you’ve read past entries from tastings with this group, you know that they like cheeses with fruit and cheddar cheese. In order to keep on theme with that, we’ve brought some favorites back and introduced some new ones.
Neil and I were reintroduced to the lemon stilton when we brought it to a family gathering a few months back. It was so delicious that day that we had to bring it to another tasting! Aunt Kathy mentioned that the cheese had actual large pieces of lemon and it was yummy. Linda agreed that it had a great lemon flavor as well as being ultra creamy! Neither Diane or Brian thought this cheese was creamy, but more gritty. I do agree that the texture of stilton isn’t usually smooth but it was soft and luscious that night when I was tasting it. There was no doubt that the lemon flavor was standing out too.
The peach bellini cheese looked like it would be similar to the lemon stilton but it was a cheese we hadn’t tried before. According to the label, there was prosecco and peach jam blended in so I was curious to taste it! Linda said it was velvety, buttery, and smooth. Aunt Kathy liked it too and again made note of the actual pieces of peach fruit in the cheese. When I’ve tried wensleydale and some stilton cheeses in the past, I’ve noticed aromas that remind me of cake, this one did too. It was sweet and yummy but seemed like there was less fruit in this cheese than in the lemon. Brian thought it was ok but it wasn’t as good as he’d expected it to be.
We’ve had the Tom cheese from Reverie a few times with this group but tonight would be Linda’s first time trying it. She thought it was good and smooth. Neil and I like that it’s a little aged and there’s some cave funk to it, but that’s not a positive thing for some people. For example Diane thought it was musty and old 🙂 Brian found it to be a little salty but as good as always! This time around, I thought it smelled like butter, tasted like milk and there was a hint of salt.
The seeded cheese ball was also from Reverie but this was our first time trying it. There was no disputing that it was rolled in sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Brian really only mentioned the flavors of seeds, nothing else. I could smell that the seeds were toasted and then tasted the seeds too but the cheese was creamy and a little sweet. Seemed good to me! Diane thought that it was crunchy and creamy with a light maple taste. There was a little left after the tasting so I spread it on a bagel, which was very good!
We chose the Urban Sted Street Ched from Ohio to be the cheddar at this tasting. When Neil tried it at the store, he knew we’d be taking that wedge home! He thought it was nutty with a slight salt and very tasty! I liked it too with its aged and buttery aromas, rich flavor, calcium lactate crystals and salty finish. Diane picked up on it being aged and therefore musty so she wasn’t a fan but Aunt Kathy said it was good. Brian was surprised by how sharp this cheddar was!
About five years ago, Neil and I introduced Aunt Kathy to cranberry Wensleydale cheese. She’s been a fan of cranberry cheese ever since. Diane will surprise her with a piece whenever she comes across it. Neil and I really like the goat cheese log rolled in cranberries too. The cheese we had that day was neither of these, it’s a cranberry cheddar from Aldi that Aunt Kathy brought to the party. Diane described this one as cranberry, creamy, milky and a little orangey! I found it to be tart and creamy but I’d agree with Brian that there are better cranberry cheeses out there.
I mentioned at the beginning of this entry that we had a lot of tasting notes, hopefully I’ve still got you here. Ready for some wine pairings? You may have noticed that there weren’t many notes from Sue so far. That’s because she decided that after tasting each wine and cheese she’d try pairing them all and find the best ones for all of you! Some of the other tasters did a few pairings but Sue definitely did the most!
Since we began our wine tasting with the prosecco let see what cheeses people tried with it! Neil thought that the lemon stilton paired with the prosecco was like lemon happiness. When I tried that same pairing, the wine cleansed the cheese from my mouth. With the peach cheese, it was the same affect! Sue thought the pairing of the lemon stilton with the prosecco worked well and added the cranberry cheese as another good choice with that wine. Diane enjoyed the pairing of the Street Ched with it but when I tried it, it wasn’t for me. There was quite a reaction though, the cheese dried out and the wine intensified.
We told you that the cider wasn’t very popular so there weren’t many pairings. Sue suggested that it only worked with the Tom, so I tried it too. The cheese smelled salty and seemed to take over the cider so I guess the cheese might have been too powerful for that pairing.
Aunt Kathy was excited to see that her Gallo apple wine paired nicely with the Street Ched! Sue worked her way through the entire cheese catalog and found the apple wine to work with them all! I tried it with the cheese ball and I could only taste the wine, seems the pairings weren’t really working for me that night.
Neil and Sue both agreed that the Rustic Redberry worked well with the cranberry cheese. Since they suggested it, I gave it a try too. Unfortunately neither really changed for me. Aunt Kathy gave it a try with the lemon cheese but they didn’t go together.
You already heard that Sue paired the Midnight Proposal with all the cheeses and said they were all good pairings. It seems Diane was the only other person pairing it that night and she liked it with the lemon cheese.
When Aunt Kathy tried pairing the Blue Raspberry with the cranberry cheese, she liked it. Sue and I both tried it with the lemon cheese. She suggested it and I happily agreed that they played nicely together!
The final wine to be paired was the peanut butter cup. You know it pleasantly surprised me so it shouldn’t be hard to believe that it was me pairing it. I chose the maple seed cheese and they did work. I think it was from the nuttiness in each of them.
In the end, the Prosecco was paired the most and shows that whether people liked it initially or not, they were willing to try it with the cheeses to see if they liked it better that way. That’s what these family tastings are all about, sharing favorites and trying some new things.
This was by far our biggest tasting and pairing ever but we were able to try NY and PA wines alongside some well known brands of wine. We also tried NY and OH cheeses with some others that are widely available across the US. What an experience to have them all together at once. We were all up to that challenge and can’t wait for the next one!