Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Accidents. Cheese & Wine

Featured Wine:

2008 Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Grignolino $14.99

This easy slurping red from one of the Napa Valley’s most prestigious of wineries has been one of my favorites for years now. I admittedly have an old world leaning palate, which is to say I prefer lighter wines with bright acidity and very little discernible oak flavors. This utterly delicious Napa Valley red seems to hit my happy spot time and time again. Grignolino, (pronounced green-o-lean-o), is referred to as the “little strawberry” in its native Italy and is exactly the kind of wine that begs for salty little nubbins’ to pick at while you drink it. A picnic red if you will and I for one have served it with everything from cold cured meats to fried chicken. Very pale red in the glass, just this side of looking like a Rose, the body and texture are probably closest to Pinot Noir but make no mistake, this wine is its own sassy little thing. Amazingly floral with hints of spice, like cracked pepper spice, along with some tart strawberry and citrus zest. Bright, exuberant and loaded with snap on the finish. 

Featured Cheese:

Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold

This fruity and massively flavorful cheese came to be much like some of the greatest things in life……. and my marriages, by accident. Fiscalini Cheese Company, known for their incredible Bandage Cheddar, was looking to add a Fontina to their portfolio of cheeses and in their trial and error process they came up with this. Named after its birthplace in our very own San Joaquin Valley this delightful “accident” of a cheese crosses that line between a great sharp Cheddar and Parmesan, both in flavor and in texture.  Packed with fruity, nutty flavors and laced with a bunch of those crunchy little crystals that taste a bit like butterscotch and the finish….goes on forever.  This is a perfect cheese for a fruit plate, grating, shaved on salads or chunked up served alongside a bowl of roasted mixed nuts and a glass of wine that begs for salty nubbins’. 

The Pairing:

This pairing, like the Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold, was something of an accident. I’d previously picked a gorgeous domestic triple crème and paired it with one of our bestselling, and in my opinion, prettiest…in that delicate way, domestic Pinot Noirs. I’d tasted the two together and was kind of madly in love with what happened to both things landed on my palate. I wrote my notes and on a whim double checked with my cheese supplier to make sure the cheese was in fact coming in….never done that before, must have had a hunch. The cheese was out of stock. Dammit!

Ditched my notes on the cheese, (a smart person would have saved them for when the cheese does in fact come in. I’m not a smart person) picked another and waited for my Thursday delivery. Hacked into the Fiscalini as soon as it came in, (exaggeration, I waited for it to warm up a little) and tasted it with the Pinot I wanted to feature. Not a bad combination in any sense, but neither the wine nor the cheese were heightened by the other which is fine, just not good enough. Loaded up a small plate with shaved bits of San Joaquin Gold and marched around the shop looking at bottles, taxing my memory and letting the thin shards of cheese melt across my palate. I was set on picking a domestic wine and the problem can, and has been, that with a cheese like this, that intense and firm…salty and nutty thing, when combined with a good clip of oak this fierce metallic thing happens. Not everyone is as sensitive to that as I am but when I get it, talk about your ugly scrunched face! It wasn’t until I ended up in our sparse Cal-Ital section that I lit up, “Fuck yeah, Grignolino!”

Popped the cork, splashed the wine in my glass, flipped another shaving of cheese on my tongue and took a sip. That humble wine simply exploded with bright, zingy fruit. Wild strawberries and black pepper wrapped around that somewhat aggressive cheese and both things not only tasted good, they tasted far better.

A happy ending.
Love it when that shit happens.


CA Wine Club said...

I just had my first ChocoWine this past weekend. I liked it a lot, and so did about 4 of 5 others at the dinner. It had more of a alcohol bite than I expected, but not to an unpleasant level. Our bottle was 14% alcohol. You could just tell it had a bit of a kick.

Samantha Dugan said...

So drinking ChocoWine was your happy accident? I've tried it and know there is a market for it but as I said in the post I wrote about it, I don't think it should be sold as anything but a lower alcohol cordial. There is nothing about that stuff that has anything to do with wine...other than preying on people's idea of wine creating an aura of sophistication, which might I point out, drinking something that looks and tastes like chocolate milk pretty much negates. I don't have a problem with the product per se, just the idea that anyone is equating to wine...