Artisan grilled cheese and wine pairing #SpringOKWineFest
Okanagan Wine Festival offers many opportunities to educate your mind and palate by tasting local foods, wines and cheeses. One such opportunity presented itself the other night at a grilled cheese tasting paired with local wines, presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada.
The event took place at the upstairs room at the Eldorado (affectionately referred to as the El by locals). The room was set with linen covered round tables for 8 and each guest was assigned 2 event-inscribed glasses that we could take home with us at the end of the evening. Representatives from the wineries and some of the cheese makers were present to speak about their products as we tasted them.
Each of the cheeses was presented if its original natural form as well as grilled between slices of bread that was chosen to enhance the flavours and textures of the particular cheese. Cheese that has been melted is different than cheese in its natural state and it was interesting to taste them side by side. These were all Candian cheeses representing several of the provinces, beginning with local BC cheesemakers and expanding the territory to include Ontario, Manitoba,, PEI and Quebec.
The entertaining and informative MC for the evening was David Beaudoin from Quebec, the maker of Squeaky Cheese (cheddar cheese curds that apparently “squeak) which he distributes along the Okanagan. David is also a frequent judge at cheesemaking competitions. It was very clear that David was immersed in the world of cheese the way a musician is immersed in music. It is part of who he is. His suggestion for those worried about the fat content of cheese: Don’t sit on the sofa all evening. Make more trips to the fridge, it will give you a workout.
Here are my notes in case you wish to try some of the cheese and wine combinations.
Terroir cheese is a north Okanagan cheesemaker herding their own Montbeliarde cows. The Morbier style cheese is unpasteurized, semi-firm in texture with a thin layer of vegetable ash in the middle. It has a rich and creamy mouth feel with slightly earthy aroma.
The 2013 Grapes of Benefit from House of Rose winery is a three grape blend sweetened with ice wine. The grapes in the blend are pinot gris, chardonnay and the less known variety verdello. The ice wine adds a richness and some sweetness that complimented the cheese nicely.
50th Parallel brought their recently awarded gold medal 2014 Pinot Gris. The wine was on the light side with crisp acidity punctuated with citrus and stone fruit that cut nicely through the richness of the cheese.
Rathtrevor is washed rind cheese with very unique texture that is slightly sticky. It’s made from milk of a mixed herd cows named after a local park that the cheesemakers like to go to. The inspiration for the cheese is swiss gruyer. It is aged for 60 days, has a firm washed rind and has a sweet and nutty flavours.
The Decora, meaning beautiful and elegant is made south of Oliver on golden Mile bench. It is an aromatic wine with good acidity on the finish that helps with fruit and nuttiness of the cheese.
The viognier was also from the golden mile bench and had noticeable apricots, peaches and nectarine with a nice acidity to refresh the palate between bites of the grilled cheese
Made from 100 milk Tre Stelle is made to offer a local alternative to the famous Italian gorgonzola and the German Cambozola. It’s a semi-soft ripened cheese that has element of brie and a little sharp blue throughout. It’s a milder blue, very creamy with light saltiness.
The pinot noir from Red Rooster in Naramatha was nice with the cheese because it’s lighter yet fruit forward with raspberries and cherries coming forward.
The zinfandel a little higher acid that cuts into the richness of the cheese. Fruit forward with a little oak to stand up nicely to the rather prominent cheese.
The deep orange colour cheddar is made from milk local to Manitoba that has been heat treated. the cheese is naturally aged for about 12 months producing a creamy texture and sharp flavour. this particular cheese has won first prize awards in previous years and was a finalist in the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. The colour comes from (not an orange cow, but from or anato seed from a tree that are widely used in Mexican cuisine.
Hypothesis is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. It has recently been awarded 91-94 points by our very own John Schreiner, The range relates to when you open the bottle and if you can wait 5 years your patience will be rewarded. The wine had lots of dark ripe fruit, nice acidity and the tannins that both complimented and contrasted the sharpness of the cheese.
Meritage – another nice dark bordeaux style blend this time of all 5 of the Bordeaux varietal. The five grapes means you get the dark fruit flavour with oak and tannin that worked well with the cheese. With aged sharp cheese you want a nice dark aged wine and this wine was a very nice compliment to the cheese and vice versa.
The milk for the organic feta comes from a local farm where all the herds pasture at the foot of Mt Ida in the Shuswap. The cheese is made by hand in small batches. The feta, one of my favourites in the selection that evening, was creamy and fresh with a tangy palate and light salty finish.
The riesling was cool and aromatic with lime citrus that loves to be paired with anything salty so the feta pairing was well received.
The Gamay noir (the beaujolais grape) is a little higher in acid and went well with the cheese. It’s an uncomplicated wine that was a good match for the creamy and delicious cheese.
Verdelait is a blend of cheddar, gouda and raclette. It is a strong, salty and very spicy cheese, made so with the addition habanero and black pepper. In grilled form it was nice and creamy and very rich but what came forward most was the spice. perhaps a bit too much for my palate.
The Safed wine is the signature wine of Kismet who have been growing award winning grapes for many years but only recently begun making their own wine. It’s a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and orange muscat. It’s the orange muscat that comes through with orangy aroma. This cheese was so spicy that it was hard to tell if the wine was a good match.
Karma pinot noir has a spicy peppery finish that went with the spice of the cheese with a little bit of competition between the two.
The recipe for the cheese comes from the remote Orkney Island in the far north of Scotland. The cheese is aged for 2 years and naturally smoked for 8 hours with apple tree wood, resulting in a rich and creamy cheese with smooth texture and smoky aroma.
The Syrah was full bodied with cherries,. peppery notes and a smoky aroma that was meant to enhance the smokiness of the cheese. A little viognier in the blend was meant to add some complexity to the wine.
The Karma has cherries and blackberry nose with velvety rich texture on the palate. The tannins and oak rounded up the smokiness of the cheese.
The Bleu Fume is made at the only cheese dairy in north America still runs by Benedictine monks. The cheese is made from pasteurized whole cow’s milk and aged for three months or more in natural caves beneath the monastery. It’s extra creamy and complex and very very salty. The sweetness of the bread helped with both the salt and the smokiness.
The Pinot Noir is made from six Dijon clones, and is the winery’s flagship wine. Peppery and earthy with good tannin structure it was meant to hold up to the prominent cheese.
A Senior Moment is a primarily syrah with lots of fruit and some oak. It stands up to the strong prominent cheese.