Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Cheese Grotto, The Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm, Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2018, & Feudo Maccari Saia Nero D'avola 2015

The Cheese Grotto, The Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm

I am a cheese addict. So when I was asked if I wanted to try something called "The Cheese Grotto", there was no way that I could say no. "Hey, crackhead! Would you like to try out this crack pipe?" Yes. Yes I would.

So check this out: The Cheese Grotto (https://cheesegrotto.com) is a wooden box for cheese storage that you can put on your counter top, a cool place in your house, or in your fridge, and is meant to mimic the moisture, coolness, and air flow of a cheese aging cave. There are different designs and prices, but they all have a glass door so you can monitor your cheeses, a ventilated back for air flow, shelving where the cheeses go, and a brick that you quickly submerge in water every once in awhile to release moisture. You don't have to put one thing of cheese in there; it works for how much it can fit. In fact, it suggests that you stock it up when you go away on vacation to help keep the proper moisture.

I can't be on here talking about a Cheese Grotto without cheese! That would be stupid! So I've got three aged cheeses by The Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm (https://www.jasperhillfarm.com) in Vermont:

● Landaff: This is a Welsh style cheddar made from raw cow milk and aged 4 to 6 months. Natural rind and semi-firm. Excellent melting cheese. It can last on the counter top in the Grotto for 10 days.
● Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: This cheese is an ACS Best in Show winner. It's bandaged cheddar made from pasteurized cow milk and was aged 9 to 14 months. Rustic, crystalline texture that melts creamy on palate. Can be stored on the counter top in the Grotto for 2 weeks.
● Little Hosmer: This is a bloomy rind soft cheese (my favorite kind of cheese) made from pasteurized cow milk and aged 6 to 12 weeks. It can be ripened in the Grotto for 4 weeks if the Grotto is in an area where the temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees F.

I kept the Grotto in my dining room and I didn't put the Little Hosmer in the Grotto; just the Landaff and Cabot. I only had them in there for a few days but the grotto is working great so far! The cheese shows no signs of drying out and becoming crappy like it would if I just stuck it in the fridge without wrapping it, and they're showing no signs of going bad from not being refrigerated.

The Cheese Grotto, The Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm, Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2018, & Feudo Maccari Saia Nero D'avola 2015
ERROR NOTE: CRAP! The cards for the Cabot and Landoff should be switched! Sorry!
But wait! There's more! It's time to see how these cheeses pair with wine! I've got one excellent white and one outstanding red, provided by Kobrand Wine & Spirits!  (http://www.kobrandwineandspirits.com)

● Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2018: This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Craggy Range's Te Muna ("secret place") in Martinborough on the North Island of New Zealand. In case you don't already know; another region called Marlborough, now the most famous wine region in New Zealand because of their Sauvignon Blancs, is on the South Island. This wine saw an early harvest and was fermented in closed top stainless steel tanks, then matured for four months. It has a 13% ABV and will cost you about $25.
● Feudo Maccari Saia Nero d'Avola 2015: And this wine is from another island. It's where I get my surname. Sicily. Nero d'Avola is a native grape of Sicily, and it name means "black of Avola" (Avola being the village where the grape is thought to originate) and its nickname is, or was when I broke into the business, "the Shiraz of Italy". This one is 100% Nero d'Avola, and it's from a low yield due to the difficulties of the vintage. It spent 12 to 14 months aging in French barriques, with a second blending at first racking. Then it was aged another 6 months in the bottle. It has a 14% ABV and will cost you about $40.

Let's do this! The Landaff gets crumbly when you cut it, and it melts in your mouth beautifully to go from hard bodied to a creamy buttermilk softness with grace and deliciousness. The Cabot Clothbound Cheddar has that sharpness nice sharpness up front but it's not out of control like some sharp cheddars can be, and it's got a nuttiness and tanginess to it as well. Then the Little Hosmer is a wonderful dream to me. Soft and creamy with a cauliflower-esque flavor and that classic bloomy rind mushroominess. So friggin good!

The Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc has a flinty minerality over aromas of limes, grapefruit, and herbs. It was a bright acidity and flavors of limes, white peach, and nectarine. It pairs best with the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, as the flavors play off of each other and the acidity interacts with the transforming structure of the cheese.

The Feudo Maccari Saia Nero D'avola has a stellar nose with aromas of black cherries, blueberries, spearmint, and rose petals. On the palate it's ridiculously lush with soft and sweet tannins, and flavors of black cherries, plums, vanilla, and oak. Just gorgeous. It pairs best with the Landaff, as the two create an earthy character together and the sharpness of the cheese meets a softener that brings them both meeting in the middle.

All of the cheeses and wines are just deliciously amazing. But it turns out that my favorite cheese of the three, the Little Hosmer, was out-paired on both wines! But that's okay because I will eat this or a Brie or a Camembert with any wine, any beer, any brandy, or any whiskey, at any time. Bring it!

Hey, all of this tasting of cheese and wine is fun and all but don't let that distract you from the Cheese Grotto. That's what made this post happen, and you should check it out for yourself because Christmas is coming and everybody knows a cheese addict!

The Cheese Grotto: https://cheesegrotto.com
Jasper Hill Farm: https://www.jasperhillfarm.com
Kobrand Wine & Spirits: http://www.kobrandwineandspirits.com

The Cheese Grotto

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Wine Review: Oremus Mandolás Furmint 2016

Oremus Furmint 2016

Owned by the world famous Vega Sicilia out of Ribera del Duero, Spain, Oremus is located in the village of Tolscva, in the Tokaj-Hegyalja appellation of Hungary. The vineyards lay on the hillsides of above the village, and its cellars that date back to the 12th century are underneath. All of the Oremus wines are classified as "First Growth" by the Szirmay classification of 1803.

Mandolás is named after one of Oremus's vineyards that is only planted with Furmint, but it appears that this wine is not fully sourced from that vineyard. Furmint is the grape used in the world's very first noble rot (botrytis cinerea) dessert wine; Tokaji Aszu. This is just a wine, not a dessert wine, made from Furmint. It was gently pressed, fermented in new oak barrel for 8 to 12 days, then aged in small 136-litre barrels for an unspecified amount of time. The final ABV is 13.5%.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Wine Quickie: Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava

This Spanish Cava from Barcelona will run you $14. The bottle is wrapped with the work of Antoni Gaudí, who was a Spanish architect in the late 1800's into the early 1900's. It's got a nice toastiness to it, something that I demand from Cava, with green apples, lemon, and flowers. It's zippy on the palate and finishes kinda soapy (which I guess would be floral). You're not going to sit and savor this, but it's perfect for some fun downing of refreshing and affordable bubbly.

I've also got a bottle of the Vilarnau Rosé Brut Reserva, which I'll probably pop open sometime in the next week, if not next Friday.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Wine Review: Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Hess needs no introduction but just in case, here's a blurb on their history from their website: The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978. Located in the historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, the winery first opened to the public in 1989. The winery has earned international recognition for its wine, culinary and visitor programs while providing free public access to Donald Hess’ extensive private contemporary Art Museum. Known as a leader in sustainable practices, The Hess Collection adheres to founder Donald Hess’ philosophy: “Nurture the land; return what you take.” The winery is best known for its flagship Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines and single vineyard designates from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley.

This week I am doing two quick reviews of Hess Select wines. I started with their 2016 Pinot Noir and now I'm reviewing their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. It's 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec, 2% Syrah, 2% Merlot, and 2% Zinfandel. Aged in 35% new French and American oak for 18 months. Suggested retail is $20 but it's usually marked at $16 from what I've seen.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Wine Review: Hess Select Central Coast Pinot Noir 2016

Hess Select Central Coast Pinot Noir 2016

Hess needs no introduction but just in case, here's a blurb on their history from their website: The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978. Located in the historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, the winery first opened to the public in 1989. The winery has earned international recognition for its wine, culinary and visitor programs while providing free public access to Donald Hess’ extensive private contemporary Art Museum. Known as a leader in sustainable practices, The Hess Collection adheres to founder Donald Hess’ philosophy: “Nurture the land; return what you take.” The winery is best known for its flagship Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines and single vineyard designates from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley.

This week I am doing two quick reviews of Hess Select wines, starting with the 2016 Pinot Noir (and then the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon). This is 100% Pinot Noir from the Central Coast of California that saw up to 12 months in neutral oak. Suggested retail is $20 but it's usually marked at $16 from what I've seen.

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