–submitted by Mike Wilson
The Wine Fellowship Group met at 7:00 PM Monday July 13 at Fromagination for a wine and cheese tasting. This is the third Fromagination event the Wine Fellowship has held over the years. Rotarians, with spouses and friends attended, and the 23 attendees all had a terrific experience. Ken Monteleone of Fromagination provided his employee Steve Schaefer as the “cheesemonger” and another helper for pouring the wine, and arranged for Andrea Hillsey, sommelier owner of Square Wine Company to supply and collaborate with the wines.
The shop was arranged with beautiful platters of cheese, crackers, dried fruit together with bread and wonderful gougeres (French cheese puffs) to complement the wonderful selection of cheeses and wines. These gougeres have been a trademark of the Rotary Fromagination tastings.
The “menu” was Margaine extra brut NV Champagne (100% Chardonnay) paired with Marieke Golden Gouda; a 2013 Girard Sancerre was matched with a Lombardy Quader de cavra (aged in square pinewood crates for 35 days); and a 2009 Pecina Crianza Rioja with Manchengo a sheep milk cheese from Spain’s La Mancha using Manchega sheep with the traditional herring bone rind.
These three combinations were followed by a 2011 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar cow’s milk cheese from Blue Mounds where the owner ages the cheese in real caves carved into the hillside. This cheese is truly bandaged, and these cheeses take on the rugged appearance of the cave they were aged in. The last pairing was a NV Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port with a cow’s milk Dunbarton Blue from Schullsburg, which is an English-style cheddar with a hint of Blue (small amount of Blue resulting from narrow piercings of the cheese for the blue, then pressing the cheese to prevent the usual proliferation of blue veining).
The descriptions of the cheeses and wines were excellent and quite different from other tastings and were immensely enjoyed by all. Overall the wine and cheese combinations liked best by the group were the Crianza/Manchego and the Ruby Port/Dunbarton Blue combinations, but all were excellent. It was interesting that these two wines were the least expensive of the tasting retailing at $21 and $18 respectively (the other wines averaged $32).
The tasting ended with Ken providing a taste of Hooks 20 year aged cheddar – a real treat for us all! This cheese sold out immediately when released (two shops only) after a debut at a L’Etoile seven-course dinner for 70 people. We got this small taste of a surprisingly creamy cheese with the calcium lactate crystals crunching like “pop rocks” in our mouths – all without having to pay the $209 per pound price.
There was lots of time for questions and answers. Everyone had an excellent time, learned much about wine, and an awful lot about cheese. All this information provided in a most salubrious atmosphere.