If I had to sum up wine & cheese in one word, the word would be diversity. There are so many varieties of wine & cheese in the world, you can do tastings every week and not have the same wine or cheese for years. That’s why I love going to classes at Murray’s Cheese (Bleecker Street, in the Village). No matter how many times I’ve been to one of their tastings, there’s always something new. And when they do a cheese pairing with wines from NYS, it’s a no brainer. Sign me up! When I attended the “New York State of Wine” wine & cheese pairing on a cold night in January I had high expectations. And I was not disappointed.
The tasting was led by Jordan Zimmerman (the Education Director at Murray’s) and on the wine side Dan Belmont, a Brand Ambassador and wine & cheese consultant. (Love the title!) We had six NY State wines, three from Long Island and three from the Finger Lakes. For the whites, we had a 2013 Chenin Blanc from Paumanok and a 2012 Dry Riesling from Herman J. Wiemer. Both were crisp, citrusy and highly cheese-worthy. The Chenin Blanc was paired with a Chabichou from the Loire Valley, which was highly appropriate since Chenin Blanc is a grape variety that is commonly found in the Loire. The Riesling was paired with Tomme du Chevre Aydius from the French Pyrenees. Both pairings were spot on.
The first red was a 2011 Old Vines Pinot Noir from Dr Frank, one of the oldest wineries of the Finger Lakes. This was paired with a Quadrello, a water buffalo cheese from Italy. Because Finger Lakes Pinots are much lighter than the big bold Pinots of the west coast, it did not overpower the cheese. The next red was a 2011 Cabernet Franc from McGregor. This was paired with a cheddar from Wisconsin. Though the Cab Franc was my favorite wine of the evening, the pairing did not hit a bull’s eye for me. The high acidity of the Finger Lakes wine paired with a high acid cheese was too much for my palate.
For the last two pairings, we went back to Long Island. We had a 2007 Merlot from Sherwood House, which was paired with an Ossau Iratty Vielle from France and a 2008 Meritage from Coffee Pot Cellars was paired with a Pecorino Ginepro. Both of these pairings were complimentary, elevating both the wine & cheese to a new level.
The great thing about doing a pairing like this is that there are no rules and there are no right answers. Everybody has different tastes and a different favorite. Being a veteran at these tastings, I always do some “cross-pollination” and try all the wines with all the cheeses. So, my favorite pairing of the evening was the “unscheduled” pairing of the Chabichou with the Riesling from Wiemer.
My advice is to skip the political rhetoric and meaningless promises from all of the various State of the State addresses going on around across the country during the month of January, and concentrate on doing your own “State of Wine” for your particular state. As for New York, I’m glad to report that the condition of “New York State of Wine” is excellent and gets a AAA rating.