Not quite sure why, but the movie catch phrase “Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got Him” has always stuck in my head. Guess I must have heard it while watching TCM, which being an old movie buff I do on a regular basis. I no longer remember the film, but I know that it referred to Clark Gable and Greer Garson, two popular stars of the 1940’s. Over the years there have been many more memorable screen combos. Bogie & Bacall. Hepburn & Tracy. Liz & Dick. Redford & Newman. And of course the studio publicity machine would jump on the bandwagon: The greatest screen combination of all time!
I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of these great screen pairings when a wine and cheese tasting caught my eye: The wines from Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars were being paired with cheeses from Murray’s Cheese. These are both heavyweights in their fields (think Spielberg & Lucas), so the promise of a blockbuster was in the making. “Dr. Frank is Back and Murray’s Got Him!”
Dr Frank, one of the premiere wine producers of the Finger Lakes, is located on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. It was founded 50 years ago by Dr. Konstantin Frank, one of the pioneers of the region and responsible for igniting the “Vinifera Revolution“. This was a game-changing movement proving that vinifera grapes could be successfully grown in the Finger Lakes, not just the American hybrids and native labruscas that they were growing. In addition to the original vinifera grapes that Dr. Frank planted, the winery has had a successful spinoff with the Chateau Frank label which produces sparkling wine. Representing Dr Frank was Barbara Frank, granddaughter of founder Konstantin and brother of current owner Fred Frank.
On the cheese side, there was Dan Belmont. Dan, a veteran of the wine & spirits industry, is a brand ambassador, hospitality consultant and wine & cheese educator. After a stint in the cheese caves, Dan was offered his breakout role as the Education Director at Murrays Cheese, the holy grail of Manhattan cheese shops. Murrays is located on Bleecker Street in The Village. Accompanying Dan was an international cast of supporting players: Moses Sleeper and Manchester from Vermont, Gabietou from France, Caerphilly from the UK and San Andreas from Bellwether Farms in California.
Barbara started us out with a glass of sparkling Brut from Chateau Frank. A classic méthode champenoise sparkling wine made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This was followed by the Riesling Twins (Dry and Semi-Dry) and their sidekick Gewürztraminer. This trio of crowd-pleasing Finger Lake favorites was crisp and clean, exemplifying the minerality of the lakes. For the final act, we were served an Old Vines Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc, both from 2012. The Finger Lakes has had the reputation for producing only sweet white wines, but a recent series of award-winning dry reds has helped change public perception and they are now also known for their “serious” work.
And how did this cast of characters play out? In a word, Phenomenal. Or as they say in the movie trade papers, Boffo! The ultimate ensemble cast. I thoroughly enjoyed the pairing of Moses Sleeper from Jasper Hill Farm with the 2013 Dry Riesling. And the Old Vines Pinot, from some of the oldest vines in the United States, was a perfect partner with the Caerphilly, a cheddar-style pub cheese from Wales. But the real showstopper of the evening was the Semi-Dry Riesling and the Manchester goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont. As a solo act, the Semi-Dry Riesling, direct from the Banana Belt on Seneca Lake, was a bit sweet for my tastes, but paired with this cheese it was a star performer.
In the movies, regardless of the star power, it’s all about the on-screen chemistry. Some superstar combinations don’t always work (think Owen Wilson & Eddie Murphy in “‘I Spy”). It’s the same thing in the culinary world. The best experiences are when all the ingredients play off each other, raising the bar of any one performance. And the chemistry among the wines and cheeses that we tasted at this showing were nothing less than electric. For once the hyperbole lived up to expectations. I for one, can’t wait for the sequel!