I love inviting friends over on short notice for a casual evening together. Since we were getting ready to head up to our summer cottage in Maine, I thought an impromptu wine and cheese tasting in our wine cellar would be a lot of fun and require very little work. Follow me downstairs…I can always open up another bottle of wine.
Our cellar is divided pretty evenly between red wines which seem to be a favorite of our friends, white wines which I enjoy a glass of while preparing dinner, and hard apple cider which my husband has made from apples in our orchard.
For the wine tasting, I pulled five bottles of Pinot Noir that I had purchased over the last several years because of reviews from the Wine Enthusiast. Out of the five, I narrowed the choice to three wines, a 2010 Bernard Bertrand Reserve Special, a 2009 La Follette (Van Der Kamp Vineyard) Sonoma Mountain and a 2010 HandCraft Artisan Collection.
The reason I chose all Pinot Noir was that I had just received new Pinot Noir wine glasses from the Wine Enthusiast and thought this would be the perfect time to try them. The Fusion Whirl glasses are designed with a tapered bowl so that you can whirl wine to aerate it and bring the wine’s aromas directly to your nose. They have the look and feel of fine crystal but are highly resistant to breaking and chipping which I think is a real plus. I know I will be using them a lot because they can be put in the dishwasher which is always a good thing as far as I am concerned.
Since this was going to be a cheese tasting as well, my husband and I drove over to the New Hampshire seacoast town of North Hampton to visit our favorite cheese shop, C’est Cheese. Since cheese can be expensive, we like to seek the advice of Nancy, the owner. She is always very helpful, letting you taste the cheeses that you might not be familiar with, giving you explanations concerning country of origin, the kind of milk they are made from and even the order in which the cheeses should be eaten…from mild to strong. We decided on Whitestone Windsor Blue, a cow’s milk cheese from New Zealand, Moliterno a sheep’s milk pecorino cheese studded with truffles that is from Sardinia, Ewephoria, a sheep’s milk Gouda style cheese from Holland, and Berthaut Epoisses, a soft cow’s milk cheese, from the burgundy region of France.
The only thing else that was needed for the tasting was some crackers, bread sticks, and a baguette of bread to put the cheese on for tasting. We often like to add some fruit, a fig jam or a sweet and spicy chutney, and perhaps a little honey to be tasted with certain cheeses. Of course if you want to plan a more formal wine and cheese tasting, you could prepare small appetizers that you think would pair well with the wines you are tasting.
This impromptu wine and cheese tasting in our cellar was a fun, tasty evening that required almost no work to put together. The three Pinot Noir wines that we tried were all different but had the complex, intense aromas and flavors of dark red fruits and berries that went very well with the outstanding cheeses that we tried. They would also go well with lamb or beef, duck, salmon and a dish featuring mushrooms. Pinot Noir is a grape varietal that we enjoy drinking not only at home and at local restaurants but also when traveling to Germany, Austria and France where we have found some wonderful examples of this wine where it is called Burgunder or Burgundy.
Perhaps later this year, I’ll take you down to the cellar again and we can pick a bottle of the hard apple cider to try with a robust fall dinner. In the meantime, try putting together a wine a cheese tasting for a couple of your friends…it is a fun evening.
Disclosure: The Wine Enthusiast sent me a gift of Fusion Whirl wine glasses several months ago but I was under no obligation to write about the glasses or company nor was I compensated in any way.