Wine and cheese: what could be better?
1 of 4
Farmstead Fresh Chèvre from Caromont Farms & 2009 Vintage Rosé from Barboursville Vineyards
While chèvres are most typically paired with similarly flavored bright, acidic Sauvignon Blancs, or sometimes with young reds, it’s the berry-laden, slightly sweet nuances of the Barboursville rosé that make the grade alongside Caromont Farm’s lightly salted, tangy Farmstead Fresh Chèvre—a seasonal fresh goat’s milk cheese that is best described as soft, creamy and slightly acidic with just a hint of tannin. This unique coupling gets even better when served with crusty bread topped with red tomato jam. Together, this wine and cheese marriage tempers the other’s acidity, causing the wine to taste a bit fruitier and the cheese just a tad milder.It’s an amazing feat that only a true European-styled rosé, made from a blend of Nebbiolo, Cab Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and created under the direction of Barbourville’s award-winning winemaker, Luca Paschina, could expertly pull off. Founded in 1976 by the Zonin family from Veneto, Italy, Barboursville is one of Virginia’s oldest wineries.Caromont Farm in Esmont, (located just south of Monticello) may not be the oldest farm producing artisan cheese in Virginia, but the cheese-making genius of owner Gail Hobbs-Page is not to be denied. Page cranks out an array of goat goodies, including an “Alberene” ashed goat cheese, a raw goat feta and, her latest 2011 release, the “Esmontian,” which is a Manchego-style raw goat cheese aged 120 days. Her chèvre with Barboursville’s rosé is simply irresistible. CaromontFarm.com, BarboursvilleWine.net
2 of 4
Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy & Rapidan River Semi-Dry Riesling from Prince Michel Winery
Meadow Creek Dairy’s Grayson, a semi-soft washed rind cow’s milk is a real stinker, and I say that in the nicest way. This cheese is not for the faint of heart. Boasting a bouquet that lies somewhere between funky and pungent, it is reminiscent of an Italian Taleggio or a French Reblochon as it oozes buttery goodness onto the plate.But take this multiple-award winner and pair it with a gold medal-winning Virginia Riesling that offers just a touch of sweet floral and honeysuckle in each sip, and this heady cheese backs down and mellows out. This is one of those memorable wine and cheese pairings where opposites attract and redefine the flavor profile of each. Add a peach chutney, and you have pure magic.Since stronger cheeses tend to match well with sweeter wines such as Sauternes, late harvest Rieslings or Moscatos, Rapidan River’s Semi-Dry Riesling, which is produced by Prince Michel Vineyards (founded in 1982), is a natural choice as it lends a natural creaminess and ever-so-slight effervescence to delicately offset the richness of the Grayson. Aged in stainless steel tanks, this Riesling offers refreshing nuances of stone fruit and honey on the palate.Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax has been in operation since 1998 when Rick and Helen Feete decided they wanted to make seasonal, sustainable raw milk cheeses in the European style of affinage, or aging. The Feete’s now–famous Grayson, a seasonal cheese (available June through March only) is made from milk from Jersey cows that are pasture-raised on a mixture of grasses, legumes and grains, giving the cheese its signature deep yellow color. MeadowCreekDairy.com, PrinceMichel.com
3 of 4
Raw Sharp White Cheddar from Oak Spring Dairy & 2009 Chardonnay from Gray Ghost Vineyards
This powerfully dry, crumbly cow’s milk white cheddar has a slightly bitter taste that’s almost tannic and reminiscent of pecan skins, while Gray Ghost’s Chardonnay boasts just a smidgen of oak (from its stint in French oak barrels) along with light tropical fruits and a smooth vanilla finish. While seemingly at opposite ends of the tasting spectrum, this pair manages to blend seamlessly. Try a sip of this easy-drinking Chardonnay followed by a nibble of Oak Spring’s piquant cheddar to experience the wine’s citrusy, lemon flavors a bit more. Add a few spicy pecans, some pear mostarda or homemade apple butter to round out this pairing.Family-owned Gray Ghost Vineyards in Amissville is the brainchild of Al and Cheryl Kellert, who began making wine in 1969. Soon after moving to Rappahannock County in 1986 and meticulously transplanting 160 vines, their first Gray Ghost crop was born in 1993, and they’ve been making Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons, Cab Francs and Vidal Blancs ever since. Self-taught cheesemaker Allen Bassler oversees Oak Spring Dairy in Upperville, where he and his wife Tammy create a variety of cow’s milk cheeses (cheddars, Derby cheeses, Goudas, Swiss and Provolones—28 varieties in all) from their raw milk-producing Brown Swiss and Jersey cows. Yet it’s their award-winning Brown Swiss cow, Snickerdoodle, who is the true “cheesemaker.” Taking home the title of “Grand Champion” at the World Dairy Expo a whopping six times, Snickerdoodle boasts a set of supreme udders. OakSpringDairy.com, GrayGhostVineyards.com
4 of 4
Piedmont from Everona Dairy & 2009 Meritage from King Family Vineyards
This pairing is for tasters who just can’t get enough of those Spanish sheep’s milk cheeses—Everona Dairy’s signature aged Piedmont is as good as they get. Fruity, tangy and a bit earthy, this cheese is softer than a typical Manchego and delightful when served with plum, blackberry and ginger conserves.Matching Everona’s Piedmont with King Family’s Meritage, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, was a gutsy one. Would the wine’s rich flavors of anise and black pepper along with its subtle tannins overwhelm this delicate cheese? I get my answer in the first taste: This particular Meritage has a soft, silky texture and cherry fruit that almost flawlessly offsets the gentle grainy texture and natural nuttiness of the cheese.Under the direction of resident winemaker Matthieu Finot, King Family Vineyards has been in operation at its current location in Crozet since 1998 and produces nearly 5,000 cases a year. King Family has earned its share of awards and accolades including the coveted 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup for their 2007 Meritage.Pat Elliott, a former physician and now owner and cheesemaker at Everona Dairy in Rapidan, has earned her own share of awards, including placing tenth in the world at the 2010 World Cheese Championships for her Shenandoah—a tangy Swiss-style cheese. In business for 13 years, Everona produces four tons of cheese per year. EveronaDairy.com, KingFamilyVineyards.com
Photography by Kip Dawkins | Food by J Frank | Styling by Neely Dykshorn and Julie Vanden Bosch
Click on the photos above to see all our pairings.
It’s no surprise that Virginia’s wineries are turning out some pretty amazing juice these days. With 15 wine-producing regions and 275 wineries—and accolades pouring in from around the country, including taking home a whopping 191 medals at the 2016 International Eastern Wine Competition and the 2015 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition—Virginia has clearly established itself as a contender in the wine industry.
Yet, as enjoyable as Virginia wines are all by their lonesome, they get even better when expertly paired with another one of Virginia’s culinary claims-to-fame: our cheese. From chèvres to aged cheddars, and Goudas to tangy blues and creamy mascarpone, Virginia’s dairies are churning out some pretty incredible cheese. And when they come together? Well, let’s just call it a moment of pure bliss for both the oenophile and the turophile.
Here are recipes to accompany all of our pairings:
12 pounds yellow peaches, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
8 ounces cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
8 ounces onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces seedless raisins, chopped
12 ounces light brown sugar
2 ounces preserved ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
15 fluid ounces white vinegar
Mix the peaches, apples, onions, raisins, sugar, ginger, garlic, salt and cayenne in a large pan. Add vinegar, and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook slowly for about 1 1⁄2 hours, stirring regularly. When smooth and thick, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. While still warm, pack into jars. Cover and seal when cool. Will keep for about six months. Makes about three pounds.
Serve with Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy & Rapidan River Semi-Dry Riesling from Prince Michel Winery.
Red Tomato Jam
4 1⁄2 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 1⁄2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or about one inch of broken cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon cloves
Combine all ingredients in a pan and simmer until mixture reaches jam consistency. Pack and seal in jars.
Serve with Farmstead Fresh Chèvre from Caromont Farms & 2009 Vintage Rosé from Barboursville Vineyards.
Plum, Blackberry and Ginger Conserves
2 cups plums, pitted and finely chopped
2 1⁄2 cups blackberries
1 1⁄2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 cup orange blossom honey (or other fruity honey)
1⁄2 cup orange juice
zest of one orange
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a low boil and simmer stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool. Refrigerate. Will keep for several weeks. Makes 3-3 1⁄2 cups.
Serve with Piedmont from Everona Dairy & 2009 Meritage from King Family Vineyards.
1 3⁄4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups chopped walnuts
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1⁄2 cup herbal honey infused with lavender, thyme and rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, diced
Place the flour, walnuts and salt in a food processer. Pulse a few times to blend until walnuts are small. Add butter and pulse again until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add honey, lemon juice and rosemary, and pulse until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic, and form into a log 1 1⁄2 to 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut log into half-inch thick slices. Put slices on cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack.
2 cups pecans
2 cups canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground Aleppo pepper or cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon salt
Boil the nuts in water for 8 minutes. Drain. Heat the oil in a pot or heavy-bottomed saucepan to 350 degrees. Mix spices, and coat pecans well while still damp. Shake off extra spice, and fry 5-6 minutes or until golden in color. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with spice mix again. Cool and store in a closed container.
Serve with raw Sharp White Cheddar from Oak Spring Dairy & 2009 Chardonnay from Gray Ghost Vineyards.