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Cheese and wine make for a great night

By By Stan Torgeson / wine columnist
Sept. 25, 2002
As predicted, all spaces for tomorrow evening's wine and imported cheese tasting have been taken.
However, we have established a short waiting list. If you would like your name placed on that list, call 482-0930 and if space becomes available we will welcome you. If you have a reservation, but are unable to attend, please call and release your space so some of those on the waiting list can attend.
That being said, we have decided on the wines to pair with the cheeses to be served.
The first cheese will be the famed Explorateur from France, a triple cream that is 75 percent butterfat with a delicate aroma and a salty, mushroomy tang. Beautiful. It will be served with an excellent Napa Valley sparkling wine, the Cordorniu.
Secondly, we will serve the St. Andre, also a triple cream from France. It was one of the most requested cheeses at the March tasting. Enriched with pure sweet cream, it will be paired with the Pine Ridge chenin blanc because this wine has both acidity and melon flavors. Pine Ridge selects its chenin blanc from vineyards that enjoy a cool climate. It is blended with Viognier grapes which add layers of tropical fruit flavors.
Cheese from Spain
Next you will enjoy a cheese from Spain named Drunken Goat. The "drunken" part refers to the process of making the cheese. As the rind develops the entire cheese is soaked in Spanish red wine for 48 to 72 hours.
All Spanish foods involving wine soaks are referred to in their country as "drunken." Its partner will be the Duck Pond merlot from Oregon. This is an intense wine with forward fruit flavors and deep color, the style of wine that Drunken Goat demands to complement its flavor. This is a 1999, produced from vines that were severely pruned in 1998 creating a smaller, more concentrated crop the following year.
Now we will move into other classics, Spanish cheese from the Pyrenees Mountains. First is the Idiazabal, a rare cheese from the Basque region of Spain. Made from sheep's milk, it has a rich, buttery, nutty flavor and has tiny holes throughout.
It is a robust and sharp cheese that one critic described as "The quintessential shepherd's cheese." We have turned to the other side of the world to find its companion, the delightful Hill of Content from Australia. This wine is a blend of grenache and shiraz.
The grenache gives it an intense raspberry flavor which is balanced by spicy plum and pepper notes from the shiraz. A complex wine.
Pyrenees cheese
Another Pyrenees cheese will follow, the Ossau-Iraty. Actually, its full name is Ossau-Irby Brebis Pyrenees but the shortened version is commonly used. Any cheese made in that mountain area from sheep's milk is going to be good. Sheep, cattle and goats there are adorned with tinkling bells.
Each animal's bell produces a unique tone and pitch exclusive to that particular animal, a sort of audible fingerprint. As a result, when strays wander off, keen-eared shepherds can identify not only where the animal is but also which one has strayed, based on the sound of its unique bell.
The Ossau-Irby made from their milk is splendid, fruity, nutty and olivey but, unfortunately, rarely makes it to the United States. We have decided to serve it with a French Rhone wine made by famed winemaker Paul Jaboulet.
Stan's favorites
I must confess the final two cheeses are personal favorites. Cheese No. 6 is Italy's most famous, the Parmigiano, but not just an everyday parmigiano. This is the authentic premium cheese of that country, their very finest, Parmigiano-Reggiano.
It is made from cow's skimmed milk and the resulting cheese is has an agreeably pungent taste, charmingly lively. It is a very hard cheese, cut from wheels that weigh up to 75 pounds and are aged at least two years and sometimes more.
Americans think of it only as a grated cheese used on pasta but I assure you that if that is your opinion, it will change when you taste it on a famed Bremner wafer accompanied with a robust red wine.
Our choice is a wine from Portugal, the Quinta dos Crasto. We served that wine at a tasting several months back, but it seemed to be a perfect match for this cheese and we bought it again. It shows intense varietal fruit aromas with hints of spice, a full rich and vibrant palate with mature berry fruit and subtle oak flavors.
The final cheese is one of the world's greatest, the Carles Roquefort from France.
The Carles is among the world's greatest blue cheese, produced entirely from the milk of ewes, then allowed to ripen in the natural damp caves found under the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon near the Spanish border.
We served it at the March tasting and Roquefort lovers couldn't get enough so we are repeating it now. The veins are blue-green and the cheese itself is soft, creamy and slightly salty. For its partner we have discovered an 8-year-old tawny port from Australia called, so help me, Hardy's Whiskers Blake Tawny Port.
We tasted it Monday and it was delicious, smooth, mellow and made to order as a companion to the Roquefort. An unusual wine that we believe the tasters will love.
So there you have it. Seven outstanding cheeses from France, Spain and Italy with wines from France, California, Oregon, Australia and Portugal. The tasting is at Northwood Country Club and starts at 6:30 p.m. With this lineup, we may be there for some time.