I had the good fortune to attend the first Artisanal Cheese and Wine Pairing adventure at Briar Rose Winery several weeks ago. I have eaten my share of good cheeses and drank my share of good wines but never enjoyed such a thoughtful and professional coupling until now.
Two essential components were required to manifest this experience. First, the wines were handcrafted, old-world style award winners from winemaker Les Linkogle’s estate grown and library collection. Second, the cheeses were personally selected and presented by “The Cheese Impresario,” Barrie Lynn – a nationally known cheese & beverage pairing expert.
About 30 guests were warmly greeted by winery owner Dorian Linkogle, who exuded a special enthusiasm that heightened excitement for the imminent pairings. We were ushered onto a patio where tables were already set with a menu, wine glasses & individual platters of cheeses, bread, and some condiments.
Dorian introduced us to Barrie Lynn and the adventure began. She had been given all four wines in advance to match the characteristics of each with just the right cheese. In a good pairing there is balance. You should not taste the wine more than the cheese nor the cheese more than the wine. Just as in medicine, the first objective is “to do no harm” to the taste of the wine.
Barrie Lynn has a light-hearted approach, encouraging dialogue, and hands-on experimentation to understand what works. Her passion for cheese comes across loud and clear. First she taught us how to taste using her own process – “the cheese highway.” Begin by picking up the cheese and smelling it. Take a bite of cheese and let it roll on your tongue making a cheese highway. Take a sip of wine and the pairing melds together in the back of your mouth. Ahhh.
Here is what we tasted:
1. Woolrich Dairy Triple Crème Brie (Canada) paired with Briar Rose 2009 Estate Viognier
The wine: Color-light straw; Bouquet – bright floral and exotic fruit; Taste – refreshing with a hint of sweetness. The cheese: made with fresh goat’s milk with a rich buttery texture and savory flavor.
2. Sartori Reserve Raspberry BellaVitano (Wisconsin) paired with Briar Rose 2005 Cabernet Franc – Library Collection
The wine: Color – deep rich ruby; Bouquet – blackberries, raspberries and dried aromatic herbs; Taste – rich, fruity layers of complexity. The cheese: a unique Parmesan flavor and creamy cheddar texture. Soaked in Raspberry Tart Ale to bring out the fruity notes of the cheese.
3. Rumiano Cheese Dry Jack (California) paired with Briar Rose 2004 Petit Verdot – Library Collection
The wine: Color – dense, almost black; Bouquet – spicy aromas of blackberry with a hint of truffle and white pepper; Taste – blackberries, clove and plum with soft, round tannins for a long finish. The Cheese: award winning Jack, hand-rubbed with pepper and cocoa. Recommended to drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
4. Hook’s 10-Year Cheddar (Wisconsin) paired with Briar Rose 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
The Wine: Color – deep ruby; Bouquet – berries, black cherry, plum; Taste – ripe fruit, sweet toasty vanilla and cocoa, long slightly peppery finish. The Cheese: super aged with a deep, rich and sharp cheddar taste with tiny sparks of flavor crystals and a long elegant finish.
My Conclusion: The Cheese Highway is an extremely fun trip. I am ready to ride again and again. Thank you Briar Rose and The Cheese Impresario for being fabulous tour guides.