Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lodi Wine Takes To Twitter, Brings Cheese

The wine community in Lodi, California really has a handle on how to get the word out about their grapes and wines. The series of virtual tasting events - based on Twitter, with a separate live video feed - are always well attended and and overflowing with great information about the region and its winegrowers.

It’s no surprise that the Lodites - Loditians? - have quickly mastered a social media art form that is rather new to them. They have had the farming thing figured out for generations. When they decided to start making their own wines instead of trucking the fruit of their labor down the road to be made by others, they hit the learning curve on the high side.

The periodic virtual get-togethers are a great way to showcase their wines and display publicly all the nice things that tasters have to say about them.  The most recent event featured four wines, two white and two red. The twist this time was a cheese pairing component, with select cheeses matched up with the wines. Here are the participating wineries and cheeses:

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards 2014 Picpoul Blanc ($24.00) 
paired with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, Arcata, CA

Oak Farm Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.00) 
paired with Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog® Grande, Arcata, CA

St. Amant Winery 2013 Barbera ($18.00) 
paired with Fiscalini Farms San Joaquin Gold, Modesto, CA

Michael David Winery 2012 Tannat ($35.00) 
paired with Central Coast Creamery Seascape Paso Robles, CA

The tasting session was hosted by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant Winery and Program Manager at Lodi Winegrape Commission, who was joined by Cindy Della Monica, owner & cheesemonger at Cheese Central.

The wines on the list are are sustainably grown in adherence to the Lodi Rules™ for Sustainable Winegrowing - California’s first third party certified sustainable winegrowing program, which was launched in 2005. The cheeses are eco-friendly, too.

As described online, “Lodi Rules™ takes a comprehensive approach to farming that goes beyond just pest management to promote practices that enhance biodiversity, water and air quality, soil health, and employee and community well-being.” The program includes more than 85 farming operations, and 20,000 acres of Lodi vineyards have been certified.

“For a wine to bear the Lodi Rules™ seal of approval, its composition must be made up of at least 85% of fruit which has been sourced from a vineyard certified under the Lodi Rules™ program, meaning that the vineyard has passed an independent, peer reviewed audit of 101 farming practice standards which have been accredited by Protected Harvest, a non-profit organization of scientists, academics and environmentalists. Over twenty wineries now produce wines that bear the Lodi Rules™ seal on the label.”

Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Lodi is about 100 miles east of San Francisco and 35 miles south of Sacramento. It has been a major winegrowing region since the 1850’s, and now home to over 100,000 acres of premium vineyards farmed by more than 750 growers.  

Watch this space for details on some of the individual wines included in this virtual tasting.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Jacquart Champagne

As October turned toward trick-or-treat, I was treated to a small tasting of Champagnes from Jacquart of Riems, France.  The tasting took place at one of my favorite Los Angeles cheese shops, Artisan Cheese Gallery on Ventura Boulevard, so the treats were plenty.  Mrs. Now And Zin sent me there with instructions to enjoy the tasting and don’t come home empty-handed.

Jacquart’s head winemaker, Floriane Eznack, was quoted in The Drinks Business when she joined the house in 2011, “My role is not to make a big change but to define the style and stick to it.”   The style, as she defines it, is smooth and textured, with a focus on bright acidity.

The Mosaic Collection was introduced to mark Jacquart’s 50th anniversary.  It’s a fine tribute to the house, if the three wines I tasted are an indication.  Any - or all - will be welcome at holiday festivities of any sort.

Floriane Eznack, photo courtesy
The Brut Mosaique sports some flinty toast aromas along with apples and pears. Three grapes are used, Chardonnay (35-40%), Pinot Noir (35-40%) and Pinot Meunier (25-35%). There is a minimum of 20% reserve wine in the mix, which receives a light dosage and more than three years of aging.  Flavors are toasty, with apples and lime zest leading to a rich, long finish.  It’s the flagship Jacquart cuvée.

For the Jacquart Rosé Mosaique, Pinot Noir - vinified as a red wine - brings the color and structure, while Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier play their roles, too.  This pretty wine brings a funky, toasty quality on the nose, with red fruit smelling very nice.  Great acidity makes the sip quite refreshing, while flavors of toasty cherries and strawberries are a delight.

The Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2006 vintage shows apple and citrus on the nose, with a lovely palate of lemon peel and a slight hint of toast.  All Chardonnay, the wine leaves me wanting more, with a beautiful expression of creme brûlée on the finish.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Italian Wine: Walch Pinot Bianco

Denise and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary the way like to celebrate - a nice meal in a nice place featuring the things we like best.  It doesn’t always mean expensive, and it hardly ever means fancy - we like our dining and our food to be simple and delicious.

We get a craving for cheese every now and then, and one of our favorite places for a fantastic cheese plate is Cube.  Cheese and more are on the menu - they are feeding the current frenzy for fried chicken in L.A. - and they have a wine selection that has never failed to exceed expectations without putting undue stress on the bank account.  They specialize in Italian wines, as suggested by the “What’s up D.O.C.?” sign above their La Brea Avenue location.  We love supporting Cube and we would be terribly disappointed if it suddenly were not there.

A mess of cheese and meats from all over the world were ordered to be brought on the slate platter, and an extremely nice Pinot Bianco from Italy’s Alto Adige region got my attention.  Wines from this part of northern Italy always get my attention.

Elena Walch took over the wine estates of the family into which she married - kind of makes it sound like a coup, doesn’t it?  Well, if the family isn’t happy with the job she has done, I don’t know what’s wrong with them.  She has instituted sustainability measures at her vineyards which encompass biology, society and economics - which she calls the “triangle of sustainability.”

The Elena Walch Kastelaz Pinot Bianco is a single vineyard wine - the Kastelaz vineyard - that sells for around $20 online, making the $10 by-the-glass price seems downright courteous.Two-thirds of the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, while a third is treated to new French oak, and aged there for five months after fermentation.

The color of this wine is simply stunning - a beautiful, golden tint with copper and green highlights throughout.  A wonderfully savory aspect is apparent on both the nose and palate.  Aromas of smoke and minerals join the smell of apples while the flavors of savory nuts and wet rocks are lifted by a fantastic acidity.  It worked with all the cheeses on the platter, but it took on a transcendent quality with the Swiss cheese from Hoch-Ybrig.

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Monday, December 19, 2011


French wines at Monsieur Marcel

The famous Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles only has a few places to sit and have a drink, and they are mostly good for beer.  Monsieur Marcel is an open-air market/restaurant at the southeast corner of the venerable collection of shops and stands which speacializes in wine.

The outdoor seating is warmed on cool nights by plenty of overhead heaters, and diners get a constant stream of shoppers coming and going for their people-watching pleasure.

We happily accepted the customary basket of bread and plate of mixed olives, then ordered some cheese and wine.  The wines at Monsieur Marcel are unfortunately served in tiny little glasses, making it hard to get the aromas.  On the plus side, they serve their red wines at cellar temperature.

The Pierre Laplace Madiran Tannat 2007 is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Madiran is in the Southwest France wine region, in Gascony.  The tannic Tannat is the main grape of the region and is often blended to soften the tannic attack.  This wine sells for $9 by the glass in the restaurant.

The nose was hard for me to discern, but the flavors of blackberry and blueberry jump out immediately.  An herbal, tarry note flies under the radar and the wine is not as tannic as I had expected.  The Cabs do a good job of taming the Tannat.

Our other wine also hails from the southwest part of France - Carcassonne, to be exact - in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  Carcassonne is inland from the Mediterranean, west of Narbonne.  It was near Carcassonne that sparkling wine was invented, in the 16th century, when the Champagne region was only producing still wine.

The Chateau de Bonal Vin de Carcassonne 2007 is a still red wine selling for $9 by the glass.  Five grapes make up the wine - Grenache Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Alicante.  It has a fruity, almost grapey, flavor that smacks of blackberries.  It's nice and dry, with a good tanninc structure.

As for pairing with the cheeses, we liked both wines best with the firm Etude, closely followed by the hard Manchego.  The Brie de Meaux was our least favorite pairing, although it wasn't unpleasant at all.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Salisbury Pinot Naturale

Artisan Cheese Gallery is a great little place for some fantastic cheese, but they have a great selection of wines, too.  The restaurant/cheese shop/wine store is in Studio City in Southern California's San Fernando Valley.  At lunch there, I had the opportunity to sample an unusual wine, at least for me.

The Salisbury Vineyards Pinot Naturale is a San Luis Obispo Pinot Noir from the ocean influenced Avila Valley, but it's made with minimal skin contact, so the wine is actually white with a very pale pink hue.  The nose is almost as unusual as its appearance, but a lovely strawberry aroma dominates.

There is a very nice acidity and a strong blast of minerality on the palate.  The minerals may have been the element on the nose which I found unusual, but in a good way.  Strawberry flavors put a sweet edge on the dry wine, and the minerality puts me in mind of wet rocks.  If blindfolded, I may well have guessed this was made from white wine grapes.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Federalist Visionary Zinfandel

Alexander Hamilton's face on a ten-dollar bill is something we are accustomed to seeing, but on a wine label, not so much.  The Federalist Visionary Zinfandel features the founding father's face on the label, presumably as a tip of the three-cornered hat to the guys who helped shape the Constitution of this place we call America.

You'll need two of Hamilton's likenesses on paper money to buy one on the label of this wine, and I had it for $15 by the glass at the always amazing Napa Rose in Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel.

This Zinfandel is produced from grapes grown on a vineyard in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.  The vineyard is owned by the Terlato Family and the vines are new.


The Federalist Visionary Zin came as a great capper to a day at Disneyland.  As usual, we hit Napa Rose a couple of minutes before the 5:00 p.m. opening and took a seat in the lounge.

This single-vineyard Zinfandel shows a big, fruity nose and a bit of alcohol, which blows off in about 15 minutes.  The mouthfeel is a little thin for my taste, but the brambly, spicy blackberry flavor carries on for quite a lengthy finish.  The effect of the oak is apparent, but not overdone.

Beaulieu Vineyards Chardonnay CarnerosMy wife was in the mood to linger for a while, so we ordered a cheese platter and I enjoyed an '08 Beaulieu Vineyards Chardonnay from the Carneros region.  A bit of oak appears in this one, but it's nice and balanced in the old California Chardonnay style.


That BV Chardonnay paired best with a buttery triple-crème cow's milk cheese from Normandy, Brillat-Savarin.  Add a touch of sweetness - the walnut-cranberry bread was fine - and it's quite a mouthful.

Going the other way, the Tête de Moine from the Jara region in Switzerland was my next favorite pairing with the Chardonnay.  This "stinky cheese" is also made from cow's milk, and its sharp, nutty flavor played a counterpoint to the creaminess of the wine.  It would really "wow" with a late-harvest Viognier, perhaps.

Honorable mention goes to the Garrotxa, a goat's milk cheese from Catalonia, Spain and the Roaring Forties Blue from Australia's King Island Dairy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Luzzano Malvasia Seta

Los Angeles fans of Italian wines have a great place to find the fruit of their passion and some pretty tasty eats, too.  Cube on La Brea Avenue is a cafe, a wine bar specializing in Italian vino, a cheese bar and a market all rolled into one location.

We stopped in there for lunch during a break in a hectic shopping day.  The place with the "What's Up D.O.C." sign above it was once again the right choice.

We opened with a couple of cheeses - Holzhofer (a strong cow's milk Swiss) and Smokey Blue (a delightfully pungent cow's milk blue cheese from Oregon.)  I followed with the braised bacon on polenta.  The "bacon" was more like slow-cooked pulled pork, only a hundred times more flavorful.

The wine - Luzzano's "Seta" Malvasia - is made from 100% Malvasia di Candia grapes grown in the Colli Piacentini D.O.C. of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region.  It is aged six months in stainless steel.  The price is an affordable $9 per glass and the bottle price (to take home) is $16.

The Seta's nose is quite green.  Mostly floral aromas with an herbal twist are laced with a bready, yeasty edge that's amazing and intriguing.  Minerals and zesty lemon lime abound on the palate.  There's definitely a steeliness there, but it flies in the face of the full, round mouthfeel.

It paired with both cheeses well - better with the Holzhofer - and was a near-perfect mate for the savory bacon dish.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tasting Notes: Artisan Cheese Gallery

We were out for a Sunday morning adventure. Well, actually it was a trip to the Studio City Farmers' Market. We don't like difficult adventures.

The trip did turn out to be more than we bargained for, though. We strolled through the fruit stands - unfortunately, most of the fruit wasn't quite sweet and delicious just yet - and saw the various bead salespeople, the countless baby strollers and the gourmet corn tamale stand I can smell and identify without looking. There were a couple of guys singing folk music and another guy playing a steel drum, probably the happiest sounding instrument in all the musical world. Nobody's playing the blues on a steel drum.

Just about to call it a morning, we remembered the Artisan Cheese Gallery, just steps away from the Farmers' Market. It was an adventure after all. We went for the cheese and stayed for the flight of wines.

The aroma of their cheeses is magnificent. It's not overpowering, because all their cheese is put away and refrigerated overnight. It is a very pleasant aroma for a cheese lover to encounter.

Here's a rule of thumb: if there's cheese, there's wine. Artisan Cheese Gallery is no exception. Two walls are covered with racks of wine for sale and there are several displays in the floor space. A chalkboard on the counter shows which three wines are on the $8 flight. The flight is served in 3 stemless glasses on a wooden tray. The glasses have a dark spot on them in which the names of the wines are written, but it's no substitute for getting up and examining the labels yourself. A printed sheet containing information on the wine should be provided with your flight. I hope they'll do that in the future.

The worldly flight took me to Lodi, Sicily and the Medoc region of France. Here are the wines:

Peirano Estate Vineyard "The Other" 2007 - This blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Syrah has plenty of the earthy characteristics Lodi wine usually brings. This is the most distictive nose of the three, and it has a currant and plum flavor profile. Very nice indeed.

Chateau Poitevin 2005 - Described by a staff member as a Bordeaux blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, this Medoc offering was quite dark in the nose and on the palate. The complexity was not surprising. I am always struck by the complex subtlety in wines from Bordeaux and the surrounding areas.

Planeta La Segreta 2007 - This is an interesting blend of the wonderful Italian varietal Nero d'Avola with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The nose was rather difficult for me to ferret out, but plums, raspberries and chocolate were detected by my wife. There may be a bit of coffee in there, too. It tasted like a Sicilian version of Pinot Noir, with plenty of spicy, dark notes.

Artisan Cheese Gallery
12023 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604