June 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

June 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

When vacationing at the ocean, kids (and some adults) like to fill a bottle with sand or seawater to take home. It’s a memento of that far away land they traveled to. Wine enthusiasts do something similar- we ship home bottles of wine to remember their travels and experience a place when we can’t physically be there. As a continuation of last month’s theme (Off the beaten path in Italy), we celebrate small wineries from some mountainous, out of the way areas of California.

Ventana Winery
One of the great things about owning a wine shop is that we don’t need to travel to wine country- wine country comes to us! This month, we taste the wines of Randy Pura, proprietor of Ventana Winery, who we met last month as he passed through our region.

Ventana Rubystone Red Blend 2013
40%Syrah, 60% Grenache Noir

Ventana was the first to plant Syrah in Monterey County,11 years before any others. There are remarkable similarities between Monterey, and the Southern Rhône Valley. This Rhone Style blend of Syrah and Grenache Noir displays the best characteristics of each varietal, creating a wine that combines fruit and structure in nice balance.   This estate-grown fruit is characterized by blackberry, boysenberry, and black pepper.  We detect red licorice and blueberry as well.  It’s also a great wine to pair with dark chocolate!

Cheese Pairing: Landaff Creamery’s “Landaff”
Made from their own high quality raw cow’s milk, Landaff Cheese is a mild, semi-firm cheese with a delicious combination of flavors, tangy with a clean finish. The open and buttery texture comes with a natural, cave-aged rind. It melts beautifully for cooking, and makes a wonderful addition to any cheese plate.  The natural cave-aged rind is safe to eat. Welsh in origin, this farmstead cheese was particularly popular with Welsh miners who would take it into the coal mines for their lunch. The cheese rind made it easy to eat when they were unable to wash their hands, and the salt and nutrient content replenished their body’s energy levels for the rest of the day. In addition they believed that the cheese was able to absorb the toxins their bodies were exposed to within the mine.

Steele Lake County Cabernet Franc 2012 (2 red wine club)
Lake County is one of four counties in the North Coast region, along with Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino.  It is by far the most rural and least populated and developed of these four counties, with around 25 wineries and 8,000 acres of wine grapes. Compare this with 45,000 acres in Napa, 60,000 in Sonoma and 16,700 in Mendocino.

During Prohibition, wineries further south in California survived by making communion wine or selling their grapes as produce. However, due to it’s mountainous terrain Lake County suffered during this time (railway shipping wasn’t established in the area), only beginning to recover from its setback in the late 1960’s.

This Cabernet Franc comes from gravel beds of Steele’s Stymie Bench Vineyard. The vines grow well at this higher elevation and show a great balance of flavors and structure.  It’s aged about 14 months in a combination of American and French oak barrels.  This oaking regimen shows itself nicely in the wine’s smooth vanilla tones.  Upon tasting, there’s lots of dark fruit (a bit more than many Cab Francs), medium tannins and a long, lingering finish.

Cheese Pairing: Marin French Cheese’s Traditional Brie, California
This is a traditional brie, made by the Marin French Cheese company from Petaluma, California.  It is classically delicate and creamy. Made with authentic cultures and aged slowly, the familiar Brie flavor develops with its profile redolent of sweet milk and mushrooms. As a general rule of thumb, red wine and soft cheese isn’t always a safe pairing, but in this case it is a pairing that really shines. The wine amplifies the butteriness of the cheese, and the cheese softens the wine’s fruit and accentuates the vanilla finish.

Ventana Chardonnay 2013 (red/white club, white/white club)
We know many folks think they don’t like Chardonnay, but hey- this is wine club: you’re here to try new things! After years of overly oaky Chardonnay, winemakers are taking a much more balanced approach- and this wine is all about balance. It is light, yet fresh and focused, displaying tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango. Gala apple, pear and spicy floral tones are all present, garnished with light toasty oak notes and hints of vanilla and honey. Also in the spirit of balanced wine, this one is aged in 1/2 French Oak/Neutral Oak, and 1/2 in stainless steel. The result is a bit of butterscotch and toasty creaminess, but unlike some Chardonnay it’s kept in check by blending the oaked portion with the unoaked. This Chardonnay contains all estate-grown fruit.

The Arroyo Seco AVA (American Viticultural Area) is world-renowned for being one of the best Chardonnay & Pinot Noir growing climates, benefiting from the long cool growing season and mid-afternoon winds. Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer also excel here.

Cheese Pairing: Marin French Cheese’s Traditional Brie, California
This is a traditional brie, made by the Marin French Cheese company from Petaluma, California.  It is classically delicate and creamy. Made with authentic cultures and aged slowly, the familiar Brie flavor develops with its profile redolent of sweet milk and mushrooms. This is most certainly a “like with like” pairing strategy- It has a buttery, rich texture and golden color…almost sounds like we’re talking about Chardonnay!

Ventana Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (white/white club)
As much as we love Sauvignon Blanc, we have to admit that often times they start to blurs together in our memories.  While tasting this wine with Randy Pura, Ventana’s owner, one of our comments seemed to especially please him: Although this wine isn’t unusual, it has something new to add to the spectrum of the varietal.  There’s some pepper and citrus along with some musk- all well-balanced. It’s a full-bodied, nicely textured wine, that’s distinctive yet stylistically correct for the varietal.  Think of it like one of your favorite bands- you might listen to dozens of others that you like within the same genre, then one day you hear a new group and there’s just a little something that set them apart.

Cheese Pairing: Morbier Morbier is the leftovers of one renowned food turned into its own work of art.  In the Jura region of France, farmers would take the curds leftover from making gruyere to make their own cheese- Morbier.  The thin line running down the center of the cheese is flavorless vegetable ash, traditionally used to protect a half-full cheese mold overnight until it could be filled with the next morning’s milk.   During aging, the rind is washed with a saline solution to preserve it and give it more aroma and flavor.  It’s creamy yet elastic, salty yet fruity. When paired with the Ventana Sauvignon Blanc, the clean citrus of the wine cuts the creamy yet funky layers of the cheese- but the pepper and musk provide a bridge between the two.

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