Cheese Please – “Spain” – January 30th 2015

Our evening got off to a celebratory start with a glass of the Canals Nadal Cava Brut. Cava is Spain’s answer to Champagne, and they’ve made a sparkling international success out of it! In Penedes, the wine region near Barcelona, Cava is made the same way as the French bubbly but with different grapes including Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. In this case three’s company and delicious. Floral and fruity on the nose, the flavors emphasize apple, pear and peach. Soft, elegant and worth it. $25.99

Our Cava was paired by Garrotxa a Spainish pasteurized goat’s milk, supple aged. This little gem of a cheese out of Catalonia, Garrotxa had almost disappeared.  Luckily young artisan cheesemakers revived it in 1981.    Now this delicate, herbal flavoured cheese with a dusty rind is a sweetheart with a new generation of cheesemakers.

What’s prettier than a glass of bubbles? How about a glass of Coca i Fito Rosa.  Montsant, where Coca i Fito is grown, is a remarkably beautiful region with steep mountains rising to more than 3,300 feet. Coca i Fito Rosa is made from 100% Syrah grapes. Matured in cherry wood and French oak barrels, it shows a vibrant cherry color leading into a lovely fruitiness as well as spice and balsamic notes. Lovely any time of the year. $24.99

Crystal, the owner of Peasant Cheese, paired this beautifully with Murcia al Vino, another Spain beauty made from raw goat’s milk and supple aged. This little drunken goat is washed in the red wine from the Murcia region.  The supple paste is floral and fruity.

AN Negra An/2, the star of the evening, made by  Anima Negra, a winery in Mallorca, Spain, is  ”a blend of the most important varieties of the island of Mallorca: Callet, Mantonegre and Fogoneu,” according to the winery website. The wine is then aged in both French and America oak barrels. The result? A beautifully balanced, elegant wine with a unique and very enjoyable personality. This one hasn’t yet been reviewed, but Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate scored the previous vintage a fine 92 points! $37.99

Crystal chose Le Secret de Compostelle, a Basque raw sheep’s milk, firm aged. The Basque region is a magical place that produces heavenly cheeses. Le Secret de Compostelle is no exception.  Made in France with milk from Spain, it is the perfect example of what it means to be Basque.

From the islands we moved on to Manchuela, the heart of Spain and Altolandon L’ame Organic Malbec. Made by Winemaker Rosalia Molina, who also designs the labels, Rosalia started making wine for herself and her friends after a visit to France. “Then came the day when we moved the furniture out of our family home and replaced them with wine tanks,” she says on her website. “I realized then that we had become quite serious about being wine producers.” Organically produced, this 100% Malbec is a beauty, with aromas of cherry, spice and mint. Lovely vanilla flavors intermingle with new oak and licorice. Medium to full-bodied, it will go with grilled meats or mahon, one of Spain’s famous cheeses. $31.99

We enjoyed two de-vine cheese pairings: Mahon, a raw cow’s milk, hard aged. Hailing from Menorca, this rustic, olive oil rubbed cheese is a shop favourite.  A little acidic, nutty and complex means one bite is never enough. As well,  Sao Jorge, from Portugal, a raw cow’s milk, hard aged. Again an island cheese, the Azores, Sao Jorge is tangy and peppery and incredibly versatile. Try it in sauces, shave some on to salad or just grab another bottle of wine and settle in.

Mas Blanch I Jove Sao Expressiu has become a KWM favorite! Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has given this review: “The 2008 Sao Expressiu is a blend of 55% Garnacha, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Ull de Llebre aged mainly in new French oak for 14 months. It has a ripe, toasty bouquet of dark cherries, Hoi Sin and dried herbs, although the oak is rather obtrusive. The palate is medium-bodied with a sweet entry and sappy tannins. Notes of cranberry, raspberry and soy combine towards the finish, which lacks a little finesse but has a nice tinge of tobacco on the aftertaste.” From the mountain country north of Priorat. Drink now through 2017. $37.99

Idiazabal, a raw sheep’s milk, hard aged was Crystals choice. Yummy indeed!Slightly smoked, this cheese has all the qualities one looks for in a Spanish sheep milk cheese, right amount of salt, a little spicy and olive oil overtones.

To end the evening Don Conrad, who led our group, selected an amazing Rioja from a rising star of a producer. Bodegas BaiGorr Baigorri Reserva. BaiGorr is an innovative project of Baigorri Jesus and his young team of winemakers and viticulturists. At Bodegas Baigorri, gravity drives the wine process. Built 105 feet underground, the winery uses the most rigorous methods selecting grapes by hand and harnessing gravity to avoid the use of pumps or mechanical methods of any kind that might damage the grapes or the wine. The winery is as much a work of art as the wines it produces and is one of the landmark buildings in Rioja Alavesa. Look for herbal, minty nose which derives from the very character of Tempranillo, as well as from the American oak barrels used for the wine’s aging. The wine’s nose is rich in ripe fruit overripe aromas. In the mouth, it’s a very different animal: toast, red cherry, red currants, and spices. Drink over the next couple of years. $41.99

Monte Enebro, a  pasteurized goat’s milk, ash ripened was an amazing partner. The new kid on the block (like BaiGorr) in the Spanish cheese world, Monte Enebro is citric and smooth.  The slight blueing on the rind gives it a perfect jolt of flavour on the finish.

All cheese is deliciously available from Peasant Cheese, right next door to the Wine Market.

See you at the next Cheese Please Fri Mar 27

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