Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – October 12, 2011

Tonight we are tasting two award-winning cheeses, one from Wisconsin and the other from Catalonia in Spain. Neither of these cheeses has been featured at the Le Tastevin according to our cheese history going back to 1990. The Sartori is from The Holiday Market in Royal Oak, and the Garrotxa is from Papa Joe's Market. The baguettes are from Whole Foods.

Sartori Bella Vitano Merlot Reserve - an American parmesan-style cheese made in Wisconsin, but traces its heritage all the way to Asiago, Italy, from where its founder Paul Sartori emigrated. Sartori's cheeses have won over 100 awards, both domestic and foreign, for their uniqueness. Bella Vitano is an aged cheese (1 year) soaked in various liquids (our in Merlot). Wine-soaked cheeses have been popular in Italy (Umbraico) and Spain (Drunken Cow) for many years. Aside from hints of berry and plum, derived from the Merlot, the flavor of Bella Vitano is closest to an aged, permium Parmesan, but more complex. While it has a parmesan flavor with much less salt, it is smooth on the palate with a creaminess and richness like a full-flavored cheddar, and salty-sweet crystals typically found in aged Gouda. "This is a smooth, creamy, rich, nutty salty-sweet caramely good cheese", which should pair well with the fruit in Merlot and Australian Shirax wines. I was personally surprised when I tasted in at Holiday Market since I am normally not a fan of soaked cheeses. But I found this one to be delicious!

Queso de la Garrotxa (gah-rotch ah) - a traditional "rustic" goat's milk cheese indigenous to Catalonia. Garrotxa had nearly died out until the early 1980s, but was revived by a cooperative of goat farmers who moved out of the urban areas and used their scientific training to revive this historic cheese. The result is a semi-aged goat cheese with a sweet nutty flavor and a downy, mold-covered, inedible rind. Inside is a dense, smooth ivory paste that melts on the tongue. It has the sweet cooked milk flavor of Gruyere, but is more buttery, with the aftertaste of hazelnuts. Garrotxa goes well with white burgundies as well as smooth red wines.

For those desiring an alternative cheese, we have a block of Jarlsberg semi-soft part-skim from Norway as our back-up.

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