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Pairing Series #3 – A Perfect Match

March 24, 2011

I have been somewhat remiss in putting up some of the pairings that I have put together over the past couple of months. Not to say that I haven’t come across pairings that have worked, but nothing has impressed me to the point where I feel compelled to write about it…till now.

Echo Mountain Blue from Rogue River Creamery is one of my all-time favorite blue cheeses.  Specializing in blue cheese, they consistently produce unique and high-quality cheese such as their internationally acclaimed Rogue River Blue.  Even though Echo Mountain has been around since 2003, I didn’t have a chance to taste it until I started working at Lucy’s Whey.  This cheese is unique in that it is a blend of unpasteurized cow’s milk and goat’s milk, and then aged for up to a year.  That’s a long time to age a blue…  Most are ready after about 6 to 8 months, but the additional time and patience spent here is well worth the wait.

The creamy texture is absolutely fantastic.  The slightly golden paste is well marbled with even blue veining throughout.   Every piece melts away on your tongue, and explodes with the flavor of fresh butter, crème fraiche, and a hint of black pepper and smoke. The mixture of the sweet cow’s milk and tangy goat’s milk are perfectly balanced, giving a remarkable complexity.  Fantastic…  So what would stand up to this?

I like something assertive with a touch of sweetness when I pair something with a strong blue cheese.  The salty and acidic bite from the veining, coupled with the layered sweetness underneath from the paste, requires something that stands on its own without overpowering.

Blue cheese is pretty much the only style where I don’t automatically turn to beer (Although you can’t really go wrong with a good stout or barleywine).  This needed something that is complex in its own right.  Taking a look at our available options, I saw one final bottle of wine from the Finger Lakes that Chris and I have been saving for a special occasion.

The Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard produces some of the very best Riesling not only in New York State, but across the country.  Their wines have received well-deserved recognition from the New York Times, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, etc…  On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes, we visited the winery and had a chance to sample through  their library of wines and experience what makes them so special.

The 2007 Late Harvest Riesling is one of the best wines I have ever had.   It is difficult for me to describe “mouthfeel” when describing wine, but the texture of this is silky smooth.  The honeyed sweetness with just a hint of citrus and pear gives a vibrant acidity that dances across the tongue. Remarkable. We left with a couple of bottles of this just waiting for the right opportunity to open.  Now was the time.

The balance between the cheese and wine is perfect.  The sweetness and acidity of the Riesling brings out the sweetness from the cheese with the tangy and metallic notes from the goat’s milk hanging out in the background.  This represents everything you want in a pairing – one component elevating the other.  Just fantastic.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 5:22 pm

    Aaron – Perfect opportunity for me to ask and re-ask the question I know I’ve brought up with you before: For a guy slowly wading into the Blue waters, how does this one rank in terms of intensity? What kind of progression do you suggest for people like me?

    Awesome review – inspiring!

    • March 24, 2011 5:36 pm

      Thanks Evan. I would say that this is a second tier blue for someone who is still exploring the category so to speak. If you had this with some apples and grapes (or a late harvest Riesling…), I think the acidity would cut through some of the bite, and you would be fine. On its own, it might be a bit much. I would say that 1st tier would be Maytag, a fudgy Stilton, or maybe even Point Reyes. 2nd tier would be something like this Echo Mountain or some of the other fruity blues from Rogue River. I would consider the 3rd tier to be blue cheeses like Roquefort or Cabrales.
      Next time you are thinking of getting a blue, let me know!

  2. March 24, 2011 5:36 pm

    Aaron! I happen to have both some Rogue River Blue AND a Late Harvest Riesling from Wiemer (pick it up on our last trip too) in the house… NOW! How often does that happen in life? We’ll try your pairing this weekend. Will report back.

    Wonderful article and inspired pairing.

  3. March 25, 2011 12:06 pm

    Just wanted to say I love your blog and reading all about your investment in learning more about cheese and sharing it with your readers. =D

    • March 25, 2011 12:10 pm

      Thanks! I really appreciate it! Having a great time, especially with so much to learn.

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