I know wine and cheese go together, and I’ve never had a problem consuming either (together or separately) but I’ve never been a foodie or altogether too ‘fancy,’ so sometimes the ‘fancier’ cheeses offer a bit of intimidation for me.
I was in Nashville earlier this year, staying at the Gaylord Opryland for a blogging conference, when I had my first big education on wine and cheese… and it was quite tasty and decadent!
I was interviewing Richard Peterson, the sommelier of the hotel’s Old Hickory Steakhouse, about his wine experiences, when I learned about his incredible cheese experiences, and role as Maitre Fromager, too. (He trained in New York at a place where the they treat the cheeses like spa guests with salt water baths and the like.)
At the conclusion of the interview, he suggested I come back to try a wine and cheese tasting. Of course I jumped at the chance! There was no way I was going to let that opportunity pass!
When I arrived, Richard introduced me to the wines he had selected to pair with the cheeses:
- Urban Riesling
- Blue-Eyed Boy Shiraz
- Veuve Clicquot Champagne
- Royal Tokaji
And the Cheese:
Next Richard introduced me to Jess, his protege, who would be taking care of me in the cheese realm.
She walked me through the cheese cart (and what a cart it was!!)
She explained the cheeses Richard had set up for me and answered my questions about a few others that looked interesting.
The cheeses she and Richard selected for me were:
- La Tur
- Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
- Green Hill
Jess explained that learning about the cheeses has its challenges, but the most unexpected learning curve of the job was learning how to use utensils as her fingers in handling the cheeses to serve them to guests. I hadn’t really thought about that one, but I could see how it would be tough, although she was quite deft at carving, slicing, serving and replacing the wheels of cheese on the cart.
Here she is in action:
Once she was finished serving the cheese, she offered a bit of advice.
“They are going to bring you a basket of breads, but I would just eat the cheese as it is,” she said.
“You mean with just a knife and fork?” I asked.
“Yes!” she responded enthusiastically.
I felt quite hedonistic at that point.
Just cheese and wine? No bread or crackers? No you’re talking!
Here’s how it went:
Urban Riesling and La Tur
I took my first bite of the La Tur cheese and was completely taken in by its creamy, buttery flavor. My notes read: “I feel like I am eating butter and it’s okay!”
I felt like I was eating ice cream (or butter), except it wasn’t cold… it was just all that creamy decadence.
The sweetness and hint of tangy apple in the riesling together with the salt in the cheese combined to make a smooth, delicious creamy flavor in my mouth. I savored every single bite and sip of the two together. I would definitely like to enjoy this pairing again!
Next up was the Australian Shiraz and the Cabot Cloth-bound cheddar.
I fell in love with the cloth-bound cheddar at first bite… so much so that I had to stop and tweet @Cabot to let them know!
The tangy flavor of the cheddar together with the Blue-Eyed Boy Shiraz put me in heaven. This combination was definitely bolder than the first and I loved it. My husband would definitely dig this one, too. (He’s not one who is much for soft cheeses, so this would be right up his alley.)
I was also served some chocolate dusted almonds and, wow, what a combination the three made!! Together they made my mouth tingle!
Then it was time for bubbles: Veuve Cliquot with Green Hill
I always love bubbles, and Veuve Clicquot never disappoints, but adding the Camembert-style buttery deliciousness of Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill really made the taste sensational!
Jess suggested I skip the rind and I took her advice. As I got closer to it, the flavor became stronger… and then a bit too strong for my taste. I liked the luscious creaminess of the center, though!
You may notice that my bubbles were served in a white wine glass rather than a flute. Give that a try sometime at home and let me know what you think. The wine isn’t as effervescent, but the flavor presents itself in a fuller way.
And on to Royal Tokaji with Shropshire
This was the pairing I would have been least likely to match on my own, so I was thankful to be in the hands of experts.
The Shropshire cheese is a bold, stinky cheese and the Royal Tokaji is sweet and almost syrupy. The Tojaji reminded me of the Anthony Road Rielsing Trockenbeeren, but not as thick and sultry.
Together, the bold cheese and the sweet wine balanced each other beautifully, each enhancing the other. Again, it was the tang and the sweet that came together to make Ratatouille-like fireworks in my mouth.
So what did I think of the wine and cheese pairing at Old Hickory?
I was quite thankful of Richard and Jess and their expertise in putting these flavors together for me. It was a stellar experience in extravagant tasting… and one I could not have come up with on my own.
Their training was definitely put to my benefit and opened my eyes to a whole new experience. They took away any snob-factor and just shared their true interest and enthusiasm for wine, cheese and putting the to together in an outstanding way.
If you are in Nashville, I cannot recommend enough that you pay the Old Hickory Steakhouse a visit and ask the two to pair some wines and cheeses for you.
If you are not in Nashville, then seek out a wine and cheese shop or restaurant near you and don’t be shy about asking for help… or see if you can pick up these wines and cheeses near you and give them a try!
Empty glasses and an empty plate… a sign of a delicious tasting: