In Montclair, we help our kids celebrate their High School commencement with a an all-night, alcohol and drug free celebration called Project Graduation. What does this have to do with food and wine, you ask.
Well to fund this event many generous families hold fund raising dinners or parties to support Project Graduation. We attended one of these events, a fabulous wine and cheese tasting hosted by Adrianne & Neil Schmidt, Anita & Jack Kassel, and Aggie & Jeff Kushner. The tasting featured wine enthusiast, educator and entertainer Carol Berman, The Traveling Sommelier. And cheese maven, meister and monger Micheal Trullinger.
The evening started with a delightful Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, by Bisol a vineyard in Fol di Valdobbiadene, Treviso, Italy who has been producing wine there since 1542. I really enjoyed this wine, a perfect light summer sipper for parties or picnics.
"The wine’s name, CREDE, refers to clayey terrains with subsoils of marine sandstone situated in the hills where the Prosecco, Verdiso and Pinot Bianco vines do not suffer from drought in critical periods. In this environment the grapes develop a notable wealth of noble acids, aromas and fruitiness." Vineyard
The wine and cheese tasting included the pairing of four Italian wines, two white and two reds, with a selection of four beautiful Italian cheeses. Carol and Michael's presentations were outstanding filled with interesting facts and personal anecdotes about these exceptional luxuries.
Carol's first wine of the tasting was a Pinot Grigio by noted vineyard Cellar St. Michael Eppan in the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Many of Italy's most famous white wines come from this area that owns rich sun and a cool climate that is perfect for making great "Vino Bianco."
Michael chose a vivid Italian cheese also of Alta-Adige called Crucolo for this wine. Crucolo has a pale straw yellow color, and a deep rich butteriness common to a 100% cow's milk cheese but has a bright tangy finish that complimented the wine nicely.
The next wine is a real favorite of mine, Soave by the great Veneto winery Gini. Once Americans only knew Bolla Soave a terrible wine that gave Italian white wines a very bad reputation. Made from the grape Garganega and sometimes with a blend ofTrebbiano this wine has a beautiful golden honey color, and beautiful wild flower aromas. On the tongue it is a pure delight, silky smooth, flavors apple, papaya and passion fruit and some times cedar, carmel, marzipan or lime, honey, almond. It is a multifaceted, playful wine full of subtle surprises.
This wine was served with Taleggio. This a heavenly cheese "semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy. It is characteristically aromatic yet mild in flavor and features tangy, meaty notes with a fruity finish." Artisinal Cheese
The next wine was something I would call a "Super Umbrian." The term "Super Tuscan" became popular when Italian wine makers started blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with their traditional Italian grapes. Such is the case with this powerful wine by Riccardo Cotarella, "The Wine Wizard of Umbria", for Sportelletti Vineyard in Assisi.
From the moment this wine touched my nose and then tongue I thought California, I was told Italian but senses California. Sure enough when I looked up the content of this wine I discovered that it was a blend.
Antonio Galloni’s Italy Report on eRobertParker.com reviewed this wine very favorably and said "Sportoletti’s 2006 Assisi Rosso was one of the highlights of my tastings of Italy’s value-priced wines. Tobacco, earthiness and red cherries dominate the flavor profile of this beautifully nuanced, refined red that is sure to provide much pleasure."
This wine was paired with an amazing cheese called Tetsun al Barolo. Michael found this exotic cheese at Ideal Cheese in New York.
It is a classic mountain toma cheese that, made of sheep and cow's milk cheese in Piedmont is enhanced by a coating of Nebbiolo grape must giving it a "Tetsun" which means "big hard head" in Italian. Aged 12 months.
Testun al Barolo is an exclusive and very original interpretation of an ancient Italian mountain gourmet cheese recipe.
The structure is solid and compact, and Testun al Barolo is matured for at least 5 months in the Valcasotto cellars and refined in the wine must of the Nebbiolo of Barolo grape.
It was awarded the first prize in 1999 by experts on Slow Food for the best “drunken” cheese in Italy.
Finally a Rosso Di Montalcino by Valdicava was served with a freshly shaved wheel of Parmigian-Reggiano. Michael cut it right on the spot. By this time my mouth was so overwhelmed with flavors it was tough to appreciate the amazing flavor in this wine cheese combo. But it was there in abundance.
The gentle angel on the label of this wine belies the power within. This is a wine having such magnitude that it inspires personal comment by the famous wine critic Robert Parker.
"Valdicava’s 2001 Rosso di Montalcino, as always, is exemplary. A deep, dark garnet, its lovely plum, leather, herb and mineral nose is admirably pure and focused, and the smooth and powerful flavors are more those of a Brunello than a Rosso di Montalcino. Long, intense, and vibrant, this is notable juice, and will last until 2008. Those looking for the finest in this appellation might want to consider reserving the 1999 Valdicava Brunello – the best yet – in advance." Robert Parker
Parmigiano Reggiano in Michael's opinion is "The World Greatest Cheese." Unfortunately many of us only know it from the little containers of ground cheese you find in the supermarket. Like wine the minute cheese hits air the flavors begin to unfold, for hours the flavors abound, but after a day they disappear. To know the full pleasure of this cheese buy a good chunk from a reputable merchant and shave or grate it at the time of serving.
Read more tips for buying and enjoying chese here: Cheese pro's tips on choosing cheese
Both Carol and Michael are very interesting and entertaining. They often do presentations in and around New Jersey. To find a schedule of Michael Trullinger's cheese tasting classes, visit the Adult School of Montclair at www.adultschool.org Carol's schedule can be found on her website. https://www.classinaglasswine.com/
All these wines are available in New Jersey at Wine Legend and other wine shops.