Tuesday’s tasting at goat.sheep.cow north blew me out of the water. All five selected wines representing different regions in the Loire Valley could all find a place in my wine rack. Oh, and the cheese pairings were perfection. Jess, the monger, did an amazing job selecting these cheeses and pâté. But the 12-month Raypenaer Gouda, that pairing was absolute nirvana and right in my wheelhouse. OMG, mama needs a cool cloth!
We had a fantastic turnout. The crowd was a perfect size so getting your next taste was quick, but you could also ask questions and learn more if you so desired. It was great seeing so many familiar faces but also so many new ones as well. It makes me want to get the next one on the books right away.
To me, some of the signs of a great tasting are the opportunity to taste wines, unlike anything you normally drink – CHECK; the crowd is abuzz comparing notes – CHECK; and the amount of wine that walks out the door at the end of the evening – CHECK. And as guests leave, I get asked…When and where is the next one? – CHECK!
But enough about how happy I am…. Let’s talk about these wines and cheeses.
Oh, One more thing… The wines that we tasted tonight (less the Muscadet) are now the Happy Hour wines at goat.sheep.cow.north. Enjoy a glass for $8.00 from 3 pm to 6 pm daily. The Domaine des Noes Muscadet and the Philippe Brisbarre Vouvray are also on Happy Hour special.
The Loire Valley Lineup
Jean-Francois Merieau, Les Hexagonales Sauvignon Blanc Touraine, Loire Valley 2016
This wine is the un-Sauv Blanc! I am not a fan of most of the Sauvignon Blancs I have ever tasted, but this one rocks! It is bright and cheerful. Some call this the poor man’s Sancerre because it is that good but half the price. It is grown in the same decomposed limestone soil as found in Sancerre. These organically farmed vines are 20 years old. Aged in stainless steel, so it’s very clean and fresh with notes of melon, orange rind, a touch of tropical and a little teacher’s chalk. Very drinkable. I loved it. As I said on Tuesday, “I could drink this all day long.”
Touraine is a wine district at the very heart of France’s Loire Valley wine region. Its main commercial center, the city of Tours, sits precisely half-way between Sancerre and Nantes (the home of Muscadet).
Fleur Verte, Goat’s Milk from Loire Valley
Fleur Verte is a young, fresh cheese with their light textures. It is coated in tarragon, thyme, rosemary and pink peppercorns. Aged for only four days before it’s wrapped for shipment, which explains its moist, delicate, soft texture. The flavor is fresh, clean and unabashedly herbaceous, with a tangy, lemony finish. This cheese smells of Provence but is made in the Loire Valley.
Gneiss Domaine l’Ecu, Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet Sevre & Maine 2016
This wine is made by one of the most important producers of Muscadet. They have been making organic wine since 1975. Biodynamic certified since 1998. This wine rests for 15 months on the lees. (“on the lees” is the process of allowing a finished wine to continue to sit on the lees (the dead or residual yeast and other particles)) to extract flavor. Providing a richer texture and a medium body begging you to eat something salty or briny like oysters or salty cheese. As such this wine paired superbly with the Spanish goat cheese with the bleu cheese rind.
Melon de Bourgogne is the white grape synonymous with the Muscadet appellation in the western Loire Valley. Muscadet is the most famous varietal made from Melon de Bourgogne. It was introduced to the region in the early 18th century after a vicious winter killed many of the Loire’s vines. Coincidentally it was during this same period that this varietal was cast out of Burgundy as an overproductive variety of little viticultural interest. Yet, the growers in the Loire saw it as the cold-resistant answer to their troubles.
Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine is the best known of the Muscadet appellations of the Loire Valley’s Pays Nantais district, on the central western coast of France. The title covers exclusively white wines from vineyards around the Sevre and Maine rivers which are minor tributaries of the Loire which converge just outside Nantes.
Cheese: Monte Enebro, Goats’s Milk from Castilla y Leon, Spain
Made in Castilla y Leon, this unusual goat cheese is shaped like a log, but is said to resemble the leg of a mule. A rind composed of vegetable ash and bleu cheese mold means insistent flavor that is spicy, lemony, and salty. The damp, cakey, acidic paste near the rind is fierce, with unmistakable overtones of black walnut. Inside, the core remains salty, lactic, and soothing. A relatively new cheese on the scene, Monte Enebro won top goat cheese in Spain in 2003.
Les Hautes Noelle, Gamay Vin de Pays, (Côtes de Grand Lieu – Pays Nantais), Loire Valley 2016
While this wine is labeled, vin du pays (see below) in actuality is a step above as its grapes are sourced from Côtes de Grand Lieu from organically farmed 20-25-year-old vines. The grapes are manually harvested (Gamay skins are thin and fragile). There is no fining or filtering of this wine. (the process of removing organic particles from the wine through binding (fining) or filtering). This wine is cherry red in color with purple tints. Intense nose of red berries and black cherries. Very soft mouthfeel, fruity and thirst-quenching. Best served slightly chilled.
Like other Gamay wines, this is an easy drinking, afternoon wine. It is a favorite of many on Tuesday.
Vin de pays is a French term meaning “country wine.” Vins de pays are a step in the French wine classification that is above the table wine (Vin de table) classification but below Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) classification. This allows producers to distinguish wines that were made using grape varieties or procedures other than those required by the AOC rules, without having to use the commercially non-viable table wine classification. Unlike table wines, which are only indicated as being from France, Vin de pays carries a geographic designation of origin, the producers have to submit the wine for analysis and tasting, and the wines have to be made from certain varieties or blends.
Cheese: Comté, 24-month, Cow’s Milk from France
Aged in the Fort Saint Antoine in Jura, this Comte is produced by one of 13 high altitude cooperatives (“Fruitiers”) approved by affineur Marcel Petite. This one is aged for 2 years which is the max the affineur will go. The enormous wheels of raw cows’ milk from this Alpine region have a firm texture, leaving flavors that can range from dense (smoke and onions), to sweeter, with notes of chocolate and hazelnuts.
Gaspard, Pinot Noir, St Pourçain (Centre), Loire Valley 2016
Organically farmed in clay and limestone soil in Saint-Pourçain* AOC, the grapes for this wine come from 30 to 40-year-old vines. This Pinot Noir is in the style of classic, bistro house wines. You will taste ripe blacks fruits – bing cherry, blackberry, and dark purple plums followed by a finessed peppery finish and negligible tannins. Those that like California Pinot versus Burgundian Pinot will find this wine right up their ally. At this point in the tasting, this was my favorite wine.
As I researched this wine it came up under “Jenny and François Selections, ” and I had no idea who they were. At the store, I learned that Jenny and Francois are the importers and they only import natural wines. As we all know the word, “natural” can mean whatever you want it to mean in this country, so I went to their website, and they have quite a definition. So rather than reduce it into meaningless drivel, you can head to their website and see what they expect from their producers.
And here is a tip: If you like this wine and its imported by Jenny and François, then look for other wines that they import. Chances are if you like this one you will like others that meet their stringent criteria and taste profile.
*Saint-Pourçain is the appellation for white, red and rose wines from 19 communes around Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule, a small town in the Auvergne region of central France.
Charcuterie: Pâté au Poivre Noir, New Jersey, USA
Pâté au Poivre Noir is a smooth country pate made from pork & chicken liver sprinkled with crunchy black peppercorns. making it perfect to pair with this luscious, peppered finish Pinot Noir.
Domaine de La Bergerie, La Cerisaie, Cab. Franc/Cab. Sauvignon Blend, Anjou, Loire Valley 2016
And then we came to the last wine of the evening, and it blew me away! It is a garnet red with purple tints. Compared to the other reds this wine has an intensity in body, mouthfeel, and fruit but all perfectly balanced. This wine is ready to drink and very approachable. It is 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. And when paired with the gouda…. oh look out… I am falling to my knees! Several of these followed me home and landed in my wine rack. To say nothing of that last chunk of Gouda that fell in my bag.
Cheese: 12-month Raypenaer Gouda, Cow’s Milk, Holland
‘Reypenaer’ means ‘ripening’ in Dutch. This aged Gouda is carefully ripened, resulting in a cheese that’s a world away from soft, rubbery Gouda. As it ripens, it sheds about a quarter of its original weight during the maturing process – changing from a semi-hard to a hard cheese – but what it loses in weight it more than makes up for in flavor. Reypenaer Gouda is made from the milk of cows fed on summer grass; the soil in the area is especially fertile due to the periodic flooding of the plains. The cheese is kept in a 100-year-old cheese ripening warehouse on the banks of the Old Rhine River.
Images from the Loire Valley Wine Tasting
goat.sheep.cow.north 804 Meeting Street 843 203 3118
And with all that, I feel like I lived and loved the tasting all over again. What a fantastic event.
So that is all for now.