Sometimes, wine and cheese can be intimidating.
We all have our go-to favorites that we depend on – but what if you want to branch out from safe and maybe slightly-boring choices? When I saw that the New York institution Murray’s Cheese was pairing up with City Winery to give an evening course called ‘Wine and Cheese 101’ I thought this might be the perfect chance to try some new cheese and learn a few expert-tested strategies about pairing cheese with wine.
City Winery is the perfect environment for this type of course. It is hard to believe that on Varick Street practically in the mouth of the Holland Tunnel there is a functioning winery – but sitting down at the table, we learned details about how wine is made in this room. The course began at 7pm, and up until 5pm winemakers were still in the cavernous room, attending their massive stainless steel vats. Over the course of the night, I learned that City Winery gets grapes shipped directly from 4 Napa Valley vineyards and makes their own Merlot in house.
Walking into the winery, we were greeted with a glass of Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. Music was filling the winery as the night’s guests took their seats at impromptu tables lined up right next to the stainless steel vats. There was one expert talking about the wines – two whites and two reds in addition to the Cava – and an expert from Murray’s cheese talking about the character of the cheeses, and if they were a successful pairing (or not!) with the wines.
We also had a packet of information to follow along with the tasting. As a writer, I loved the descriptions of the cheeses. One of my personal Italian favorites, La Tur, (a blend of cow, goat, and sheep milk) was described as ‘…like ice cream served from a warm scoop; decadent and melting from the outside in’. Doesn’t that make you want to try it? The people at Murray’s love their cheese (I think the word infatuation was being thrown around) and as I discovered throughout the night, they also love to talk about cheese. These experts can help you discover your next favorite cheese.
After the La Tur, the next cheese was called Epoisses. It’s the oozy, melty cheese in the photograph and might take the title for best cheese of the evening for me. Even before I tasted it, Murray’s had me at this description, ‘… the texture is like thick, salty pudding’. The two white wines were paired with these cheeses – and my top choice between them was a 2009 Botani Moscatel – bright and fresh. This tasting of white wine and cheese reminded me that spring is right around the corner.
Next came the red wines and more cheese. The Cabot Clothbound Cheddar won my heart right away – I couldn’t get enough of it’s nutty flavor. Between the red wines, the City Winery Merlot held my attention the most. As the only winery within the boundaries of Manhattan, it was really interesting to see what this local neighborhood winery produces within its walls.
After all the tasting and plenty of new information on how to pair wine and cheese, we were left to finish our plates and our glasses. At the beginning of the night, it was stressed that we weren’t there to eat – but to taste. This slow process encouraged us to engage all our senses in the tasting, and figure out exactly why certain cheese and wine were the favorites of the night.
To top it all off, we were offered 15% off purchases at Murray’s for the month of April. Maybe I’ll see you in this famous cheese shop on Bleeker Street?
For more information about these classes at City Winery, click here.