Texas Cheese and Wine Experience (Oct-2021)
Texas Cheese and Wine Experience (Oct-2021)
The Texas Cheese and Wine Experience in the comfortable boardroom at Texas Wine Collective is available every day, by reservation. Groups of 2-12 make reservations online (www.texaswinecollective.com) and gather at the appointed time (11:00, 1:00, 2:30, or 4:00) to experience a pairing of 5 Texas cheeses with 5 Texas wines from the TWC partner wineries: Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. Most Saturdays, I have the privilege to host these pairings, and while sharing with a wonderful group of ladies from Houston this past Saturday (9-Oct-2021), an inspiration came to me to write about this special cheese and wine pairing opportunity.
Wine glasses, water bottles, napkins, pens, tasting sheets that outline the list of cheeses and wines to be paired that day, and small plates with samples of each cheese are set on the boardroom table. When participants enter, they are greeted and asked to take a seat on the upholstered benches at the table. A welcome is given and some conversation is initiated to discover where the group is from and how/why they decided to visit TWC.
A brief history of TWC is provided. While considering the amazing growth of the Texas Wine Industry, especially the establishment of so many wineries and tasting rooms to serve the burgeoning number of tourists and visitors to the Fredericksburg area, the partner winery owners began to consider the concept of a Wine Collective tasting room on the U.S. 290 Wine Trail in 2010. It was clear how unlikely visitors would drive 2 hours to Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, TX, 4 hours to Lost Oak Winery in Burleson, TX, or 6 hours to McPherson Cellars in Lubbock to taste their delicious wines. So, the decision was made to create a collective tasting room near Fredericksburg. When opened in 2012, the original name was 4.0 Cellars, since each winery had a tasting room in their hometown, and this site on the 290 Wine Trail became the fourth, or version 4.0. Recently the name was changed to reflect the original concept and effort involved to create Texas Wine Collective.
The comfortably seated guests are then told that all milk used to produce the cheeses was provided by animals farmed in Texas. Also, the creameries and cheese makers are in Texas. Currently, all the cheeses are purchased through Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin, TX. Further, only Texas-grown grapes are used by the TWC winery partners to produce the wines for this pairing, AND all the winemakers are native Texans! It truly is a TEXAS Cheese and Wine Experience.
What follows is a streamlined narrative of that provided to the group of ladies from Houston on Saturday, 9-Oct-2021.
The first cheese, a soft Chevre or goat’s cheese, comes from CKC Farms in Blanco, TX. This is essentially a cream cheese produced from goat’s milk, and can be used in many ways: bruschetta, enriching a casserole, cheese cake, or mac and cheese recipe, and added to mashed potatoes to enrich the flavor profile. This soft, mellow cheese goes really well with all the wines served in the pairing, but especially with McPherson Cellars Roussanne-Marsanne blend (50:50), crafted by Kim McPherson and his assistant, Spenser Igo. These grape varieties are native to the southern Rhône Valley of France where they flourish in sandy, gravelly soil and experience a typical Mediterranean climate that is hot, arid, and windy. These grape varieties also thrive in various Texas wine growing regions, especially the High Plains, that offer similar growing conditions. This blend offers a rich mouth-feel with aromas and flavors of peach and nectarine with a bit of citrusy zing on the finish - a lovely dry wine that shows how well white Rhône varieties typically do in Texas.
The second cheese, Indigo Ridge, comes from River Whey Creamery in Schertz, TX. This light-colored cow’s milk cheese reminds one of Italian Asiago or maybe a young Gouda. It is delicious on its own with some freshly-baked bread, fruit, and white wine. Indigo Ridge was paired with Brennan Vineyards Reserve Semillon, crafted by winemaker Todd Webster. Semillon is perhaps not familiar to most Texas tasters, but is an important variety in the Bordeaux region of France where it is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc and is the primary grape used to produce the exceptional Sauternes dessert wines in southern Bordeaux. The grape actually grows well in parts of Texas, including Comanche County, and is used by Todd Webster to help lower overall alcohol content and add rich honeyed pineapple character when blended into Brennan’s signature wine, Viognier. When sufficient quantities of fruit are available from a good harvest, a varietal bottling of 100% Semillon, like this wine, is typically produced.
Cheese #3 was a fun one called Drunken Monk from Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese in Lipan, TX. This sample is darker in color, partly because wheels of cheese are soaked in Balcones Whiskey distilled in Waco, TX, absorbing color and a bit of boozy flavor into the cheese. It is amusing to suggest that no drunken monks were involved in making this cheese, but one can’t be too sure about drunken cheesemakers who may polish off a bit of whiskey once the cheese is removed. (LOL) McPherson Cellars EVS Windblown Red matches well with this stronger cheese. EVS stands for Earth, Vine, and Sky which is mostly what one sees when visiting the many vineyards on the Texas High Plains. And, it is pretty much assured that when visiting such a vineyard, the wind will be blowing (Windblown). EVS Windblown is a delicious blend of 5 red Rhône grapes that grow extremely well in Texas: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Petite Sirah, and Mourvèdre, all sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards. This rich blend offers enticing aromas of cherry, vanilla bean, and woodsmoke; flavors of dark berry fruit with peppery notes, hints of fresh porcini mushrooms, and delicate oak nuances all leading to a rich, long finish with silky tannins.
The fourth cheese, Granbury Gold, named for the larger neighboring city of Granbury, TX, also comes from Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese in Lipan. This mild cheddar is delicious when used for grilled cheese or on ham sandwiches, for pimento cheese, or as a base for mac and cheese. Lost Oak Winery Cabernet Sauvignon sourced mainly from Texas High Plains vineyards is a wonderful match for this cheese. Veteran winemaker Jim Evans makes this wonderful Bordeaux-style blend that contains Cabernet Sauvignon 88% and Petit Verdot 12%, similar to many French and California wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon. It should be noted that almost all French Bordeaux reds are blends, and this blend concept works equally well in the Lone Star State.
This wine is labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon since it meets the U.S. legal requirement to contain at least 75% of the grape variety indicated on the front label. So, when one sees a Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, on the shelf, you know that it should be at least 75%. However, unless noted on the back label or in some other way as to the full composition, you really don’t know what other variety or varieties may be blended into the wine.
The fifth and final cheese, Keystone, also comes from River Whey Creamery in Schertz, TX. This light-colored cheese can be either soft or dry and crumbly depending on how long it has been aged. The flavor might remind you of Parmesan, one of the world’s best wine-pairing cheeses, and Keystone is fun to grate and use like Parmesan on pizza, lasagna, pasta dishes, and to enhance flavor in mac and cheese. Paired with Keystone cheese was another delightful Bordeaux-style blend, labeled Cabernet Franc from Lost Oak Winery, containing Cabernet Franc 81%, Merlot 13%, and Petit Verdot 6%. In this case, the less well-known Cabernet Franc is sourced from perhaps the only vineyard in Tarrant County (Ft. Worth), Burning Daylight Vineyard, owned by Missy and Dave Gudal. Their lovely fruit goes to Lost Oak Winery in nearby Burleson where winemaker Jim Evans, and his assistant, Angela Chapman, created this delicious blend that offers aromas and flavors of dark cherry, black currant, toasted vanilla, baking spices, and hints of soft green herbs with subtle tannins on the finish.
Although Cabernet Franc lingers mostly in the background and as a minor blend component in many Bordeaux-style reds, it has a very important place in the wine world. Long ago the white grape Sauvignon Blanc was genetically crossed with Cabernet Franc, resulting in the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, the most widely planted and served red wine around the world. Without Cabernet Franc, we would not have Cabernet Sauvignon!
Hosting these relaxed and delightful cheese and wine pairings is very enjoyable, and I love sharing the cheeses, wines, and stories with Texas Wine Collective guests. Please make a reservation and visit soon for a Texas Cheese and Wine Experience.
Website references for more info regarding this Carl’s Corner post:
www.texaswinecollective.com Blog+Press Happenings at TWC Carl’s Corner
Mac and Cheese - Comfort Food Extraodinaire, 3-Mar-2021 (Carl’s “Famous” Recipe)
Texas Cheeses for 2020 24-Jun-2020
@txwinecollectivefbg on Instagram
www.antonellischeese.com 4220 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751 512-531-9610
www.riverwheycreamery.com 17361 Bell North Dr., Suite 115, Schertz, TX 78154
www.eaglemountaincheese.com 104 E. Lipan Dr, Lipan, TX 76462 254-646-3090
ckcfarms.pagaloo.com, chrissy.ckcfarmsgmail.com Blanco, TX 830-822-6175
www.lostoakwinery.com 8101 County Rd 802, Burleson TX 76028 817-426-6625
www.mcphersoncellars.com 1615 Texas Ave., Lubbock, TX 79401 806-687-9463
www.brennanvineyards.com 802 S. Austin St (TX-16), Comanche, TX 76442 325-356-9100