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Wine and cheese pairing party

How To ‘Create a Successful Wine and Cheese Pairing Party’ by Philip S. Kampe
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak, in person, at length, with Cathy Strange, head cheese buyer for Whole Foods. Cathy was in the northeast promoting a new program that matches wines with cheese, brilliantly called ‘Rinds & Vines’.
Cathy said the goal of Whole Foods is create the perfect pairing, or as Max McCalman, a cheese guru says, ‘A Marriage Made In Heaven’.
I was excited to try the ‘Perfect Pairings’, but, before that, I had an agenda with Cathy Strange. It is ‘rare’ to meet the head cheese buyer in a social situation and keep it social.
In 2012 I was invited on a ten day wine trip that covered the major wine regions of Spain. We visited 14 vineyards, from the Cava region near Barcelona to Leon, which nearly borders Portugal, specifically the Douro region.
In my travels, on the last day, near Leon, I sampled a raw sheep’s milk cheese, aged eleven months, named Sansuena.
There was something special about the cheese that made me ask, ‘Can I buy this cheese in America?’.
No, was the answer.
I knew I had a mission.
I wanted to help the ever-so poor Spanish dairy farmers.
Unemployment in Spain is near twenty-seven per cent.
The farmers are poor, with little immediate success on the horizon.
I wanted to make a small difference in their lives by finding a home for Sansuena in America.
As an entrepreneur, I felt like I had my calling. I knew that anyone who appreciates an aged Manchego would ‘go crazy’ for this cheese, as it is one step above. It is ‘Raw’, while Manchego is made from  pasteurized cow’s milk. I learned from one of  my early cheese teachers, who is not with us anymore, Daphne Zepos, that ‘raw’ cheese, if given the choice, is always the best choice.
To make a long story short, I packed a small suitcase of Sansuena and carried it onto the airplane with me.
After I arrived in America, I contacted a cheese buyer at Atalanta Imports (NJ), who, after some time, met with the Spanish cheese maker of Sansuena and agreed to import and distribute the cheese throughout the states.
I met my goal.
My cheese background is straight forward. I helped Chef Terrence Brennan open the Artisanal Cheese Center (NY) and wrote over 200 cheese descriptions for his website, followed by a year plus as a cheese consultant for the now famous Gary Vaynerchuk, from the Wine Library (NJ). I took an empty 3,000 sf space and turned it into a cheese and gourmet shop, selling over 300 types of cheese.
The rest of the story should be obvious. I talked with Cathy Strange about Sansuena, told her the story of the cheese, and am hoping that she will sample the cheese and take it in as a new cheese at Whole Foods.
If Whole Foods sells your cheese, then you know your cheese is a winner.
Back to reality!
It is easy to trust the wine and cheese recommendations from the country’s leading ‘hip to shop at’ supermarket. I initiated a wine and cheese tasting at my house, stealing the name, ‘Rinds & Vines at the Kampe’s’.
I invited a half dozen friends to partake in this experiment.
What I learned from their palate was pure ‘textbook’.
To set-up the tasting, I followed the Whole Foods playbook.
Start with the simpler cheese and wine pairings and move forward to heavier wines and cheeses. End with an aperitif, in this case, a sweet sparkling wine and cheese pairing.
Let the games begin!
I set-up six tasting stations:  I gave each guest a checklist and comment sheet for each pairing. I did not let them know that the pairing ideas were from Whole Foods and not from me.
In all cases, the results were crystal clear, the wines and the cheeses paired exceptionally well and the group comment was that I had a perfect palate.
Basically, Phil ‘knows wine and cheese pairings’.
What I learned was simple, you can imitate what I did for a party or just a gathering of friends and everyone (at least in my group) agreed that the pairings were brilliant.
Do what I did and you will look like a star.
This is the game plan for six ‘Rinds & Vines’ pairings:
#1 CHEESE: (Ca) Cowgirl Creamery Organic Mt. Tam (smooth, buttery, earthy, triple cream, pasteurized cow’s milk)
#1 WINE: (Ca) Vincum Cellars Chardonnay (oak, vanilla, citrus, cream) $12
#2 CHEESE: (Ca) Cyprus Grove Humboldt Fog ( pasteurized goat’s milk, tangy, floral, herbal, citrusy, edible ash)
#2 WINE: (Ca) Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc (spice, honeydew, orange blossom) $15

#3 CHEESE: (Spain) El Trigal Manchego (sheep’s milk, toasted almonds, earthy, gamey)
#3 WINE: (Spain) Lamatum Ribera del Crianza (vanilla, nutmeg, full-bodied, red fruit) $10

#4 CHEESE: (France) Fourme d’Ambert Blue Cheese (tangy, savory, cave-aged, semi-soft, pasteurized cow’s milk)
#4 WINE: H&G Merlot (Wa): (black cherry, plum, blackberry with hints of cocoa) $12
#5 CHEESE: Parrano (Holland) (sweet, nutty, pasteurized cow’s milk, aged 5 months)
#5 WINE: Chateau Grand Claret Cotes de Bordeaux (France) (caramel, fig, black cherry, velvety) $12
#6 CHEESE: Fromager d’Affinois (France) (rich, tangy, double cream, pasteurized cow’s milk)
#6 WINE: Pizzolato Moscato Dolce (Italy) (peach, nectarine, honey, lemon, floral notes) $13

+Note: All wines retail for $16 or under.
Cheese quantities were 8-12 ounces for each type+

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Posted by on August 15, 2013. Filed under Food,Wine and Beyond. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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