Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wine and Cheese! On a boat!

In our desire to explore wine, we stumbled across a hidden little gem in NYC. A wine and cheese tasting, hosted by the Classic Harbor Line, all part of a boat tour around the island of Manhattan.

On a sunny spring day, we boarded the yacht. We started with a glass of champagne as we made way to the Statue of Liberty. A beautiful view, but I did realize that I still don’t have much of a taste for sparkling wines. I’ve had a few glasses I’ve enjoyed, even more that have left a bad taste in my mouth, but I haven’t had too much since we’ve been approaching the business of wine tasting critically. Only time will tell what I should look for in a good glass of sparkling wine.
The sparkling wine was offered as part of the celebration of the boat tour, but the main focus was the wine and cheese parings. Our hostess had selected a range of wines and cheeses, focusing on similar flavor profiles for each pair. That is a rule she recommended that we follow outside the class, but that’s a bit of a trick when you don’t know what you are getting into when you order. It’s tough to say whether if it was skillful pairings or healthy pours, but things started well and only got better.

We tasted five pairings in total on the tour, with a few highlights I feel compelled to share:
The Cuaco Casablanca Valley 2010 Chardonnay offered a pleasantly surprising complex flavor. The chardonnay grape is so common in the U.S. and is often the only white wine found in bars and restaurants with bare bones wine menus. After swimming in the sea of cheap chardonnay at these places, and coming to an understanding that Chardonnay was the most basic of all the white grapes, tasting the Cuaco Casablanca Valley version indicated to us that this is a varietal we need to explore more. There is potential there.

Another excellent pairing was the Frederic Lornet AC Arbois with a young goat Gouda. This red wine was made from the Trousseaux grape, and this was the first time we had heard of this grape. In fact, our hostess explained that this grape was quite rare, so it was a treat we were able to try it. The light-bodied fruitiness of this red wine went perfectly with a sweet creaminess of the gouda cheese.

Finally, the tasting finished with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon from Michael Pozzan Winery, paired with an aged Gouda. Both could best be described as robust, with the wine being immensely drinkable, a smooth mix of spice and oak. We have to admit that we are serious fans of Cabernet Sauvignon. The aged gouda was surprising. The aging process makes this cheese lose its usual creaminess. Instead, the cheese is quite tough, and is almost a dark orange color, and its flavor profile shifts towards a more caramel, dessert-like cheese.  We have since ordered this cheese at restaurants, because we like it so much.

The afternoon passed quickly. Sharing the tasting with strangers met on the boat made it a social affair, and our hostess was a perfect mixture of sociable and knowledgeable. It’s fun to learn in this sort of casual setting, picking up what information you can, all while appreciating the simple joy that good and wine and cheese can bring to your life.  These tours run quite often, and we highly recommend them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This journey of discovery began several years ago on a trip to the Finger Lakes wine region. We had just started dating and were visiting Nathan’s mother, who lived in Ithaca, NY on the southern tip of Lake Cayuga. At that time, I enjoyed wine but was entirely clueless as to why. Nathan, on the other hand, preferred most everything else to wine, even going as far as to say, “I don’t like wine.”

Our first stop on our wine tour that day was to Montezuma Winery, known for its fruit wines. A little sweet for me, but an eye-opener for Nathan. By the end of our tour that day, his palette had grown and he would admit that yes, he could enjoy wine as long as he was drinking something on the sweeter side.

Five years and quite a few tastings later, our palettes have grown even further and we’ve come to several basic truths that we live by and that we hope to share with you.
  1. Anybody can appreciate wine. To say “I don’t like wine” is like saying “I don’t like music.” The world of wine is varied and interesting enough that we promise there are wines out there that would knock your socks off.  If you don’t like wine, you probably haven’t found one that suits your palette—yet.
  2. You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate wine.
  3. Don’t listen to expert ratings on what determines a “quality” wine. Listen to your gut. If it tastes good to you, then it’s a “good” wine. If it doesn’t taste good, then it’s not.
  4. Even novices can select a wine with confidence. Whether at the wine store or in a fine restaurant, taking risks and having fun is key. There is always someone there to help you—but it does help if you know what to ask for.
This blog is wine focused but not limited. In fact, while we have worked at expanding our palette for wines, we’ve also come to appreciate quality foods as well. Nathan encouraged me to try new types of foods, things I never thought I’d eat. Like wine, food is a varying and complex industry.  Our truths (see above) stand when it comes to food, too.

This is an ongoing journey for us, where we’re always hoping to discover new and different wine and food pairings. We hope, through trial and error, to help you navigate the viniculture world and to consider pairings that would go well with the wines we recommend. We’ll share with you what we find delicious and what we would likely avoid in future. Ultimately, we hope to bring to you our love of good food and good wine.

Let your nose and your taste buds be your guide.  Cheers!