This month Josh and I wanted to emphasize a cheese and a wine that turned out not to be an ideal pairing, no matter how delightful each might be in different pairings, so we decided to spotlight these products individually.
Sleeping Beauty from Cascadia Creamery
This month, I’m excited to feature the newest addition to our artisan cheese selection. Sleeping Beauty, a semi-hard natural-rind cheese from Cascadia Creamery, is produced just across the Columbia in Trout Lake, Washington. Cascadia Creamery is a family run business that produces raw, certified organic artisan cheeses using milk from local pasture-raised cows.
Sleeping Beauty is aged to create a slightly dry, pleasantly chalky paste. It has a mild flavor with a slight tang and a rich buttery finish. Each wheel is charmingly decorated by hand by the cheese maker’s wife, as a final touch that underscores the love and attention that goes into each cheese.
One of only four cheeses Cascadia Creamery produces, Sleeping Beauty is named for the lovely valley that lies between Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in the Cascade Range.
Sleeping Beauty has a sweet milky or buttery scent, not at all like the stronger aromas associated with some cheeses. Mild and rich in the mouth, but with complex savory and herbal notes. I notice that cheeses made from grassfed milk often have more interesting herbal tones.
I think it would benefit from being served with wine or fruit to refresh the palate; I found that a few bites into the firm but pleasantly yielding paste I began to become desensitized to the subtler nuances.
Season Cellars’ 2012 Marsanne-Roussanne
57% Marsanne 38% Roussanne 5% Viognier
Season Cellars is a young, family-owned winery in Winston, Oregon. They buy all their fruit from some of the excellent vineyards in Southern Oregon, and produce a variety of impressive wines, including Malbec, Syrah, Viognier, and a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Muscat, and Riesling called Transparency that might have made an excellent accompaniment to the Sleeping Beauty.
Marsanne and Roussanne are varietals from the Rhone region of France, and I thought Season Cellars Marsanne-Roussanne had some of the character of classic white wines I’ve tasted from the Rhone in its assertive and food-friendly qualities, along with the freshness and ripeness I associate with Southern Oregon wines.
On the nose we detected fresh-sliced apple, subtle stone fruit, and a hint of minerality.
On the palate, this wine was dry and bright, with notes of apple, citrus, cream, tropical fruits, and subtle minerals. It is big enough to stand no nonsense from food, and would pair very well with cream sauces or heavily-herbed preparations of chicken or fish, and is interesting enough to enjoy all by itself.
The makers recommend pairing it with spicy Asian foods. I have not experimented with this, but if you’d rather have a really good dry white wine than the oft-recommended sake, cider, or Gewurtztraminer with your Szechuan feast, it’s definitely worth a try.
Sleeping Beauty and Season Cellars Marsanne-Roussanne? This was an example of a pairing that contrasted rather than complemented. The wine was a little too boisterous for the very delicate and gentle flavors of the cheese, but when sipped with restraint it cleansed and reset the palate completely, cutting a clean swath.
In defense of this pairing, I found that eating the cheese was like sinking into a warm, comfortable chair, and the wine was like a cold slap of rain that woke my taste buds up and made them alert to all the nuances of the cheese when it began to cloy. It would make an excellent wine for a selection of cheeses.
If I had it to do over, however, I would pair this cheese with a softer and more retiring wine–a Viognier with just a little bit of residual sugar seems like it might be an ideal match, a soft rose, a moderately dry Riesling, or the aforementioned Season Cellars Transparency–and I would save the excellent Marsanne-Roussanne for tougher game.