Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Pairing

It's finally starting to feel like summer here in Chicago. The Grant Park Music Festival is going strong along with Ravinia and music in the park. This week we've got another great pairing for you. Saint Felicien for the cheese, and a 2008 Domaine du Salvard for the wine.

Saint Felicien is a natural-ripened cow milk cheese from Lyons, France. Creamy, runny and spreadable she has a well balance flavor profile combining just the right acidity with a soft earthiness. A staff favorite, and sure to be one of yours as well. We are also featuring Saint Marcellin, a smaller cousin of Saint Felicien.

The Domaine du Salvard is a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend from Cheverny, France. If you're looking for a big butterball Chardonnay, this is not the wine for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy Sancerre or Vouvray this wine is right up your alley. Mineral, chalk, and lime peel are the primary flavors in this wine. It is bone dry and mouth-watering. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What is Pinot Camp?

Greetings and Salutations,

Having just returned from Oregon Pinot Camp, I’m filled with excitement and enthusiasm for the wines of the Willamette Valley, both red and white, and a greater understanding of the people who make such great wine.

It began on Saturday evening with a reception at the Dundee Bistro (The owner and chef, Mr. Stoller-Smith, worked hard to make amazing nibbles)borrowed from the Dundee Bistro website

Unfortunately, the heat (over 90 degrees), made the tasting a rather grueling event.

After that, my husband, my baby and I headed to Tony Soter’s Mineral Springs Ranch for a home-cooked dinner.

The views were breathtaking. Turkey vultures actually circled below us, and the elevation insured that we were much cooler than down on the valley floor.

Tony Soter and his wife Michelle provided beautiful sparkling rose and a selection of their wines (Cab Franc? Sure!) some of which are no longer available. They farm completely biodynamically, and the the lamb that was grilled for us that evening was the estate’s own. An amazing evening!

The next day, we rose early, and were on the bus by 7:30 am every day. We were bribed with killer mimosas (the Elk Cove 1999 Sparkling was to pretty to mar with OJ. I bit the bullet and had it alone on the second day), and then hit all day seminars, some in the vineyards, and some indoors.

A quick break for lunch (and an Oregon microbrew…to clear the palate), and then back on the bus for afternoon seminars. Both Sunday and Monday my vineyard seminars were in the heat of the day. We tromped around in 90+degree afternoons, learning about viticulture and soil types. This was my favorite part of OPC, by far, giving me insight into the most important part of winemaking. It was a fantastic learning experience.

Then, back onto the bus, back to our rooms, and a quick shower (and in my case, a quick baby fix) and 30 minutes later, back onto the bus! Every evening dinner was preceded by a tasting. We spent two hours sampling the offerings from the participation wineries’ current vintages of both red and whites from the Willamette, and then dinner.

Winemakers and proprietors shared our tables, and moved from table to table offering older and rare wines during dinner. Sunday’s dinner was at Domaine Serene, a beautiful, manicured, Tuscan-style winery.

The dogs of Domaine Serene live in much natural beauty.
from the Domaine Serene website

The highlight of that evening was the chance to taste two older vintages: a 1981 Pinot Noir and a 1994 Chardonnay. On Monday evening, we were at Stoller Vineyards, for a traditional Salmon bake and S’mores. Stoller is the family turkey farm that is now one of the largest vineyard and winery operations in the valley.

copyright © Mike Haverkate

Again fantastic wines made the rounds, and, again, The chance to taste older vintages was irresistible to me.

Camp ended on Tuesday, when I made my way up to AnnAmie Vineyards
for a little reggae, barbecue, massage and a couple of glasses of icy cold pink wine to ward off the heat.

A couple of more days in Portland (I highly recommend the Ace Hotel), a few farmer’s markets, a visit to a local cheese shop, and a fantastic dinner at Departure downtown, rounded out our trip.

Over and Out.

-Jan Henrichsen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Italian Cheeses

How do you know when summer is truly here? The farmer's market tomatoes start looking really good, and Pastoral starts carrying Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrata once again! What is Burrata? Besides being ridiculously tasty it is also a cow's milk Mozzarella with a cream filled center. On the outside it looks just like regular Mozzarella, but inside it is filled with a combination of Mozzarella and cream. Soft, delicate, and a perfect complement to your summer tomatoes. Come in and get it before it's gone!

While we're talking about lovely Italian cheeses, recently Daphne Zepos of Essex St. Cheese and Giorgio Cravero came to our downtown store to do an event. During the event Marty, cheese whiz extraordinaire opened up a 90+ lb. wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The day before the event, there was a cheese seminar at Kendall College sponsored by Zuercher. We did a tasting of several different cheeses. Tasting is more than smelling and eating. All of the senses must be used. Snapping the cheese in half and getting that milky, lactic, salty, fruity aroma was one of my favorite parts of the day.

Did you know that...

*Giorgio Cravero is a 5th generation affineur.

*Parmigiano-Reggiano is made 365 days a year

*In the 1970's there were 1000 dairies coming together to make Parmigiano-Reggiano but now there are only 420

*There is documentation of Parmigiano-Reggiano being well established during the middle ages. The tools depicted in the early 1600's are the same as the ones used today.

If you would like to learn more about Parmigiano-Reggiano, Cesar did a great post on it a little while back that you can read here.

Cesar and Giorgio after the seminar.

If you've been at our Loop location for lunch, you know how busy it can get. Double that when we've got an event going on. Ken was pouring three different wines, Daphne and Giorgio were passing out cheese, and the cheese case was hopping!

Cesar and Nat behind the cheese counter.


Group shot with owners Ken and Greg, Giorgio and Daphne