Get in the Carr

To conclude our series celebrating Wisconsin cheese makers, we end with one of Wisconsin’s greatest dairies, Carr Valley. Located in La Valle and led by master cheese maker Sid Cook, Carr Valley crafts a prodigious variety of cheese—some with interesting twists on classic themes, others that are wholly original. Their mixed-milk cheeses—combinations of cow, sheep and goat—are among the finest in the world.

Carr Valley’s cheeses have a texture and succulence that suggests sweetness, even when it’s not there. The cheeses also have a tanginess that isn’t immediately apparent, but seems to resonate as an echo across the palate. As such, wines that give a similar impression of sweetness work wonderfully with these masterful cheeses.

Mobay and Sineann Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2009, $18
Mobay is Cook’s take on the classic French Morbier, where a layer of goat milk cheese and a layer of sheep milk cheese are separated by a wisp of grapevine ash. Sauvignon Blanc is terrific here, but try to choose one that’s not too tart. This Sauvignon from New Zealand has an unusually broad texture to balance this cheese, but enough underlying acidity and fruit to give a playful contrast.

Gran Canaria and Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, CA 2009, $18
Gran Canaria is an olive oil–cured, mixed-milk cheese that is aged two years. A great example of how a cheese can taste “fruity,” this pairs wonderfully with a delicate Pinot Noir with soft fruit. Wines from the central coast are also fine partners, but beware of those over fourteen percent alcohol.

Black Sheep Truffle and Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, Napa Valley 2007, $26
This cheese will taste earthy—it’s dotted with truffles, after all—but the real surprise is how deliciously balanced and smooth it is. An earthy red is a great mate. Frog’s Leap produces a rare Zin that shows a forest floor note in addition to the taste of crushed blackberries.

Apple Smoked Cheddar and Domaine Gryphees Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France,  2009, $22
Utterly charming, this Beaujolais’s bright red fruit is a perfect contrast to the balanced smokiness and sweetness of this Wisconsin classic.  

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Read more Off the Vine columns here.

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