Cider Meets Cheese in Julian
By Jeffree Itrich
October 8, 2016 - Julian, CA
On October 8th over 30 Queso Diegans gathered at Julian Ciderworks on Kenner Ranch in Julian for a special pairing of six ciders made by Julian Ciderworks and six cheeses sourced from Vennisimo Cheese. The only thing more perfect than the stellar weather and idyllic setting was the on-point pairings, they could not have been better. Many thanks to Curt Wittenberg and Stan Sisson for arranging the tasting and figuring out which cheeses would best complement the flavorful ciders. They did an astounding job. Not one pairing was out-of-sync. And none of it would have been possible without Brian Kenner who hosted all of us.
Curt started with Winesap Cider, a popular apple and cider since Colonial times with a moderate 7.0 alcohol level. We tasted the cider with Midnight Moon, a gouda-style cheese made in the Netherlands for Cypress Grove creamery in Arcata, CA. Buttery with a long caramel finish, Midnight Moon’s nutty flavor married well with the dry cider.
Next we sampled Golden Russet Cider, a full-bodied, higher-alcohol (10-11%) cider fermented in a dry style with Old Quebec vintage Cheddar, a three year-old cheese. Curt explained that low moisture in the cheese contributed to the long aging process that created the stupendous depth of flavor.
We moved onto our first sweet pairing featuring Mirabelle, an intense, aromatic plum wine (4.2% alcohol) made from tree-ripened, yellow plums. We sampled Mirabelle with Délice de Bourgogne, a French cow's milk cheese from the Burgundy region of France. A soft-ripened, bloomy-rind, triple-cream cheese, it’s known for mushroomy aromas near the rind, mild acidity and a fine delicate texture. The rich creaminess of the cheese paired beautifully with the sweet, fragrant plum flavors.
Next up we were treated to a Melomel, a high alcohol (7.4%) beverage made from comice pears and Citrus Blast Mead. Curt and Stan paired the Melomel with Monte Enebro, a goats milk blue cheese from Avila, Spain. Both exhibited strong flavors and required a pairing with an equally strong mate that would not overwhelm one or the other. They nailed it.
The Melomel wasn’t the only pear drink we imbibed. Unlike the sweet Melomel the Anjou cider (called a Perry) was dry with an acidic character that comes in at 5.2% alcohol. For this pairing Stan and Curt chose an Alpine cow’s milk cheese made in the Jura region of Switzerland. They described the cheese as having both a bite and soft edge at the same time. It seemed the perfect foil to the Perry.
We finished with another higher alcohol cider, the Floribunda, made from both Floribunda and Hyslop crab apples. Because crab apples tend to be bitter and sharp Julian Ciderworks back sweetened it to create a full-bodied cider that packs a punch at 7.6% alcohol. Stan and Curt paired the intense cider with Harbison, a bloomy-rind cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. It was a really interesting cheese that when young the cheesemaker wraps in strips of the inner bark of a spruce tree, which gives it a woodsy, sweet flavor. It was named “Best American Cheese” at this year’s American Cheese Society Awards.
As if that wasn’t enough we also noshed on P. Balistreri Point Loma Salumi with Rosemary and Garlic. Julian Ciderworks put out a half-gallon of fresh pressed (non-alcoholic) cider for the kids in attendance but they didn’t get to drink much of it. As soon as some of the adults tasted it the liquid nirvana disappeared.
What a great day. We drank and we ate, repeating the process six times throughout the afternoon. And boy did we learn a lot! In fact did you know that there are 16,648 recorded apple varieties in North America? Yep. (Thanks for that little bit of trivia, Brian Trout.)
A big thank you to Brian Kenner, Stan Sisson and Curt Wittenberg for an outstanding day. We should make this an annual fall tradition!