B.C. Wine Culture

 

Salt Spring Island Cheese Juliette is soft, creamy and nutty, like a goat camembert. Pair it with crisp white wines. Jennifer Gauthier photo

B.C. cheese and wine are a match made in palate-pleasing heaven

At The Farmer’s Daughter in Sidney, sommelier Tom Dai spends his days looking for the perfect wine to match the cheeses sold in the dual-purpose shop.

Dai’s domain is the wine bar, which stretches behind partner Jessica Sommer’s well-stocked cheese case in the bright, contemporary space. With several artisan cheese-and-wine flights to try, it’s the perfect place to settle in to explore this delicious symbiosis.

“If a wine has smoky notes, we look for a cheese that has smoky flavours. For a cheese with a mushroomy rind, we look for a wine that has earthy notes,” Dai says as he delivers a regional pairing, complete with detailed tasting notes for both cheese and wine.

The world of cheese is vast, but there are many new opportunities to learn more about the affinity between these age-old products of fermentation. From the curated cheese board at your local wine bar to a technical tasting with a cheese expert, or a cheese club that brings rare local cheeses directly to your door, artisan cheese is gaining new cachet.

B.C. is becoming a great destination for cheese lovers. Just a few to try include, clockwise from top left: tangy Poplar Grove Tiger Blue; semi-soft Farm House Alpine Gold; creamy Salt Spring Island Juliette; wine-soaked Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Tipsy Jill; nutty Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co. Alpindon; and the pungent, beer-washed Haltwhistle PennyMede. Jennifer Gauthier photo

At Upper Bench Winery and Creamery near Penticton, Shana Miller makes cheeses that complement her husband Gavin Miller’s big Bordeaux-style wines. It’s the only winery in the country where both wine and cheese are produced on site, with a tasting bar where you can sample both, and a pizza oven on the patio for authentic Neapolitan pizzas topped (naturally) with their own cheese. They also have a Curds & Corks Club, conveniently delivering their perfectly paired wines and cheeses to your door.

Visitors to the winery and club members alike eat up Miller’s big, Stilton-style King Cole blue, buttery U&Brie and lovely Upper Bench Gold cheeses.

When Gavin’s bottling rosé, I’m definitely making Brie.

“We’re in a state of growth now because we can’t keep up,” says the cheesemaker, who times her cheeses to the latest wine releases. “Our club members get six bottles of wine and three cheeses every three months. When Gavin’s bottling rosé, I’m definitely making Brie.”

Rich, tangy, slightly salty: The powerhouse Poplar Grove Tiger Blue can stand up to a bold red wine like Cabernet Franc. Jennifer Gauthier photo

At the nearby Lock & Worth winery, Poplar Grove cheeses are on the tasting room menu. Studies show cheese improves the experience of tasting wine, says cheesemaker Gitta Pedersen.

When they taste the cheese along with the wine, people come away with a whole new sensation, understanding how both are enhanced.

“When they taste the cheese along with the wine, people come away with a whole new sensation, understanding how both are enhanced,” says Pedersen, whose four cheeses, including the washed-rind Harvest Moon and richly veined Tiger Blue, are offered with four Lock & Worth wines.

You’ll find cheese boards—and wine-and-cheese pairings—at many restaurants, too. Forage in Vancouver will pair a flight of B.C. wines with local cheeses to start your meal. An assiette de fromage starts the meal at Au Comptoir, while a selection of cheeses is offered, in French style, with the desserts at Hawksworth and Le Crocodile.

And if you want to get really serious about cheese, there’s the new L’Apéro Cheese Tasting Experience in Victoria, with cheese tasting workshops, and wine and cheese tasting parties, scheduled throughout the year (aperocheeseexperience.com).

So whether it’s the creamy Ruckles goat cheese from Salt Spring Island, the mozzarella di bufala made from water buffalo milk at Natural Pastures, or the beautiful Brie from Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, B.C. artisan makers are busy.

The French monk and writer François Rabelais called cheese, wine and bread the “Holy Trinity of the table”—and it’s still the easiest way to entertain.


Perfect Pairings

Six B.C. cheeses and their wine matches

Upper Bench WInery photo

Upper Bench Okanagan Sun with Upper Bench Estate Pinot Noir

While cheesemaker Shana Miller says this  buttery little washed rind wheel “goes with everything,” as it matures and becomes stronger in both taste and aroma, she reaches for their estate-grown Pinot Noir, with its cherry, raspberry and cedar notes.

Haltwhistle Swansea with Unsworth Allegro

The cheesemakers at Haltwhistle (formerly Happy Goat Cheese Co.) on Vancouver Island make this Gouda-style cheese with milk from their own goats. The slightly tart but earthy cheese pairs perfectly with the honey, apple and citrus notes of Unsworth Allegro, a dry, lively blend of two Blattner varieties planted on the property—Sauvignette and Petit Milo.

Poplar Grove Tiger Blue with Lock & Worth Cabernet Franc

Tiger Blue is a firm cheese made with cow’s milk from Dutchman Dairy in Sicamous. Its intense flavour from the blue veining running throughout the cheese pairs well with the dark plum and peppercorn notes in the Square One Cabernet Franc—or a sweet after-dinner port.

Golden Ears Cheescrafters Brie with La Stella La Stellina Rosato

A soft, bloomy buttery Brie from the Fraser Valley, this artisan cheese pairs well with white Port or rosé, like the intense Merlot-based rosato from La Stella in Osoyoos, which would be beautiful with any cheese.

The Farm House Heidi with Sunrock Illumina

This firm, golden, washed-rind cheese is made with the finest summer milk from the herd of Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows at this Agassiz farmhouse dairy. Pair Heidi with red wine—the velvety blend of Syrah and Zinfandel from Sunrock Vineyards is loaded with juicy dark fruit flavours, making it perfect with cheese and charcuterie.

Thombury with Blue Grouse Amphora Collection Ortega

Thombury is an aged cheese, similar to a French tomme, from Haltwhistle Cheese Co. on Vancouver Island, that’s made with cow’s milk from a neighbour’s herd. Match it with the latest Blue Grouse innovation—whole-cluster Ortega, naturally fermented in amphorae, for an intense, golden, nutty white wine, reminiscent of sherry and apple pie.


Join the club

If you’d rather taste your cheese at home, why not join a cheese club operated by your favourite producer or retailer? Here are just a few available in B.C.

The Farmer’s Daughter Cheese of the Month Club will deliver three cheeses to your door, 12 times a year. $65 a month, thefarmersdaughter.co

The Haltwhistle Cheese Company club offers a unique, 400- to 500-gram cheese delivered every month between April and September. $199, haltwhistlecheese.com

Golden Ears Cheesecrafters’ cheese club offers either a single box of cheese or a yearly membership of four seasonal deliveries, each comprising three to five unique cheeses, plus condiments or accessories. $82 for a single box, $317 for an annual subscription, cheesecrafters.ca

Upper Bench Winery Curds & Corks Club delivers six bottles of wine and three pieces of perfectly paired Poplar Grove artisan cheese every three months, along with cheese recipes and tasting notes. $760 a year, upperbench.ca


 

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