Temptation Tuesday at Ortanique restaurant took a tasty turn in September with a new monthly feature that offers fine wine and artisan cheese pairings.
Wine goes with cheese like milk goes with cookies, unless, of course, you’re from Britain, in which case milk goes best with biscuits. Lexical differences aside, people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean would undoubtedly agree wine and cheese is a fantastic pairing.
To highlight that fact, Tortuga Rum Company has teamed up with Ortanique restaurant to launch a new monthly event where guests can sample fines wines with artisan cheeses from around the world.
The event becomes another aspect of Ortanique’s Temptation Tuesday specials, where the restaurant offers 25 per cent off all bottles on its wine list. The wine and cheese element will take place on the second Tuesday of each month.
Ortanique’s Maitre de Parti Christyna Chapman said the 25 per cent off bottles of wine promotion on Tuesdays would continue even on the days when the wine and cheese pairings are offered.
“This is just a little added fun,” she said.
For the inaugural event on 11 September, Ortanique offered two different artisan cheese boards, one featuring three cheeses from Italy and another featuring three cheeses from the United States. The cheese selections were served with small servings of various breads and fruits or fruit spreads.
Each cheese board was paired with tastings of wines from the corresponding countries. The American wines all came from California, while two of the Italian wines came from Veneto and the other from Campania.
Although Tortuga’s retail stores carry all of the wines served, Ortanique specially ordered the cheeses, some of which aren’t typically available here.
The Italian selections started with Toma Piemontese, a semi-hard pasteurised cows’ milk cheese from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. This mild cheese was paired with Terradora Fiano di Avellino [Retail: $25.99] from the Campania region in southern Italy. Made with 100 per cent Fiano grapes, this rich white wine had aromas of ripe fruits and citrus when very cold, but as it warmed up, gave off floral and honey notes, making it a good match for the slightly sweet cheese.
The tasting then went to a stronger cheese and a red wine. The cheese was Gorgonzola Dolce, a creamy pasteurised cow’s milk cheese that comes from both Piedmont and Lombardy. Gorgonzola Dolce is sweeter and less pungent than other Gorgonzolas and it was paired with 2010 Fasoli Gino Ripasso della Valpolicella [Retail: $21.90]. A blend of 70 per cent Corvina grapes and 30 per cent Rondinella grapes, this was a wine with bright red fruit aromas and jammy flavours. Although young, it was very smooth and had enough tannic structure to pair very well with the medium-strong cheese, the best pairing of the evening in fact.
Both of the cheese boards finished with a sweeter wine and for the Italian offering it was Bottega Petalo ‘Il Vino dell’Amore’ – the ‘wine of love’ – Moscato Spumante [Retail:$20.99]. Unlike many Moscato wines, which are only frizzante/effervescent, Moscato Spumante is a true low-alcohol sparkling white wine. The Moscato grapes used to make the wine grow near wild roses – like the one depicted on the bottle – and bees carry the rose pollen into the vineyard. As a result, Petalo ‘Il Vino dell’Amore’ has distinct and pleasant aromas of roses and flavours of ripe peaches. With an alcohol content of only 6.5 per cent, this slightly sweet sparkling wine is perfect for afternoon drinking, even over ice or in a cocktail. The unique wine was served with an equally unique cheese – Montegrappe from the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. The aged, somewhat dry cheese had a nutty flavour and just enough sweetness to pair well with the wine.
The pairings for the American wines and cheeses weren’t as successful as the Italian pairings, but there were still some interesting wines and incredible cheeses.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, an award-winning raw cow’s milk that is only produced from May through October when the grass-fed cows are eating fresh pasture, had a distinctive nutty and earthy flavour. It was somewhat overwhelmed by Sledgehammer Zinfandel, a manly wine if ever there was one.
“There are a lot of feminine-style wines on the market,” said Tortuga Rum Company’s Sales and Marketing Manager Alex McClenaghan. “This is the response to that trend; this is the male version.”
Sledgehammer’s tag line is ‘No Sipping. No Swirling.’ because it is an in-your-face intense, high alcohol wine that isn’t meant to be savoured; it’s meant for drinking without much contemplation. With an alcohol content of 15.1 per cent, it offers quite a bit of ‘bang for the buck’ at a retail price of $19.99.
Taste-wise, Sledgehammer Zin is full-bodied and full of fruit.
“This wine was made to go with barbecue, charred meats and those kinds of rich flavours,” McClenaghan said. “It’s definitely not a sipping wine.”
Easily the most unique cheese of the night came next, Beecher’s No Woman pasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Seattle, Washington. What makes the cheese, which is a cheddar at its base, so unique is that it is made with Jamaican jerk spices. As a result, the somewhat crumbly cheese has flavours of earthy allspice and scotch bonnet pepper.
Although the Sledgehammer Zin might have seemed like a more natural pairing with a jerk-seasoned cheese, Beecher’s No Woman was instead paired with Santa Barbara Pinot Noir [Retail: $22.95], which nonetheless was a pretty good pairing.
A more earthy style of Pinot Noir than those produced in Napa Valley, the Santa Barbara is a good-value wine that will pair well with many foods.
“It’s light, approachable and very subtle,” said McClenaghan, adding that it was a very good choice for a red wine during the summers in Cayman. “It doesn’t push the envelope on spice and big red fruits.”
McClenaghan noted that the Santa Barbara Pinot Noir would pair nicely with turkey.
“It’s a Canadian and American Thanksgiving wine,” he said.
The evening finished up with Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, an ultra-creamy cheese from New York State, paired with Wente Riverbank Riesling, a blend of predominantly White Riesling with Gewurztraminer. The off-dry wine was made for sitting outside with a selection of fruits and cheeses, but in this case the soft-ripened fresh sheep and cow’s milk cheese was probably a little too creamy for this particular Riesling, which just didn’t have enough acidity to cut through palate-coating creaminess of the cheese.
Wente, however, is a quality, certified sustainable wine producter that was recognised by Wine Enthusiast magazine as the American Winery of the Year in 2011. The Riverbank Riesling would pair well with a lot of Cayman’s seafood dishes and spicy cuisine and at a retail price of only $13.35, it represents a fantastic value.
Temptation Tuesday Wine & Cheese will return on 9 October. The cost is $36 plus gratutities for one three-cheese board accompanied with tasting of three different wines.