Summer Cheeses, Rosé & Strawberries

Ah…Summertime. There is nothing like indolent summer. Ripe strawberries, the ripple of water by the lake, busy bumblebees, whiff of lilac when breeze passes, a glass of crisp Rosé wine…and a plate of beautiful summer cheeses.

I always look forward with keen anticipation when June arrives: for local strawberries. I was appalled when I found strawberries are on the salad menu in wintertime. It just never feels and tastes right to eat fresh strawberries in months other than June. Sometimes fruits inspire me to pair them with cheese: nectarine with our Tom cheese, figs with Wanderer, and everyone knows how delicious apples are with cheddar.

But strawberries in June, soft cheeses and Rosé wine are just the most amazing trio. Not only do they brighten your cheese board, they also balance and compliment the taste of both cheeses and Rosé wine. You almost can’t go wrong with this combination.

Typical summer cheeses are unctuous and decadent. They are are soft, spreadable cheeses, such as brie, camembert and triple-cream. They are great with a toasty baguette and glass of French sparkling Rosé. The robust bubble in the wine will be a perfect contrast to the creamy texture…very sexy indeed…

How is a rosé wine created? It is by juicing red grapes and then letting the juice to soak with the skins for a short period of only about two to three days. Once the juice begins to take on the beautiful pink color the winemaker desires, the skins are removed. Then the wine juice is allowed to ferment, creating Rosé. You can find a wide spectrum of minerality, acidity, sweetness of highly popular summer wine.

I love to pair soft ripened goat cheese such as Humboldt Fog or Bucheron with a drizzle of honey, crushed lavender and pickled strawberries – enjoy this pairing with dry Rosé from Provence. Young strawberries that are more acidic are perfect with Mobay, semi firm cheese made of goat and sheep milk with a line of vegetable ash in the middle separating the milk types – try this combination with a more robust and richer tasting Rosé. Try sweeter Ice Rosé with Cambozola triple cream blue. My go to Rosé wine is always from South of France which typically is dry, not fruity, crisp, nice structure and deliciously aromatic. There, along the Mediterranean, regional varieties like Grenache, Carignan and Syrah are blended together to make dry Rosé.

Many years ago I enjoyed of the amazing Bandol Rosé of Domaine Tempier with Monterrey Bay’s shrimp with garlic scape and fresh peas at Chez Panisse of Berkeley. In fact, I believe, I got so intrigued by this wine after reading many books written by Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse. It is known that Alice Waters’ fondness of Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé is evident that it has been the house wine at Alice Waters’ celebrated Chez Panisse since the beginning (1971).

I enjoyed the Bandol rosé with the famous roast chicken of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, ending with a plate of sheep milk cheese with slice of raw fennel and almond. And I currently enjoy Chateau Pigoudet Rosé with ripe local strawberries of June and mildly funky soft ripened mixed milk Italian cheese Castelbelo with a dab of strawberry basil preserves. You can try this delicious pairing at our Gallery which is a wine and cheese bar adjacent to our cheese shop this Friday and Saturday.

I just think Rosé is one of the most versatile wines ever and it is a perfect summer wine.

By Riko Chandra, Reverie Creamery