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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in cheese & wine pairings (4)


Cheese and Champagne


I took a break from sherry this week to drink Champagne! Thanks to our very own Gary Westby, I got my hands on a very special bottle of Champagne.  Earlier this week, with temperatures reaching into the 100’s in LA, I decided there could be nothing better to pass the time than to stay indoors, drink champagne, and eat some artisanal cheese.  The plan was to taste this champagne alongside three different styles of cheese and see which interacted best with each other.   As I popped my very special bottle of 2005 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $59.99, aromas of crème brûlée and caramel exploded out of the bottle making it evident that this Champagne is rich and decadent. The nose continued with toasty brioche, apple pie crust, figs, freshly roasted chestnuts and some slight chalky minerality. The palate is rich, yet there is more precision and minerality than on the nose. It shows hints of caramelized pears and apples, lemon peel and high acid, coupled with a frothy effervescence and a satisfying length.  Launois is one of very few champagne makers that still use old-vine massal-selected plants rather than the more commonly planted clones.  This 2005 “Special Club” comes from 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay, a very special Champagne at an incredible price.


For my tasting I picked up three cheese from The Cheese Store of Silver Lake; Délice de Bourgogne, St. Agur, and Livarot.  With three incredibly different cheeses, I began my delicious breakfast cheese and Champagne tasting.  


Délice de BourgogneDélice de Bourgogne is a bloomy rind, triple-creme cheese made in Burgundy, that has been well-known and loved by cheese connoisseurs for years.  My only reluctance in this purchase was the fact that I’d enjoyed this cheese countless times before but the cheesemonger informed me that the wheels they’ve been recently getting are more complex; with more mushroom and tertiary notes than usual.  A triple creme is at least 75% butter fat by law, so it’s extremely rich, buttery, and creamy.  A decadent pairing for a decadent wine.  Paired with the Launois, this combination was clean, and citrus driven; the acid in the cheese and the acid and frothy bubbles in the wine worked together to cut through the butter fat in the cheese.  The caramel flavors in the wine softened and sweetened the cheese, imparting a sweet mushroom and caramelized onion flavor to the cheese, while the cheese helped bring out the citrus and minerality in the wine.  Overall, I would say this was, classically, the best pairing.


Livarot, Normandy Next, I tried the Livarot  a stinky, washed-rind cheese made from cow’s milk that hails from Normandy and has been protected under an AOC since 1975.  It’s trademark is its orange rind wrapped in 3 or 4 raffia strips. It’s exceptionally pungent, with flavors of onions, crimini mushrooms, and barnyard.  I should warn you, eating the rind is not for the faint of heart, its ammonia characteristics could knock you out.   While I absolutely adore this cheese, the pair was disastrous.  This cheese was just too strong for a soft, rich Champagne.  It overpowered the wine and brought out some unwanted astringent flavors in the wine. It might pair better with something like the Caves Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura Brut, which has more meaty, barnyard notes. With that said, pairing is very subjective (which is what makes it so fun), and my boyfriend thought this pairing was awesome. Try it for yourself and decide.

Saint Agur, BeauzacSaint Agur is easily one of my favorite cheeses in the world, hands down. It’s a double-creme blue, requiring at least 60 - 74% butterfat, and is almost as decadent as its triple-creme friend while still retaining a slightly strong and spicy characteristic from its blue veins. Even those who tend to avoid blue cheeses can get down with St. Agur.  It’s made in the region of Auvergne, where their economy has long been dependent on dairy farming but may now have some help from winemakers due to their recent gain of AOC status for Cotes d’Auvergne in 2011.  St. Agur’s double-creme status went well with the Launois for the same reasons the Délice de Bourgogne did, the butterfat complements the rich wine and the wine’s frothy bubbles cut through the fat nicely.  But the flavors that came out in both the wine and the cheese were of a fruity quality.  The pairing enhanced the notes of fig and dried fruits in both the wine and the cheese and drew out a chocolatey note from the cheese. This was a superb pairing and easily tied the Délice as my favorite cheese/Champagne pairing.  But, at the end of the day, the Délice wins the gold in classical cheese/Champagne pairings.

-Olivia Ragni


Champagne Friday: A Perfect Champagne and Cheese Pairing

Michel Loriot in the L'Arpent Vineyard that produces the Loriot Meunier Vieilles Vignes.By: Kyle Kurani | K&L Staff Member

Food and wine is something of a regular topic here at the K&L, as it ought to be really at any wine shop, but the topic comes up especially often with Gary and Cindy Westby and me. I am forever asking them what they had for dinner, what they drank with it, and how the paring worked.

Champagne is one of my favorite wines to drink with (and before) dinner, and so when Gary returms from his annual trip to Champagne, it is my habit to interrogate him about what he ate and drank. After returning the last time, one particular thing stuck firmly in my head: he mentioned that for the first time he could remember, he had been served a non-French cheese with a bottle of bubbles. To say cheese is a big deal in France is an understatement. I was surprised that this took place in front of a guest. It must have been a nearly perfect pairing.

Let me tell you, it is.

The Champagne is the 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) The cheese is Parmesan.

With this in mind, I set out to create a dish that would compliment this natural pairing, as well as highlight the savory components of the wine. This bottle of Champagne has both driving minerality contrasted with a beautifully creamy mouthfeel. Pinot Meunier always has this umami quality that tantalizes me the way that truffles and mushrooms can when incorporated perfectly into a dish. In order to find the right dish I found myself flipping through the French Laundry cook book.

Eventually I stumbled on the perfect dish: White Truffle Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms and Parmesan.

This risotto is constructed in the usual manor: soften shallots, toast the rice, add white wine, and then carefully ladle in stock until the rice has absorbed enough liquid to be cooked through but firm. After the risotto was cooked properly, I folded in a cup quartered Shitakes that I had sautéed in butter and a splash of Cognac separately (flambé carefully please), stirred in a touch of heavy cream, and a few drops of white truffle oil (a few drops really do go a long way, it is completely worth it to spend a bit more of high quality oil, the difference is truly amazing), and a half cup of grated Parmesan. I topped the risotto with a baked Parmesan cracker, grated the cheese on to a silicon pad, and popped it in the oven until lightly golden brown and crispy.

I poured a glass of the Champagne and proceeded to enjoy truly a great pairing. The interplay of the savory aspect of both wine and the dish were truly stunning. The richness of the Risotto was countered with the driving minerality and fresh acidity of the wine, and everything was in harmony. I encourage all of you to think about Champagne as a great wine to have before dinner, but also as a very capable pairing to many dishes.



Loriot's ancestors watch over the L'Arpent day and night.


Food & Wine: Pass the Cheese, Please!

By: Scott Beckerly | K&L Staff Member

Pass the cheese, please!

Last Wednesday, the first of May, co-worker Kerri Conlon and I had the chance to attend a class at the Cheese School of San Francisco. We have done wine and cheese pairings for customers in our San Francisco store with them and I thought that I should probably know something about cheese...other than loving it!

The theme of our class was 'Spring Cheese and Wine' and it not only addressed cheese and wine pairings, as instructor and author Laura Werlin says (versus 'WINE and cheese', as we say here at K&L) but, also introduced us to cheeses that are released in the spring. We sampled sheep's milk, goat’s milk, cow’s milk and even raw buffalo milk cheese. These cheeses came from Missouri, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Tennessee. They had exotic names like “Dirt Lover”, which was silky and soft, creamy and buttery (despite the name), “Moonflower”, which was nutty, grainy and pungent with some black pepper notes, and “Dancing Fern”, one of my favorites, which was smooth and rich with cream, butter and some earthy notes. It was awesome with 2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spatlese, by the way.

The earthy profile of the 2009 Fort Ross "Fort Ross Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is well-matched to buffalo milk cheese. Did you know that buffalo milk cheese is high in solids and butterfat? I didn't! Earthy, mushroomy cool climate Pinot is the way to go with this buffalo's milk cheese. The 2011 Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir in the tasting complemented this cheese very well. I also think this cheese would be spectacular with the 2009 Fort Ross "Fort Ross Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($34.99).

Scharffenberger Brut California with 'Petit Marcel' cheese from Pug's Leap Farm in California - match made in heaven! In addition, we learned about washed rind cheeses in which the rind is washed in saltwater and in one case, beer...the one from Minnesota, of course! For those of you who have wine and cheese (or, as Laura would want me to say, 'cheese and wine') on a regular basis, it is best to have a sip of wine first and then to have a bit of cheese. Apparently, many types of cheese can change the flavor of some wines, making them bitter or giving them an 'off' taste.

Another interesting bit of information I learned is that it was recommended that one cheese, called “Petit Marcel”, from Pug's Leap Farm in California (this was my absolute favorite) be aged a few months after release so that it ripens a little more. Kind of like bottle shock with wines when they are first shipped in! Well, a little like that anyway. I loved this one with the NV Scharffenberger Brut from California ($14.99). This would be a top choice for Champagn, too.

Speaking of bubbles, be on the lookout for either a Champagne and cheese pairing consumer tasting in the SF store or a sparkling wine tasting and cheese pairing in the future. I’m planning for one either in June or July on a Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned...

Cheese School is in session!

If you are interested in these type of classes, the Cheese School of San Francisco is located at 2155 Powell Street (2nd Floor). Their phone number is (415) 346-7530 and the web address is BTW-I bought an absolutely killer set of laguiole cheese knives to go with my Champagne sword and steak knives. Thanks, Cheese School of SF!