Be grateful for the cheese and wine
By Angela Sanchez
When I lived away from Moore County, I came home for the holidays with all kinds of wines and cheeses I wanted to share with my family. At Thanksgiving I’d arrive with a bag full and nothing ever hit the fridge or shelf before we sampled it. At Christmas I came bearing gifts: a nice basket of cheese, crackers, olives with chutneys and jams and a case of mixed wines wrapped with a bow.
Thanksgiving was always a big deal for us. As Southerners we had to have at least two meats. Just a turkey wouldn’t do, so we added a ham or possibly venison if my brother had been lucky on the hunt that year. My mom taught me more is better when it comes to sides and dessert. As I got older, I loved cooking with her, preparing the meal for the family and entertaining. We started with appetizers from the array of items I brought home — six or seven cheeses, always a mix of hard, soft, blue and bold, domestic and imported, with one or two types of charcuterie, olives, pickles, crackers and an exotic jam. We sipped wine as we snacked and cooked. I like to start with bubbles, so a nice bottle (or two, or three) of Cava or Prosecco would get us going. Later with dinner, we’d sit down with two bottles of wine, a white and a red. The white would be light, a dry Riesling from Alsace, France, or Germany, or a white Burgundy like Chablis or Meursault. The red would be a nice Burgundy like something from Domain Vincent Girardin. I am particularly fond of his Santenay, perhaps not as well known as other appellations in Burgundy but packing great quality for the price. And there was always French Champagne for dessert because nothing is better with cake and chocolate than Champagne.
Christmas was more traditional. My dad was Catholic and, until he became too ill to go, we went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was just my parents and I so we would unwrap the cheeses and other foods I brought home and bust into the case of wine, which was a beautiful mix of my favorites from around the world. There was enough to enjoy after Mass when we opened the gifts, sipping a red wine, most likely Italian or Rhône, at that time of night. Brunch with the rest of the family the next day started with sparkling wine again, usually mimosas with baked Brie.
Today things are much different. The day before Thanksgiving is a workday, one of the busiest days of the year, and so is the day after. That shortens our holiday a bit but we celebrate with cheese and wine just the same. The lineup is less complicated, more to the point. This year we’ll be enjoying a delicate and delightful Cava, Mistinguett. It has bright acidity with lemon and pear notes and finishes dry, a must if you want to make it through the rest of the day. Garrotxa, a goat’s milk cave-aged cheese from the same region of Spain, is a good companion. The delicate white paste and grassy, mellow flavor are a great way to start off. Perrin Reserve Rosé, with strawberry and light watermelon notes from the southern Rhône Valley, goes well with everything. It will be around all day and make another appearance as a dinner choice. Now we include a few craft beers like Southern Pines Brewing Oktoberfest, golden hued with notes of clove and marzipan. It pairs well with Goat Lady Dairy’s Snow Camp and honey. Snow Camp is a combination goat and cow’s milk camembert-style made in North Carolina. The honey will be in the comb from R2 Apiary right here in Moore County. Some salty Marcona almonds roasted in sunflower oil make a nice compliment. The meal is a bit different, too, with fewer sides but still two meats. Rolling up with the turkey and ham this year will be K.Martini & Sohn Riesling from Alto Adige in the north of Italy. Aromatic and vibrant floral, with lime and peach stone fruit and nicely balanced acidity, it’s one of the best I’ve had in quite some time. This year I’m really feeling Italy and a great grape like Montepulciano is just the right weight, not too light, not too big to pair with ham, turkey, venison and potatoes in all forms. Marramiero Dama Montepulciano DOC 2016 has a nice balance of plum, briar berries and licorice with medium tannins and just enough oak aging to keep it bright and add structure.
Enjoy the wine and cheese with the people who really matter and, above all, be grateful. PS
Angela Sanchez owns Southern Whey, a cheese-centric specialty food store in Southern Pines, with her husband, Chris Abbey. She was in the wine industry for 20 years and was lucky enough to travel the world drinking wine and eating cheese.