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Behind the Scenes: Montebello ♥s Cali Cheese.

Vella Mezzo Seco and Central Coast's Seascape March has been a happily busy month. There was that one week I spent in Alaska, where I had the awesome opportunity to see the aurora, dog sled, meet some of the nicest people in the world (smiles, smiles everywhere), and order 12-oz mocha breves made from half-and-half from multiple drive-through coffee shacks. After returning to the lower 48 states, I curated, ordered, developed recipes for my cheese club, and took pics of the dairy love. Then, of course I had to return to some solid, real work and finish eating that Idaizabal in my fridge from my last post in February. And the Bonne Bouche. And the Alpines. After that very important duty was completed, I tended to a bit more consulting and class work.

Barinaga Basseri

In short, March has been full of deliciousness. A highlight? In the middle of the month, this lucky girl got to curate the cheese for Ridge's first session Montebello tasting of 2014. In fact, I'm just going to go out on a limb and say this was the height of March deliciousness- not that mochas made with half-and-half aren't astounding.

Fatted Calf's Pate

RidgeCoffe&Cheese (1 of 1)

I wanted to include a few behind-the-scenes photos of the event, you know, just in case you were wondering who sliced or crumbled the cheese for the hundreds of Ridge members attending, what Fatted Calf charcuterie looks like before it's demolished, or which cheeses I picked to pair with this year's releases.

RidgeCabFranc (1 of 1)

This first event - there are two more weekends of events- was the component tasting. That meant we got to taste the Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and all of the other grapes that make up the Montebello blend- solo. Then, a sampling of the 2011 Montebello (most recent release). The next weekend session tasting will be of this year's first take on the Montebello blend. The final weekend session will reveal the final Montebello blend. Customers have chances to buy futures, and other rare releases that just happen to be open that day. My job? To make sure that the cheeses highlight the wine.

Ridge's chefs, Kathy and Ingrid

The cheeses I picked were all from California- Ridge's rules- and I'd highly recommend any of these cheeses with aforementioned varietals, which have a fair amount of tannins and acidity (bless them) in their youth. Firmer, aged cheeses are the ones to lean on with the big grapes. They've garnered enough complexity during maturation that they can stand up to the wine.

My picks:

Mt Tam: to go with the Estate Chardonnay poured as members walked in. Triple creme, uber luscious, people piled this one on their plates like scoops of ice cream. Truth be told, not much of it made it back to the wine tables.

Barinaga Ranch Basseri- Raw sheep's milk cheese from a Marin ranch overlooking the Pacific. Basque style, brown buttery, with citrus notes. Great with the high acidity and tannins of the Bordeaux grapes.

Central Coast Seascape - A cow, goat blend that members named a gouda-cheddar hybrid. Semi-soft, but creamy tasting with herbal notes. Mild and lively.

Vella Mezzo Secco- A baby dry jack. Rubbed with olive oil and pepper as it ages. This cheese was created when the Vella's customers wanted a cheese that would hold up well in their ice box over the summer.


Do you have favorite cheeses for Bordeaux grapes?