The Lost Art of the Cheese Course (Plus, a bonus weekend perk!)


France’s Image result for jean anthelme brillat-savarinmost famous gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, said this about the important role cheese plays in a meal: “Un dessert sans fromage est une belle à qui il manque un oeil.” Loosely translated, that means, “A dessert course with no cheese is like a beautiful woman with one eye.” According to the French sensibility, cheese is what brings the entire meal together.

A cheese course is, unfortunately, a strange concept to us today. We rarely have time to let the meal linger slowly through several courses anymore, nor do we always pay close attention to what we eat. However, a few carefully selected cheeses and curated wine pairings can be a beautiful way to prelude an evening, or to cleanse the palate in-between heavy courses.

Traditionally, the cheese course is served after the main course but before dessert. Sometimes a platter of various cheeses is served, and usually includes one of each different kind of milk—cow, sheep, and goat—along with a spread of preserves, honey, and perhaps nuts and dried fruit. Other times, one single, special cheese can be highlighted, perhaps with a wine pairing to really make it stand out.

This weekend, we challenge you to channel your inner French and bring back the lost art of the cheese course! Check out the France44 Cheese Shop’s weekend feature—Chebris, a goat and sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque country, topped with a dollop of delectable lavender honey.Pinon Vouvray Emotion Demi-Sec 2014

One more thing to add to this match made in heaven: Domaine Pinon “Emotion” Vouvray—brand new to France44! One of our wine buyers, Dustin, visited Domaine Pinon last year in France and fell in love with not only the wines from this small family estate, but also with the elegant simplicity that infused their entire way of life. He picked out this particular wine for France44, a demi-sec Chenin Blanc, because he was so impressed with its balance and vivacity.

Chenin Blanc is one of those “magic grapes.” Because this particular varietal has both high natural acidity and high natural sugar content, it can be done in a multitude of different styles: sparkling, light and bone dry, rich and nutty, or in a dessert style… all depending on what the winemaker wants it to be. Vouvray, within the Loire Valley of northwest France, is Chenin Blanc’s most natural home. The limestone, chalk and clay soils there give it the vibrant, lively quality it is so famed for.

Cheese courses don’t have to be ornate: that same elegant simplicity of a tiny French winery can be brought to your own table with a few well-chosen items that, when you taste them together, seem like they could never be eaten apart from each other. The creaminess of the Chebris, the gentle sweetness of the honey and the bright acidity and fresh fruity sweetness of the Pinon Vouvray combine to make a wholly enjoyable culinary experience.

Here’s one last thing to whet your appetite: from September 1-3 if you mention this blog post at the register, we’ll knock a dollar off your bottle of Pinon “Emotion” Vouvray. Here’s to savoring the simple but elegant moments of life!

Cocchi Vermouth Takeover


Summertime is the perfect time to explore fortified wines, especially the Cocchi lineup! The Cocchi line can brighten up your classic cocktails you would usually drink in the cold months as well as shine as the base of low alcohol cocktails. They make a vermouth and two Americanos, and we will be diving into the differences this weekend with open bottles of all three!

Cocchi Di Torino is their 100-plus-year-old family recipe sweet vermouth, and was named Whisky Exchange’s 2014-15 Spirit of the Year. Cocchi Di Torino is dark and rich with black fruit and intricately woven herbs and spices of bitter orange, Artemisia, rhubarb and cinchona. Di Torino is not known for its bitterness like many high end sweet vermouths, but more about the spices. Cinnamon, caramelized brown sugar, bitter orange, rhubarb and cocoa dominate this vermouth making it lighter bodied for summer Manhattans and Negronis.

Cocchi Americano is a bianco or blanc, not a sweet vermouth but instead an Americano, derived from amer, or bitter gentian. While some producers have taken out many of bianco’s more bitter qualities (Lillet Blanc for example), Cocchi Americano embraces its gentian along with some of the same herbs as Di Torino: Artemisia, bitter orange and cinchona. Dominant notes of orchard fruits like peach, pear, and orange make this aperitif wine much brighter in style. It’s perfect when cut 4 to 1 with tonic or club soda, or drunk on its own before a meal with an orange rind. It’s also stellar in a vesper or as a unique twist in a Negroni instead of sweet vermouth.

Cocchi Americano Rosa: Cocchi Americano with rose petals, vanilla, and saffron added? Count us in! An Americano with added florality, weight and richness, Cocchi Rosa is the perfect pairing with anything grapefruit (Palomas with San Pellegrino and tequila anyone?), or in brighter versions of classic cocktails instead of sweet vermouth such as a Martinez or Manhattans.

Cocchi Barolo Chinato is the family’s pride and joy, a truly beautiful aromatized wine balanced between bitter and sweet with the main botanical being quinine, or cinchona. Cinchona is the main ingredient in tonic water: it is an antimalarial entity used in many curative medicines as well as spirits. Best served after dinner instead of before, it has been seen for centuries as a therapeutic wine aiding in digestion.