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Spanish wine & cheese tasting, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs

This afternoon members of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Vancouver chapter, converged in North Vancouver for an informal gathering. We RSVP-ed in appreciation of fine Spanish wines perfectly paired with various goat and sheep’s milk Spanish cheeses.

This was a highly anticipated event arranged and hosted by our Vancouver Bailli, in her own home. So, despite the snow fall the night before and the weather calling for additional flakes throughout the day, we braved the elements for a sunny drive to North Vancouver.

With two cheese and two drink stations across their dining area in the kitchen and living room by the foyer, guests had the run of the space. We would chat about the selection and take note of the pairings, really taking the time to taste the cheese, discerning between the various ages of the Manchego cheese in 3, 10, and 12 months.

Our host was most thoughtful to provide guests with small plates to graze off of and plastic clips that adhered to said plate, that acted as a holder for our wine glass, thus leaving the other hand free to slice and pour as needed.

All the cheeses were served accompanied by a collection of dips, spreads, and bread prepared by Canada’s Junior Culinary Team, and really elevated the spread. A warmed spiced mango chutney, a spicy black pepper forward jam, a sweet and fruity homemade fig jam, and everyone’s favourite onion jam that ate and looked like marmalade with a candied fibrous texture. The collection ate like a meal with the addition of the freshly baked mushroom and onion focaccia bread, the crispy crostini, and the fluffy slices of challah bread. All together this was one of the most gourmet cheese and wine pairing I have ever enjoyed.

I won’t be going into the detail of each of each of the 8 cheeses, but simply list a few of the tasting notes for those curious.

Queso De Cabra Al Vino. This is an artisan soft cheese prepared with goat’s milk. It is notably aged in caves for a minimum of 30 days resulting in a white hue and the strong flavour of fresh goat’s milk. It is creamy on the palate with a delicate flavour of red wine thanks to its special processing that has it submerged from 48-72 hours in PDO La Mancha red wine.

Queso Iberico Curado En Aceite. A hard and cured pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk cheese. It has a firm and buttery texture with an aromatic nutty and fruity flavour. Given its bold flavour profile, it is ideal has a snacking cheese, or for grating and grilling.

Idiazabal. A hard artisan cheese made from unpasteurized Latxa or Carranza sheep’s milk. It has a compact and oily texture that matches its pale-yellow hue. Its flavour profile is described as being buttery, nutty, smokey with a burnt caramel and bacon finish thanks to its being stored near fireplaces.

Queso De Cabra Al Romero. A compact and oily harder cheese made from pasteurized goat’s milk. With its natural rind crusted in lard and rosemary, this cheese has a nutty, slightly salty flavour, with just a hint of rosemary. Said rind also makes a great presentation. It is typically aged for 2 months.

The Mahon cheese was the only one prepared entirely of cow’s milk. It is a softer artisan cheese with a crumbly and dense nature. It had a salty and sharp finish thanks to its rind being washed, rubbed with butter, paprika and oil during it maturation. Not ideal who those who like their cheeses more neutral.

As I made mention to earlier, there were 3 different ages of Manchego. It is a semi-soft, pasteurized or unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese with a fruity and nutty flavour. We noted how the aging changes the flavour having it moved from fruity and tangy at 3 months, to caramel and nutty at 10, then sharp and peppery with a crumbly texture at 12 months.

The one that was the most memorable was the Valdeon blue cheese. A semi-soft and creamy cheese made from a blend of goat, sheep, and dairy cattle milk. Compared to the other hearty wedges it looked undead with its splotchy greyish-blue hue. Taste wise, like with all other blue cheeses, you have to like the natural pungent nature of the cheese to fully appreciate it. Very intense and salty with hits of chocolate and roasted meats and scent comparable to earth and tobacco. I do and did, so found the tasting most enjoyable and the cheese best paired with the sweetness of either of the 3 different types of Sherry made available and recommended to help cut into any potential puckering.

Overall this was a help yourself buffet with guests finishing the multiple bottles of each white, red, and Sherry made available. And taking what remains of the cheese as whole blocks home in doggy zip lock bags.

This was one of the more casual and enjoyable Chaîne des Rôtisseurs events to date as our group took full advantage of the offering, staying past the 2-hour alloted time slot, and perhaps wore out our welcome by breaking a glass. In short, this was a great opportunity, a fun event, and something I hope I get to participate more in of in the future.

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