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Say Cheese: Ansonia's intimate pairings

When Tom Wilcox opened Ansonia Wines last December, he had a specific vision in mind for the small boutique: to offer a limited yet choice selection of French wines, with an emphasis on the Burgundy region.

The shop (1828 18th St. NW) is an extension of the family business, says Wilcox, whose father, Mark, a Philadelphia importer, has been supplying high-quality wines from small producers to area restaurants for the past six years.

Ansonia Wines' cheese and wine chalkboard. (Domenica Marchetti)

This week, Wilcox adds a new component to his intimate shop: cheese. In keeping with the tight focus of the rest of the business, he says he will offer a small, rotating selection of cheeses specifically chosen to accompany specific wines in the store.

To start, he has chosen five French cheeses and one Italian (to go with the one Italian producer whose wines are carried in the shop). The selection will be familiar to most cheese lovers. What I like best about the list is how thoughtful it is.

Here’s the rundown on this month’s cheese and wine pairings at Ansonia Wines, with my cheese descriptions and Wilcox’s wine descriptions:

  • Comte ($16 per pound). Produced for more than 800 years in the Jura region of France, Comte is one of the country’s most popular cow’s-milk cheeses. It has a creamy texture and a slightly fruity tang, with a rich caramel finish. Wilcox pairs Comte with two wines made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes: Michel Forest Pouilly-Fuisse from the Cote Maconnais, a crisp, elegant wine; and Gerard Thomas Bourgogne, from the Cote de Beaune, which is citrusy, refreshing and round but not too rich.
  • Mimolette ($17 per pound). This hard cow’s-milk cheese produced in northern France has an interior paste whose bright color rivals that of a baked sweet potato. Aged for a minimum of six months, the cheese’s texture becomes drier and more crumbly as it ages. Mimolette has a thick, rough gray-brown rind and a nutty flavor that becomes more intense with age. Wilcox pairs Mimolette with two big-flavored reds: Mas Foulaquier Gran’ Tonilliers (50 percent carignan, 50 percent grenache), from the Languedoc, a dense red rine with notes of plums, raspberries and chocolage; and Chateau Montlisse (85 percent merlot, 15 percent cabernet), a warm, rich, extracted Bordeau, inky black and very mouthfilling.
  • St. Marcellin ($9 per 3.5-ounce crock). I wrote about this unctuous, soft-ripened cow’s-milk cheese in a previous blog post, and it turns out that Wilcox is as big a fan of it as I am. Produced in the Rhone-Alps region of southeastern France, St. Marcellin is packaged in small terra cotta pots. The runny cheese has a delicate, edible rind and a silky texture that tastes of black walnuts, mushrooms and earth. Wilcox pairs this cheese with Domaine Les Goubert Gigondas, a blend of syrah and mourvedre that is round, soft and full, with notes of Provencal spices; and Domaine de Cabasse Casa Bassa (50 percent syrah, 50 percent grenache, from Seguret, a similar wine, rich and chocolaty with a long finish.
  • Merry Goat Round ($24 per pound). This surface-ripened goat’s-milk cheese is produced by Firefly Farms, in Grantsville, Md. The cheese’s creators describe it as an “homage to Brie and Camembert” and indeed it shares those cheeses’ bloomy rind and characteristic buttery texture and mushroomy flavor. Wilcox pairs the cheese with Michel Gros Bourgogne (100 percent pinot noir), from one of the best winemakers in Vosne-Romanee, in Burgundy, light and earthy, with notes of cherries, strawberries and stones; and Mas Christine Blanc, a blend of grenache gris, rousanne, marsanne, maccabeu and carignan gris, from along the Mediterranean coast near Spain, that has notes of pear, lemon and banana.
  • Allegheny Chevre ($16 per pound). Another cheese from Firefly Farms, this fresh, unripened goat’s milk cheese has a creamy-crumbly texture and a clean, tangy, classic goat cheese flavor. Wilcox pairs it with Domaine les Goubert Sablet, a blend of Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourblulenc, that has notes of exotic fruits and is rich but not heavy; and Domaine Bonnet-Huteau Gautronniers, a blend of Melon de Bourgogne and Muscadet from the Loire Valley, described as light, elegant, fruit-filled, and straightforward.
  • Taleggio ($14 per pound). I’ve written previously about Italy’s perennially popular “stinky” washed rind cheese. It’s creamy and supple in texture, and robust, almost meaty in flavor, with an appealing yeasty tang and slightly bitter finish. Wilcox pairs Taleggio with a Chianti Classico from Poggerino--the sole Italian producer he carries: (100 percent Sangiovese) from Radda in Chianti, a bright, energetic wine that is soft but structured; and Francis Mure Les Anemones, a blend of Riesling, sylvaner, gewurztraminer and muscat from the French Alsace. It's an expressive floral wine, full of fruit and fresh flowers that is nevertheless dry, with no residual sugar. “A perfect aperitif,” Wilcox says.

-- Domenica Marchetti
(Follow me on Twitter.)

By The Food Section  |  May 4, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Say Cheese , Shopping  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, Say Cheese, shopping  
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