WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

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WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:11 pm

Say "cheese"

Like most wine-and-food enthusiasts, I simply can't visit New York City without spending more time, money and calories than I really should at good places to eat.

During a short visit last week, we made the usual rounds of Hong Kong noodle shops, South Indian vegetarian spots and a couple of upscale eateries, crowning it all by joining a friend for dinner at Picholine near Central Park West, a longtime culinary temple where Chef Terrance Brennan recently earned a rave and a lofty rating from <I>The New York Times</I>.

Frankly, I can't say I go along fully with <I>Times</I> dining critic Frank Bruni's praise for the "reinvigorated" Picholine. Although dinner was enjoyable and many of the dishes innovative, I found the concepts more creative than the execution. Small plates bore large price tags, service was brusque and not always well-informed, and frighteningly pricey three-figure bottles dominated the lengthy wine list.

Still, there's a lot of excitement here, and at its best, Picholine shines. And Bruni may well have been on target with his observation that Picholine (whose chef also runs the cheese-savvy Artisanal on Park Avenue) "has the best cheese presentation in the city."

Armed with an after-dinner selection of three moderately strong and lovably "stinky" European items from the cheese cart - a French goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, a Montenegro sheep cheese from Spain and a potent Basque blue - I entertained myself by taking bites of cheese and alternate sips from glasses of red and white wine, hoping to add a few more data points to the debate over whether red wine or white goes best with strong cheese.

The wines, both imports by Vignaioli Selections, NYC, were pricey but delightful regional wines from Northeastern Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia: <B>Ronco del Gnemiz 2004 Colli Orientali del Friuli Schioppetino</b> ($105), a juicy and tartly acidic red wine redolent of white pepper and red fruit; and <b>Ronco del Gnemiz 2004 Friuli Bianco di Jacopo</b> ($45), a medium-bodied, structured Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio blend.

Although my lifelong instinct is to call for a red wine with cheese, and I still believe that reds serve well with milder, creamy cheeses like Cheddar, I've gradually, somewhat grudgingly come around to believe that dry whites are the pick with strong, stinky cheese.

This random combination of wines and cheeses, however, surprised even me. The good body, delicate apple and pear fruit and well-defined acidity in the white seemed to balance out the cheeses in mouth-watering style. The red, in contrast, which had been delightful with both rare lamb medallions and a mushroom-and-duck risotto, went all out of whack with the cheeses, coming across as thin, tart and watery. It was especially unpleasant with the blue, a match that finished with a twangy metallic note.

The rule here is clear: If you're choosing strong goat or sheep cheeses or tangy blues, play it safe and go with a dry white wine. Save your red for the meat course.

Just to reassure myself, though, when I got home I pulled out a chunk of simple, sharp Wisconsin Cheddar and tried it with a couple of red wines, a modest Cotes-du-Rhone and <b>Sean H. Thackrey Pleiades XIII</b>, the robust California red blend featured in today's tasting. Much to my relief, this combination still works delightfully for me: The creamy, sharp but clean dairy aromas and flavors of the cheese seem to round out the wine, diminish tannins and produce a mellow and appetizing flavor combination. Red still works with Cheddar.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/plei1210.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Sean H. Thackrey Pleiades XIII Old Vines California Red Table Wine ($23.49)

This wild California blend, a mix of vineyards and vintages issued not by year but in a Roman-numbered series, features an oak-accented assemblage of Syrah, Barbera, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese plus a dash of white Viognier. Seven grapes, named after the Pleiades, the ancient "Seven Sisters" of astronomical lore. (For details see my March 2004 report on Pleiades XII, "Wine rating: Seven stars.") Pleiades XIII is dark ruby in the glass, showing reddish-violet glints against the light. Mouth-filling and ripe, bold cherry-berry flavors offer a bowl of juicy and tart Bing cherries with a splash of raspberry liqueur and a squirt of lemon, with oaky vanilla playing counterpoint. More focused on fruit and less on earth than some of its predecessors, but good structure and depth make it much more than a mere "fruit bomb." (Dec. 10, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> This bold and complex red would work very well with grilled meats and other hearty fare, and it proved an exceptional red-wine match with sharp Cheddar cheese. Its flavors went very well with a Cajun-style dinner of red beans and rice with pork sausage, with the caveat that fiery spices may heighten the "burn" of relatively high-alcohol wines.

<B>VALUE:</B> The middle $20s are certainly an appropriate neighborhood for a wine of this quality, but it's worth shopping, as Wine-Searcher.com shows most retail prices varying across a rather broad range from $22 to $30.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Fine now, although fans of Pleiades note that it takes cellaring well and tends to develop more complexity and elegance over several years.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The deliciously offbeat winery Website doesn't tell much about the winery or its wines, but it affords intriguing browsing through historical information, art, quotes and essays about wine.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
The winery Website offers a partial database of distributors.

Look up vendors and check prices for Thackrey Pleiades XIII on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:37 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Although my lifelong instinct is to call for a red wine with cheese, and I still believe that reds serve well with milder, creamy cheeses like Cheddar


Mild and creamy? Damn, we need to get some Quicke's, Neals Yard Montgomery or Keens, or even Grafton 5-star to KY.

I think the best cheeses with reds are powerful cows or sheep cheese with drier textures- the aforementioned Cheddars, Parmigiano Reggiano, 4 or 5 year old aged Goudas, aged Manchego, etc.

I think blues REQUIRE some sweetness. But you're right that dry white is better than dry red, which is just atrocious.

Younger goat cheese is just as hard as blues - it has to be white, and even then not everything works.

These quibbles aside, I agree with the thrust of your article, whites are better if you blindly have to pick a wine to go with cheese.

Thanks for notes re Picholine. Good to see you last week.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Frank LaClair » Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:46 pm

I had the same discussion recently with my wife and some friends. I totally agree that the structure of the cheese (soft, gooey or firm and drier) and the source of the milk, determine the proper wine to serve along side. I prefer crisp, acidic whites with strong goat and sheep cheeses, blues or gorganzola. I find the gorgonzola a bit more palatable with reds than the other cheeses. (especially with older Bordeaux)

On another note, I have noticed a good deal of pub on the wines from the Trentino and Alto Adige of Northern Italy lately. I for one am glad to see them getting some well deserved recognition.

Keep up the good work Robin. I think I'm going to see if I can find a bottle of the Pleaides XIII for this weekend. :)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Ian Sutton » Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:59 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:Although my lifelong instinct is to call for a red wine with cheese, and I still believe that reds serve well with milder, creamy cheeses like Cheddar


Mild and creamy? Damn, we need to get some Quicke's, Neals Yard Montgomery or Keens, or even Grafton 5-star to KY.

ECHO!
Mild and creamy - that was dairylea cheese triangle Robin (not sure if you get that abomination there)

If ever you find yourself in UK and find yourself in a cheese emporium (though not this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDat9zdw7Gs ) then ask if they have 'Stinking Bishop'. Technically if they have it, you don't need to ask as there will be an acrid odour in the air. Stinking Bishop, well, erm, (there's no easy way to put this) stinks. It also oozes (but with menace). A truly great cheese that I was stupid enough to take home on a two hour train journey... got a few odd looks that day!

regards

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:24 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:ECHO!
Mild and creamy - that was dairylea cheese triangle Robin (not sure if you get that abomination there)


Okay, guys, correction noted. I was talking, however, of American Cheddars, not just Wisconsin (the apotheosis of mildness) but even artisan New York and New England Cheddars, which in my opinion are fine cheeses but in a significantly different style than stinky Continental cheeses - and much more red-wine friendly.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 1:48 pm

I agree with everything Dale said. I would also add an observation about wine and cheese matching noted during a Gaja tasting, which could in the end have a lot to do with Gaja, but generally since I've noted the same truth: young wine/old cheese, old wine/young cheese. Both work, but old-old and young-young do not.

Then, re the Pleiades, you summed up the XIII perfectly with this statement: More focused on fruit and less on earth than some of its predecessors, but good structure and depth make it much more than a mere "fruit bomb." Could not have said it better. In fact the way the oak shows on this one is a little surprising, it's as if he used more new oak than he has in the past. I keep wondering if there's going to be a XIV, by the way, considering Sean's fire and insurance woes. Does anyone know? The XIII's been out for almost two years.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 1:48 pm

Oh, and I thought you were going to Open Mike this one....
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:02 pm

There was a note on Pleiades XIV on eBob last week.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:02 pm

Jenise wrote:Oh, and I thought you were going to Open Mike this one....


Hmm, maybe I got confused ... I thought I suggested that and you didn't respond, so I got tired of waiting to try it! ;)

We could still do it, though! Want to start, or shall I?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:32 pm

How about I open a bottle tonight (I sourced another XIII Jenise) and we just keep this thread going.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:36 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:How about I open a bottle tonight (I sourced another XIII Jenise) and we just keep this thread going.


Either way is fine with me! It's fun to see all the Euro-geeks on this forum admiring a California producer, by the way ... just goes to show that it's possible. Might even be a good (separate) thread in that ... make a list of who's naughty and nice ...
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:48 pm

Open Mike, I`m game go ahead!!! Whats the wine again!!!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:33 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:How about I open a bottle tonight (I sourced another XIII Jenise) and we just keep this thread going.


Sounds great, I'll get into one, too. I think I have 15 bottles left, so I have all the time in the world to watch these and let them go more like the X you so kindly provided me with. Wish I had 15 bottles left of the XII, though.

Oh, and Robin, I really did respond to that, really!

So David, what's the news about the XIV?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:34 pm

Oh, and Robin, I just added "Open Mike" to your title.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:12 pm

Favorable note about big fruit, spice and herbs for the XIV. The note was not from anyone I am really familiar with, so no judgement on veracity.

Winesearcher shows the XIV and XV available.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:18 pm

XV's out too? Didn't know but not surprised. There's still XIII around town, which prolly explains why we haven't seen the higher numbers.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:26 pm

Jenise wrote:Oh, and Robin, I just added "Open Mike" to your title.


Thanks! A perfect solution. And I'm sorry, I expect I just missed your reply. Between Siena and Orlando/NYC in the past few weeks, plus really busy pre-holiday business demands from all the Websites, I've been so busy I met myself going in the opposite direction on the escalator the other day. :?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/Open Mike: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:30 pm

Good idea except....no Thackers in these parts!!! I will just eat the cheese.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed Dec 13, 2006 5:23 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I was talking, however, of American Cheddars, not just Wisconsin (the apotheosis of mildness)


Back many years ago when I was gainfully employed, I had a young meteorologist working with me who was from Wisconsin. He would usually go back there on a weeks vacation 2-3 times each year, and every time he did, he brought back some cheese for me. Often the cheese was cheddar, as that was his favourite. When he remembered to ask what I wanted I always said aged cheddar, so he would bring back a piece of yellow cheddar, and a piece of white cheddar. Once he brought me a pound chunk of 4 year old aged white cheddar. I don't to this day know how he managed to drive from Wisconsin to Kentucky with that thing in the car. When I ate some of it, my wife told me to take the cheese, and my toothbrush and go out into the yard to eat. And, to brush my teeth, gargle, and rinse thoroughly before returning inside the house. MAN! was that stuff ever good though stinky.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:17 pm

my wife told me to take the cheese, and my toothbrush and go out into the yard to eat


Aw come on, Bob. She tells you that all the time, cheese or no cheese.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:13 pm

So first a quick note regarding cellar monitoring: I keep a detailed record of everything in the cellar. My inventory showed 1 bottle of Pleiades X and 1 of the Pleiades XIII (recently acquired from a local stash). Well I go into the cellar, and there are TWO XII and no X. So that means I still had the bottle of XIII that Jenise graciously sent to me. I had apparently drank the X instead of the XIII a while back. Go figure.

So anyway, since I knew the XIII I got the other week (torn label), the one in my glass right now must be from the lovely Ms. Jenise.

Anyway...the wine:

Translucent purple color. Not as herbal as some prior versions of the Pleiades, and also not quite as hefty. For that last bit I am happy, as this drinks well younger than most prior versions. There's the typical meaty and slightly animal backbone and dark brambly fruit. Good, honest wine that is not all tarted up with oak. Tasty stuff.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Jenise » Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:03 pm

NV Sean Thackery Pleiades XIII
Red blend


We enjoyed this last night with a dinner of macaroni and cheese plated with a serving of haricot verts blanched and tossed with garlic, evoo and vinegar. Not decanted, but poured in glass about 30 minutes before we started sipping.

Interesting differences between Robin's note and David's, now that I've tasted the wine. Robin said "more focussed on fruit than some of its predecessors" and "mouth filling and ripe", so much so that he brings up the 'F' word--fruit bomb--and explains that structure and depth keep it from being a "mere".

Well, nothing about the wine in my glass made me think fruit bomb or anything close. Rather: since our last bottle, the wine seems to have lost a little weight. This is good, because initially I found the XIII a bit heavy, showing more syrah and zin character than the silky little XII which I had so loved. We found restrained cherry berry fruit and herbs, no vanilla, and some progress toward secondary development that's going to give the aromatics we crave in this wine. We also found refreshing acidity, which made it a perfect foil for the fat flavors in our dinner. Still there was a reticence, a curtain that I kept expecting to open, and instead during the second glass the nose lost some of the fruit and a raw egg white character became prevalent. I opined to Bob then that good as this wine was to drink, I think it's rather closed right now. After reading Robin's note again this morning, I'm sure of it. Passive storage vs. cool cellar storage? Probably.
Last edited by Jenise on Thu Dec 14, 2006 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Say "cheese" (Thackrey Pleiades XIII)

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:30 pm

Jenise wrote:Passive storage vs. cool cellar storage? Probably.


Worse than that, it was a recent wine-shop acquisition. Lord knows where it's been!

I wouldn't say that mine was in any way closed, though. Lots of fruit, salvaged by that good Thackrey Pleiades structure, and a distinct note of oak on top that was significant enough to worry me on first sniff but then seemed to fade into perspective.
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