Tete de Moine + Vine Starr Zinfandel
THE CHEESE: This is your party trick cheese if you have the special curler (girolle) to pull it off. (If you don’t, we can hook you up.) The cheese is a raw cow’s milk cheese developed 800 years ago in the Swiss Jura Mountains by the monks of Bellelay Abbey.
Its name comes from the way it was/is served. The monks carefully scraped the cheese with a knife to produce thin shavings. They thought that allowed more oxygen to reach the surface, which helped it developed a stronger flavor and smell.
And that preparation is how the cheese got its name. When the top portion of the rind is cut off, the cheese resembles the shaved head of a monk (tete de moine in French).
Only nine dairies are registered to make Tête de Moine, meaning it’s made from mountain milk in its natural state by a handful of creameries. It’s a semi-hard cheese with an intense, fruity flavor.
THE WINE: Broc Cellars Zinfandel ‘Vine Starr’ 2014
This is not your average California Zinfandel. To begin with, it comes from an urban winery in Berkely, CA. What’s that? Essentially, it’s a winery without the vineyard. In this case, the cellars are a warehouse in an industrial area.
Nevertheless, winemaker Chris Brockway is producing some of the most interesting wines in California today. He’s acclaimed for his refined wines that show restraint where the fruit is allowed to really express itself.
This is a small operation. Chris, an assistant and his girlfriend (sometimes) are the full staff. And his model has the potential to turn California winemaking on its head. The cost to entry are much lower than building a vineyard and a winery. In other words, Chris is showing other would-be winemakers that they can get into the business and combine their passion with innovation into high quality product without needing an inheritance to get started.
This wine is picked at low brix (sugar content) to highlight acidity. It’s a fruit forward wine with spices that remind you of Zinfandel but with subtle nuances of Zinfandel fruit that are a departure from what you expect. It’s a delicate version of Zinfandel that will win over those who are less to the often less-than-magnificent expression of this grape.
THE PAIRING: The Zinfandel’s fruitiness brings out the fruitiness of the cheese, and this particular Zin doesn’t overwhelm the cheese.