Perfect Pairings for Local Hard Ciders
The Culture Club
During harvest season in Wine Country, our thoughts turn not only to grapes but also to local apples, especially the heirloom varieties that have contributed so greatly to the storied agricultural history of our area.
As highlighted in Karen Pavone’s “Hard Core” feature in this issue of Edible Marin & Wine Country, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in these delicious and iconic apples, driven in large part by the burgeoning local craft cider movement.
This second installment of our local cheese and spirits pairing column serves up local cheeses perfect for enjoying with three unique hard ciders from Sebastopol’s Devoto Orchards Ciders.
Cidre Noir and Andante Dairy’s Picolo
Cidre Noir is a “dry blend” from Devoto. Arkansas Black, Black Twig, Black Jonathan and the other heirloom apples used in Cidre Noir are harvested late in the year, giving the cider a balanced body and crispness and the refreshing mineral taste of tart apples. The cider is pale in color, with tiny bubbles that rise consistently in your glass.
Cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy in Petaluma is the creator of Picolo, a beautiful soft-ripened triple-cream cheese. It’s a pale yellow fluffy cheese that, unlike many triple-cream cheeses, is not heavy. Picolo is made from rich Jersey cow milk with a touch of acidity from the addition of crème fraîche that creates a bright, refreshing flavor.
Save the Gravenstein and Two Rock Valley Dairy’s Two Rock Valley Goat
Devoto’s Save the Gravenstein Dry Cider is made in Sebastopol from 90% locally grown Gravenstein apples, picked in August at the peak of ripeness. Clear in appearance, this cider has a green apple aroma and a slight sweetness.
Don and Bonnie DeBernardi’s venture in artisanal cheesemaking started in the late ‘90s when they added two goats to their longtime dairy cow operation. Originally purchased to amuse their grandchildren, the goats led the DeBernardis’ down an entirely different path. Don still delivers much of the creamery’s highly acclaimed cheese himself to many local retail and farmers’ markets.
Two Rock Valley Goat is an aged raw-milk goat cheese made with vegetarian rennet. The alpine-inspired cheese has a firm texture and nutty flavor with hints of caramel. As it ages, the caramel flavor becomes more pronounced.
1976 and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s Bay Blue
1976 is a semi-dry cider blended with the original apple varieties planted by Stan and Susan Devoto 40 years ago in the hills of Sebastopol. The smooth cider has a ripe apple flavor.
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s Bay Blue is the most recent addition to the Giacomini family’s array of award-winning cheeses. Cheesemaker Kuba Hemmerling uses pasteurized cow milk to craft Bay Blue, the rustic- style gluten-free blue cheese reminiscent of English Stilton. Aged for 90 days exposed to the air, the cheese has a mellow flavor with earthy notes, blue-green veins and natural rind. Bay Blue’s moist, dense texture and salted caramel notes are delicious with Devoto’s 1976.
Pairing choices and tasting notes contributed by Gary Fitzgerald, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional and the cheese specialist at Whole Foods Market on East Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley.