chef tested hard to find and unusual products


Executive Chef Josh Silvers
Syrah Restaurant, Santa Rosa, CA

The Stylings of California Cheese
By Ellen Walsh
Photos by Steve Aja

Exquisite cheese courses are not just for the French anymore.
Josh Silvers of Sarah shows us what he does with
the artisan and specialty cheese of California.

For our first tasting, Josh brings you three cows milk cheese. The sexy, cheese dripping out of the copper pot is Crescenza of Bellwether Farms. A beautiful silky, soft, cows milk cheese that oozes its fresh grassy, buttery and slightly tart flavor, this is an amazing California cheese made in the small farming community of Valley Ford. Josh chose the fresh feel of a viogner to pair with this cheese, and so we went with California wine producer De La Montanya. This 2000 Viognier offers a fruity bouquet of grapefruit, wrapped in a gentle, pale straw, bright and clear yellow color. On the palate are pear, melon and peach with a hint of apricot and a velvety mid palate mouth-feel. Polish that off with a citrus finish full of oak, and you can see why it was chosen to enhance, and not overpower, the light flavor of this gentle cheese.

The Red Hawk, from Cow Girl Creamery, located in Tomales Bay, California, is an organic Triple Cream cheese. It features a washed rind and is aged six weeks. The resulting flavor, rich and full, lent itself to a sauvignon blanc, or even a sparkling wine. We chose to pair this cheese with Everitt Ridge's 2000 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc. Aged in French oak barrels, this clean, crisp sauvignon blanc comes from the cool climate of the Mendocino County area. The aromas of citrus, mineral, pear and ripe peaches carry through to a bold palate. Aging on lees gives it enough body to match with the creamy texture of this flavorful cheese. Only 749 cases of this wine were made.

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The third cheese on the platter, Pierce Point of Cow Girl Creamery, made a beautiful contrast to the first two selections with it's slightly firmer body and spicier rind. Made out of whole cows milk, and washed in sauterne and then rolled in dried herbs, this cheese was aged three weeks. Its mild, nutty flavor worked well with our pairing of Chateau Felice's 2000 Chardonnay. This I00% Chardonnay, old vine wine is a family treasure. The color of golden autumn straw, this wine fills the glass with a cornucopia of fruit aromas - apple, citrus, pear and peach. The fruit focuses on the center of the palate and becomes pastry as caramel, yeast, and toasted oak fill the mouth. A hint of lemon rests on the side of the tongue as a bright finish. A Russian River Valley Appellation, only 225 cases of this wine were made. It was whole cluster pressed, and aged I3 months in French Oak.

Made from unpasteurized cows milk from the Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes, California, this exquisite blue cheese features a beautiful pale white coloring with blue veining. Its creamy body with a nice round finish and mild saltiness resembles the French or Danish blues. Nothing other than a big red wine would do for this pairing, so we chose Rosenblum Cellars 2000 Abba Vineyard Syrah. This wine exhibits blackberry and wild cherries, with a full mouth feel. Smoked game and white pepper are very intense in both the palate and aromatics, with subtle hints of vanilla and spices complimenting the fruit.

Moving over to the right a little, sits the St. George from the Matos Family. This cows milk cheese was aged for 3 - 4 months on their farm in Santa Rosa, California. A Portuguese style cheese, this reminds you of a cheddar with its tangy, nutty flavor. However, it's pale color with its small holed open texture makes it one of a kind, and we paired it with another one of a kind, the 1998 Sonoma Coast Lebelula Wine. This hand selected lot of grapes comes from the shaggy coast of the Sonoma coastline, near the small town of Jenner. The clay loam soils and long cool harvests create an exception environment for this wonderful fruit. This wonderful scent, hinting of violets, cola, the floor of Sonoma's wonderful coastal forest, is layered with cherry cobbler and citrus blossom. The flavors are rich and supple, pure and deep, and pairs wonderfully with thc tangy, nutty flavor of the St. George cheese.

The final compliment to these selections was a wonderful, deep, flavorful Raw Milk White Cheddar from the Bravo Cheese Company. Everyone we presented this cheese to said, " Wow!" As a cheese ages and loses moisture, the proteins harden and form super-concentrated little crystals. You'll find this pleasing characteristic in aged farmhouse Gouda, and more commonly in good, aged Parmesan Reggiano. We also found it in this wonderful cheddar. The ever so slightly crunchy texture makes this cheese stand out from the others, and also worked out as the cheese of choice for Josh's Original Apple Pie. We consider this cheese a find, so we paired it twice. Once with this grouping, and once with Josh's Original Apple Pie.

The Agajanian I998 Zinfandel is an approachable wine that shows nice control. The fruit flavors are nicely proportioned with the tannins. Very dark color with Port like aromas with hints of boysenberry, raspberry, and yes, cigar. Technically dry, but still soft, allowing the full flavor of thc cheddar to pull through, yet not overpowering it, all at the same time.

The 1997 Limerick Lane dessert wine is Josh's favorite pairing with his Original Apple Pie, and the Raw Milk White Cheddar by Bravo topped with candied walnuts. This pairing finished off the flavor profile perfectly. This incredibly special late harvest Furmint produced only 350 cases. Produced from a select parcel of clay and loam on the Collins Vineyard, this dessert wine delivers layers of apricot, nectarine and creme brulee flavors.

Crottin, a goat's milk cheese is a product of the Redwood Hill Farm located in Sebastapol, California. A slightly firm texture, this cheese has a tendency to develop a slight mold. It's white interior with an intense, creamy flavor made this a natural to pair with Richard Partridge's I999 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. Now, this is a cabernet of distinction. It's dark, reddish ruby in color with great legs. The bouquet is alluring aromas of blackberry and black cherry with hints of cocoa powder, anise and spicy vanilla. These aromas coalesce with the rich. full body's dark cherry and plum flavors that climax with a long, elegant, finish, making it a natural to go with this creamy textured cheese.

Laura Chenel's Chevre Cabecou is a pure goat milk cheese marinated in a seasoned olive oil. This cheese has a semi dry center, encased by a moist aged outer rind. Strong in flavor because of the age and olive oil marinade, we paired this flavorful cheese with Mazzacco 1996 County Cabernet Sauvignon. This intensely rich textured wine has a firm, tight tannin structure and layers of concentrated. fresh berry flavors, with a long, elegant finish. We drank the whole bottle. The complexity of the Cabecou will hold our interest.

This is anything but the macaroni and cheese you get in the grocery store. A hearty and down home dish that is designed to comfort the soul, this recipe is too easy to make, and too luxurious to have every day, all at the same time. This combination of Bravo White Cheddar, combined with a little bit of Bellwether Farm's Crescenza, serves as the base for this wonderful blend. But the thick slab of Humboldt Fog from the Cypress Grove Farm out of Eureka, California baked right into the middle of this treat, makes it the only place to stick the fork as you reach for your first bite. This goats milk cheese, aged three weeks has its distinguishing mark of its grape vine ash middle. It's soft and sexy with a salty, tangy flavor- a flavor not lost during the short baking process it took to melt it. We took turns pairing this with a wonderful trio of De Loach Vineyard wines.

De Loach Vineyards, 1999 Chardonnay - This is a very elegant Chardonnay, offering aromas of Red Delicious apples, cream and toast. Tropical fruit flavors of peach and apple blend nicely with oak complexities. Well balanced with a long crisp finish.

De Loach Vineyards, 1999 Zinfandel - This wine has a velvety smooth entry into the palate followed with layers of fruit and spice. The long, lingering finish echoes flavors of blackberry, chocolate and spice. This big sumptuous flavor prolonged the wonderful flavors in the rich Humboldt Fog cheese that topped the presentation.

De Loach Vineyards, 1998 Chardonnay - This bright, crisp wine with aromas of Golden Delicious apples and Bartlett pears, was a lighter rendition to pair with the Three California Cheese Medley and Mac. The mingling nuances of oak with a hint of butter served to remind you why you had given in to such a hearty temptation to begin with. This elegant Chardonnay is clean and well balanced with a long finish.


Other Great Related Links:
The Best in Italian Cheese & Wine
The Styling of California Cheese
California Cheese Please
Cooking with Cheese
Buying Cheese
Storing Cheese
Where's the Cheese

Chefs Recipe:
Three California Cheese and Macaroni Medley

Living in the Details

Executive Chef Josh SIlvers Bio

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