Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wine & Cheese @ IWM in New York

On Saturday afternoon during our recent trip to New York, Nancy kindly babysat Cece and freed up Rob and Janet to take me to a wine and cheese tasting at Italian Wine Merchants just off of Union Square.

I had been to IWM a couple of times on previous visits to New York and it is always a fun place to go. It does not look like much from the outside, but it is very nice inside. It is owned by Sergio Esposito (author of “Passion on the Vine”) together with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (the co-author of “Vino Italiano” (the best book I have seen on Italian wine), not to mention being the son of Lidia Bastianich), so it certainly is well connected with the Italian food and wine movement here in the U.S.

IWM offers an excellent selection of Italian wines and a good deal of useful information on their website. They even have opened a branch in Hong Kong to tap into the growing Asian market for wine – see this entry on their blog from Josh Rubenstein who moved there from New York last year.

IWM’s tasting programs are held in its Studio del Gusto and let by one of their staff, in this case John Camacho Vidal, a portfolio manager. Upon our arrival, we wandered around the main display room for a bit, then were admitted to the Studio.

IWM’s Studio del Gusto is a very pleasant and well-appointed room Rob, Janet and I had our own table which was set prior to our arrival with the afternoon’s pairings with very generous quantities of both the wines and cheeses. The glasses at each place setting were placed on a place mat (pictured further below) with circles on which the glasses were placed with the names of the corresponding wines – a nice touch.

Here are the wines and cheeses we were served.

They were presented in the order shown and we were encouraged to try each wine with the corresponding cheese. I thought this was not the best approach since in my view a number of the pairings were not optimum (Gorgonzola with a Chardonnay?). I would have preferred more encouragement to try each cheese with different wines – something that is done at the Cheese School of San Francisco where we have taken a number of classes.

It was a very enjoyable class, although it was a bit hard to hear some of John’s comments and I thought a few of the things he said were not completely accurate. Here is copy of my placemat on which I kept some of my notes.

As indicated there, our favorite wines were the Bruno Giacosa Barolo (Rob) and the Quintarelli Valpolicella (Janet and me) – two of the more expensive offerings - and our favorite cheeses were the Rosso di Langa from Caseificio dell'Alta Langa and the Fontina. As Janet Fletcher recently wrote in a review of Rosso di Langa:

“If you love the garlicky, barnyard smells of a ripe Taleggio, Rosso di Langa
may strike you as wimpy. But for those unaccustomed to strong cheeses, Rosso di Langa provides a gentle introduction to the category. My mother liked it, which is one way of saying that the cheese is not remotely scary.”

Hmm, the IWM tasting notes for the Rosso di Langa didn’t mention anything about “wimpy,” but if the shoe fits...

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