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Why You Should Drink Real and Grower Champagne This Valentine’s Day

14 Feb
French Champagne
Real champagne is so worthwhile because the region comprises the best terroir in the world for sparkly wine and because over the course of two centuries winemakers there have perfected the art of making it. But more importantly, grower champagne is the real gem

Large champagne houses buy grapes from growers and vinify themselves, making “house styles” that are divorced from the time and the place from which they came. Small-scale growers farm their own grapes and make their own wine, allowing them to pay closer attention to each bottle. Paradoxically, the price you pay for one of these small-scale projects is often less than what you would pay for a similar quality bottle of Veuve: when you purchase a “luxury” yellow label bottle, you’re paying as much for the label as you are for what’s in the bottle.

So this Valentine’s day buy small. We’ve got a great selection of small-scale sparklies: Philipponnat and Serge Mathieu from Champagne, but also some lovely Moscato d’Asti, Raventos i Blanc Cava from Spain, and many more.–John Herbstritt of Cheese Plus


Valentine’s Day Champagne and Roses at Cheese Plus

7 Feb

Nothing says I love you like a bottle of Champagne and some red red roses. But you still have to go to work the next day, and a whole bottle split between two, well; if you want to get up the next morning clear-headed…not to mention the importance of being alert and energetic after dinner…

Anyways, the clear answer is to get a half-bottle. It’s easy on your pocketbook and on your Advil bottle, but you still get authentic Champagne. Your loved one will be thrilled, and so will you.

This Valentine’s Day Cheese Plus will be doing a pre-order special for a bouquet of six roses and a half-bottle of Champagne. For only $45 you can get a gorgeous bouquet of six long stem, local roses and a split of Serge Mathieu Blanc de Noirs. Originally priced at $24 and $26 respectively, a pre-order gets you ten percent off. Sunday February 11 will be the last day for pre-orders so get on it! John Herbstritt of Cheese Plus

Serge Mathieu Tradition Blanc de Noirs 375 mL- $23.99

All Pinot Noir based Champagne from the Aube in the Southern part of the Champagne region. Richly textured, ripe cherries and strawberries, with a hint of orange peel on the finish. Perfect with triple cream cow’s milk cheese like Brillat-Savarin or Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery.

Six-rose bouquet from Paul Robertson Floral – $25.99

Our resident florist Paul makes every day special here at Cheese Plus, but for St. Valentine be pulls out all the stops. Six perfect local long stem roses in a beautifully wrapped bouquet. Roses are red, yes, but you don’t have to be.

Four Great Local Brews to Support Your Local Team

2 Feb

We’ve put together a tight selection of local brews for the big day. Drink stuff that’s made here to support your SF team!–John Herbstritt of Cheese Plus

Almanac Beer Co Biere de Chocolat and Extra IPA:

Two new brews from SF-based Almanac Beer Co. showcase local barley, malts, hops, and locally-roasted cocoa nibs from Dandelion Chocolate. The Biere de Chocolat is a smoked porter base with layers of chocolate and citrus. Rich texture deepened with fresh local hops. The Extra IPA combines everything you love about our distinctive CA style with the richness of a Saison. They add mandarins from Blossom Bluff Farm to bring out the latent citrus flavors of the hops. Which is all to say that these are great companions for a rich game-watching experience.


Anchor Brekle’s:

Single-hop all malt brown beer made by our favorite old-school local brewery. Coffee and caramel play with hints of orange rind making it not only the perfect beer for cheering on the 49ers, but also a great winter beer in general.

Anchor Breckles

21st Amendment Sneak Attack:

Local hipster-bro beer outfit 21st amendment created a winter Saison that is as delicious as it is unexpected. It is assertively spicy: brewed with whole cardamom pods and dry-hopped to perfection. These guys were instrumental in quenching the thirsts of rabid Giant’s fans during the Summer’s conquests and are eager to lend their talents to the battle at hand.

Sneak Attack

Drake’s Denogginizer Imperial IPA:

Double IPA from one of our favorite new Bay Area breweries located in San Leandro. Double the hops equals double the bitter, but they’re balanced by uber rich Crystal and Munich malts. I know what you’re going to say: San Leandro is in the East Bay which means they’re probably Raiders fans. But let’s put transbay rivalries aside just for a moment, come together, and enjoy great local brews.


Six Great Wines for Winter Seafood

10 Jan

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Winter is here, which means that great local seafood is back on the table. Succulent Dungeness crab steamed with garlic butter, Hog Island Kumamoto Oysters on the half-shell with mignonette, moules-frites au Roquefort, grilled whole snapper with fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley. Whatever your deep sea fix is, we’ve got the perfect wine for it. Here are a few suggestions.

2011 Pierre Henri Muscadet Sevre et Maine – $11.99
Muscadet is the briny, zippy, dry white wine native to the region around the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast and is what you sip when you have oysters plucked fresh from the sea in that area. Pierre Henri has been making his mineral-driven ferment for decades in the same fashion. Ripe grapes are picked and fermented on the skins in concrete vats buried underground, These age on the lees for two winters in order to gain richness and texture. But the secret of Saint-Fiacre lies in the soil itself. Covered many years ago by the sea, a thick layer of fossilized seashells composes the subsoil adding a mineral streak to the wines. Perfect with our local Sweetwater oysters on the half-shell.

2011 Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica – $16.99

Verdicchio is one of the most widely planted white grapes in Italy, but in the right hands it can be truly sublime. The best is found in verdicchio-di-matelica-collestefano_1and around the village of Matelica in the Marche on the East coast of Central Italy. Organic farming, low yields, and cool stainless steel fermentation make for a wine of precise balance, airy briny minerality, and herbal and citrus aromatics. Enjoy with all manner of fresh seafood or as an aperitif with roasted almonds and casatica di bufala.

2011 Valdesil Godello Sobre Lias – $19.99
The NW corner of Spain is lush, rainy and cool and the local cuisine is centered around the ocean: a far cry from the dusty plains of La Mancha. The white wines there are correspondingly briny and fresh. These old vines are planted on schist soils which contribute their characteristic minerality. Extended fine lees aging gives the wine an unctuous texture balanced by bright acidity and citrus notes. Fried whole sardines with meyer lemon aioli and arugula on the menu?

2010 Roland Tissier Sancerre – $20.99
Sancerre is perhaps the most famous spot in France for Sauvignon Blanc which means that it can be difficult to find a well-made example for a reasonable price. This one’s a classic. Fresh flower buds, grapefruit, with a streak of slate running straight through the middle. Perfect with oysters on the half-shell, mussels steamed with shallots and white wine or asparagus with tarragon vinaigrette.

2010 Edmunds St. John El Dorado Heart of Gold – $19.99IMG_4938.JPG

Steve Edmunds has been making delicious and unique Rhone style wines since the mid-eighties in his facility in Berkeley. His Vermentino / Grenache Blanc blend carries on the tradition of Rhone whites: lushly textured, redolent of white flowers, peaches, and almond paste, but with a fresh zippy brightness to keep things tight. Extremely versatile at the table. Enjoy with trout almondine, seared salmon with lemon-caper butter or even roast chicken.

2011 Arnot-Roberts Watson Ranch Napa Chardonnay – $32.99Arnot-Roberts
Winemaker Duncan Arnot and cooper (yes he makes barrels) Nathan Roberts teamed up to make some of the most compelling cool-climate wines in CA right now. Watson Ranch is the southeasternmost tip of Napa Valley, looking right out over the San Pablo Bay. The soils are limestone with a layer of marine deposit on top. The grapes are picked at a moderate level of ripeness, pressed, fermented in stainless steel, and then transferred to neutral barrels for seven months. All of this is to say that it is a wine of tension and finely-tuned elegance that has a distinct sense of place and time. Forget oak and butter, this is limestone and sea breeze. Just about anything from the ocean will do, but especially crab.

–By John Herbstritt of Cheese Plus

The 5 Most Popular Items at Cheese Plus

7 Dec
  1. Brillat Savarin Triple Crème: This triple creme is the richest, creamiest soft ripened cheese in the store. It is 75% butterfat which is just 9% lower than butter itself. Hello? Needless to say it melts on the palate. Named after a famous 18th century French gastronome, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who is known for the quote “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” We assure you that if you eat this you are happy.Image
  2. Pasamontes Manchego: This nine-month artisan raw sheep milk cheese is made by octegenarians Mr. and Mrs. Pasamontes in the same way and place their relatives used since the 1870’s.  It’s a firm and complex cheese with deep nutty rich flavors. Because it’s made exclusively from the milk of a closed herd of 200 sheep and known as Spain’s best Manchego it’s always in limited supply.Image
  3. Rustic Bakery Crackers: Their crunchy snap and classic San Francisco sourdough flavor make these handmade, organic, Marin County delights the crackers of choice for Bay Area cheese lovers. Image
  4. David’s Old World Pastrami: Rachel and David Michael Cane, hosts of the award winning culinary travel radio show “A Matter of Taste” wanted to bring a taste of their NYC youth to the Bay Area so they began making pastrami. They brine and slow-cure briskets and navels hand rubbed with a special blend of garlic and spices, slowly smoked over real hardwood fires, and then steamed to the perfect texture. The result is always properly spiced, perfectly smoked and succulently tender. It’s a SF favorite.Image
  5. Jeni’s Ice Cream: We can’t say enough about Jeni’s–especially during the holidays when they release their unique seasonal varieties. This Ohio brand creates amazing hand made American deliciousness using only pure ingredients and milk and cream from cows that eat grass.Image

The Best Big Spicy Reds Under $20

29 Nov

John took some time from his busy schedule as head wine taster at Cheese Plus to share some of his picks for the holiday season. Here are his tasting notes on four big reds for little green.

2010 Coteaux des Travers Rasteau Reserve – $15.99
Southern Rhone Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Bold, fruit-forward spicy but with enough structure and acid to keep it afloat. Tension and rocks galore.

2011 Antic Central Coast Pinot Noir – $17.99
Earthy, fruity, a real Pinot Noir. Natural yeast fermented, low sulfur, no new oak. Plums, dried flowers, autumnal spices.

2009 Tayerle Troubadour – $9.99
Old Vine Syrah and Valdiguie (old French varietal) from Suisun Valley just SE of Napa. Loren Tayerle lives in the neighborhood and makes great, honest wine in Napa sourced from vineyards up and down NorCal. Concentrated, black cherries, cinnamon and star anise. Exotic but from just next door.

2010 Bielsa Garnacha – $11.99
Old vine Garnacha (Grenache) from Eastern Spain. red and black pepper, rich red fruit, but with a dusty edge that speaks of the dry Spanish plains.

Best Gifts To Bring a Food-Loving Party Host

16 Nov
  1. Villa Manodori Cherry Balsamic
  2. Martelli Pasta
  3. Mead and Meads Maple Syrup

In an etiquette article from Conde Nast Traveller magazine, Robert Hickey of the Protocol School of Washington notes the right gift should be “a distilled symbol of your relationship.” Now you and your host or hostess probably have a common love of food and even of the products we carry at Cheese Plus so here are three gifts we enthusiastically recommend.

  1. Villa Manodori Cherry Balsamic. Aged for eight years in dark cherry wood, this artisan balsamic has tart notes followed by a thick balsamic sweetness that’s been described as “addictive.” Produced in very small quantities by Massimo Bottura of Michelin-star winning Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, Italy, this makes a bold salad dressing over spicy greens or use as a finishing drizzle on risotto or roasted pork. It’s absolutely divine over Negranti Dairy Sheep Milk Honey flavor ice cream.
  2. Martelli Pasta. The Martelli family in the tiny Tuscan town of Lari makes only four cuts of pasta. What makes them our favorite dried pastas is that this is truly “slow food.” It’s kneaded with cold water then dried for up to fifty hours hours at 91-97 degrees to make this intensely flavored pasta more firm and chewy. The long curing process plus being extruded through traditional bronze dyes creates a more textured pasta that “grips” the sauce.  Always in the same yellow bag since 1926, your host will love this.
  3. Mead and Mead’s Pure Maple Syrup. Winter and Jude Mead run their small family sugaring house in the Canaan Valley of Connecticut wth the highest standards of stewardship. Making great maple syrup is a slow process of removing the water from the freshly tapped sap through reverse osmosis. The sap is then boiled until it has exactly 67% sugar content and triple filtered, resulting in a syrup  that is very complex and rich yet light with a clean sweetness.  This is nothing like the pancake stuff from that famous aunt. What’s more, its beautiful clear Italian glass bottle with an embossed maple leaf helps turn this liquid gold into a perfect present.