Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist
Our July Cheese of the Month, Toma Provence, comes from one of our favorite California creameries, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Tobias Giacomini arrived in the United States in 1904 with dreams of farming California’s fertile soil. In 1959 his grandsons, Bob and Dean Giacomini, bought dairy land nestled in Tomales Bay and started running cattle to sell milk to local creameries. The first wheels of Original Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead and Cheese Company rolled out in August of 2000 marking California’s first classic style blue cheese. The rest is history.
Now the creamery is certified woman owned, run by the daughters of Bob and Dean. And they place sustainability high on the list of priorities at Point Reyes. Decisions are made based on what is healthiest for the cows in pasture and what is best for the land. Point Reyes recycles water and captures methane to power roughly half of the farm’s operations. They carefully manage their pastures to ensure soil, air, and water health by minimizing erosion and farming for carbon sequestration. You can read more about sustainability at the farm here.
Now, to the cheese. Toma Provence is a delicious and rich semi-hard cheese. Already rich in texture with a buttery characteristic and mild lactic notes in the bouquet, the added herbs de Provence bring a nice level of complexity and character to the cheese. The blend of herbs consists of rosemary, basil, marjoram, wild thyme, and savory. It’s a standby for summer gatherings where crisp Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc flow freely.
Well, for me and this cheese there were no free-flowing Rosé parties to be had. Instead, I made my way to the pool armed with a baguette, olives, some cured meats and a thick wedge of Toma Provence whilst juggling a couple wines I was eager to knock back.
I started with bubbles because, well, bubbles. The bottle that day was a beautiful Crémant de Limoux from Faire La Fête. A rough translation of the name means “to celebrate” or “to have a party” and a party it is once you pop the cork. Limoux is a historic region located in the Languedoc province in the south of France. Although Champagne gets all the credit for sparkling wine, the vignerons in Limoux were bottle fermenting sparkling wines for years while the monks in Champagne were still wearing armor into the cellars trying to figure out why corks were popping each spring.
On the nose it is expressive, once you get past the bit of sting from sniffing a carbonated beverage too aggressively. Baked granny smith apples, candied lemon and ginger notes with bready, yeasty notes subtly support everything. The crisp acid helps to cleanse the palate after a bit of the Toma while the slight breadiness of the wine compliments the buttery, lactic flavors in the cheese. The herbs are subtle and just mingle with the apple on the palette, drawing out to a delicious and long finish. Needless to say, I am a fair fan of bubbles, and the Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux paired with some Point Reyes Toma fits the bill.
The second bottle of my wine and cheese bacchanal was a lovely Rosé of Pinot Noir from the village of Sancerre in the Loire Valley, France. This bottle actually comes from the commune of Bué, a bit to the west and south of the town of Sancerre. Domaine du Carrou from Dominique Roger is made from Pinot Noir farmed at 350m, at the highest point in all of Bué. That altitude, along with the clay limestone soils, are ideal for growing this cool climate Pinot. The farming is thoughtful and intensive as herbicides and pesticides are never used and grapes are always harvested by hand to maintain their integrity. The grapes are direct pressed leading to a light blush pink wine and the juice is fermented by indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks. The care in the winery and vineyard shines through on the nose with aromas of crunchy red berries and grapefruit zest. The palette is saline and tight and cuts through the creamy fat of the Toma like a razor. The berry and citrus characters mingle with the Provençal herbs making this a really enjoyable pairing experience.
Toma Provence is July’s Cheese of the Month. Find it at the Cheese Counter for 20% off all month.
Domaine du Carrou Rosé of Pinot Noir is on sale for $19.99 (reg. $23.99) and Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux is on sale for $21.99 (reg. $24.99) now through 7/26.