I have been ordering cheese from Mark in Boston for years and I have come to trust his palate and business ethics implicitly. Whenever there has been a problem with an order, he has promptly made it right. Sometimes he will even discourage me from purchasing something I ask for because of questions of quality or pricing. He also always lets me lead in this telephone dance we do by allowing me to pick his brain for suggestions. Usually I'm angling toward an inevitable: "What goes with red wine, Mark?" This time he suggested Spanish Urgelia which he not only liked, himself, but the pricing was good to boot.
Urgelia is a semi-soft washed rind cow's milk cheese from NW Catalonia, the autonomous region adjacent to France. Specifically this cheese is from the townships of Alt Urgell and Cerdanay in the provinces of Lleid and Girona in the Pyranees Mountains. Urgelia is both a cheese and a brand of cheese manufactured by one large cooperative sourcing milk from two hundred dairy farmers in the region who are sustained by this industry.
The cheese is made from Frisona breed cow milk which is pasteurized for export but may be unpasteurized for local consumption. Urgelia is a washed rind cheese bathed repeatedly in a yeasty brine before its forty-five day ripening period. The flavor is a robust buttery taste with noticeable saltiness and a slightly bitter finish. Washed rind cheeses often sport challenging aromatics for many of us. This one offers hints of garlicky meatiness but nothing profoundly stinky.
Spain produces a hundred or so different cheeses with only thirteen receiving a "D.O.", the government sanction guaranteeing quality by regulating production methods. Urgelia is one of those DOs. The finished cheese has a light brown rind and an ivory white interior punctuated with irregular small holes. It is a cylinder standing all of three inches tall; extending nine inches in diameter; and weighing about five pounds.
So does it go with red wine? But of course! Most reviewers I consulted thought it would marry with any of a number of choices. Spainguides.com suggested Volver Tempranillo, which is now in stock here. The California website, sfgate.com, liked it with California wine of course, and coincidentally this weekend 2011 Peju Napa Cabernet Sauvignon arrives here at special pricing. White wine and beer are also allowed for this one.
Urgelia goes with fresh fruit, almonds, marinaded olives, tapas, and other regional Spanish dishes. Stateside, it melts well on burgers and tops off a tossed salad nicely.
This Friday, February 21st between 5 and 7pm, Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage joins us for a tasting of high altitude Mendoza, Argentina reds. Testamento is the wine brand and we'll taste five offerings all sporting new world forward fruit along with structure and balance that reflect old world values. Please join us.