Enoversity: Cheese and Wine

I hear “cheese and wine” and the skies open up and beams of light shine through and a chorus of angels heralds the culinary delights with a soothing serenade and…

OK, OK, that’s a bit over the top, but I think you get my point. I LOVE cheese and wine. Notice how I’m saying cheese and wine, and not the customary wine and cheese. That’s because last night I attended “EnoVersity” with cheese expert extraordinnaire Laura Werlin.

This is a lady after my own heart: she started researching cheese just because she likes it. Now tasting it and educating others about her passion is her full-time job.

She’s on tour to promote her fourth book, “Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insiders Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese,” and stopped at oENOlogy in the Intercontinental to host a seminar on pairing wines with cheese.

Like most, I suspect, I’m used to wine tastings, where you sample several wines based solely on their individual merits. I have been to a few dinners where course pairings are important, but with the exception of my visits to Bin 36 and my experiments with cheese flights and wine flights, I haven’t focused on the cheese. Even then the focus was on the wine. Not so with Laura. We tasted the cheese first, and then sampled the wines to see how they complemented, took over, or seemed to disappear altogether. I was reminded of my brief stint at Pluton, when Sommelier Craig Sindelar (now Head Sommelier at Alinea) had a devil of a time pairing a wine with the cheese course, since there were several options ranging from creamy to crumbly and sweet to salty.

As Laura went through nine cheeses in several different styles, she covered the “essentials.” Just as there are basic characteristics associated with wine varietals and regions, there are givens in the world of fromage also. Once you know them, next time you see a vast array of bries and goudas and goats and bleus you won’t be overwhelmed. (To learn them you’ll just have to get the book!)

I only had two issues with the seminar, and one of them oENOlogy had no control over. The first was the lack of wine. Yes, we were focused on the cheese, I know, but it was about pairings. We were given a small sample of four wines (Champagne, Riesling, Merlot, and a late harvest Semillon, which was poured with the second round of cheese), and once those were out we were out of luck. Cheese goes better with white wine (surprisingly enough) so by the time we got to the second round we were out of the Champagne and the Riesling. I wondered if this frustrated Laura, since she was trying to educate us on the complexities of pairings and how a wine will taste completely different depending on the cheese. It would have been helpful to have a server come by with a little extra for the second round.

The second issue was, well, we had one of “those” guys. You know the type. “When I worked with (insert famous chef’s name here) at (insert famous restaurant’s name here), he would (insert statement of culinary greatness here).” Often he’d cut Laura off to insert his own words of wisdom or anecdote. The seminar wasn’t a lecture by any means – there were only seven of us total, so it was interactive – but this guy was so annoyingly I-know-more-than-you-know that I wanted to push him into the adjoining dining room and tell him to host his own seminar. To her credit, Laura handled the interruptions with grace.

Fortunately, oENOlogy hosts these seminars weekly. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a fantastic spot if you like wine, cheese, and chocolate (so basically it’s a fantastic spot). Located in the Intercontinental, Eno (for short) is coming up on its one year anniversary. They’re also opening one soon in the Fairmont.

Enoversity Schedule:
October 22 Sparkling Wines
October 29 Fabulous Fall Wines
November 5 Turkey Wines
November 12 Syrah/Shiraz
November 19 Dessert Wines
November 26 Up and Coming Spanish Wines
December 3 ENO Anniversary Tasting

505 N Michigan Ave






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