Cheese & Wine Appreciation–Its history in the U.S.
Cheese has been my personal favorite food product since I was a toddler. Wine appreciation came later. When I first started drinking wine, it was not necessarily the best. I’d order it, as wine was something I could sip and not drink too fast. As my dining experiences became more diversified (although they were always good from childhood), the quality and character of the wine improved and my appreciation started to grow.
I’ve read many good books and articles on wine and have learned a lot. But there is no way I could call myself an expert and neither would anyone else. Cheese however is another story. While covering “2009 Taste of the Caribbean,” I was fortunate to meet representatives from the U.S. Dairy Export Council. In addition to providing extensive samples of U.S. cheese intended for export, they had an impressive “Cheese & Wine Appreciation Guide.” The following information is paraphrased and quoted from its material.
Many American traditions reflect our immigrant ancestry. The first immigrants brought with them cheese and the skills needed to make it. As cattle started to produce a steady source of milk, cream and butter, our dairy traditions began and cheese making soon followed. An entire industry was born in the United States. This industry pioneered research in dairy science and cheese making, which yielded production efficiencies and an unparalleled safety record.
Today, the U.S. is the largest cheese producing country in the world, crafting over 400 varieties and close to four million metric tons annually. U. S. cheese consistently wins top honors at international competitions.
The Hill Team in its domestic travels has sampled on site many delicious cheeses ranging from the Rogue Valley in Oregon (the blue and goat varieties are outstanding) to the traditional aged cheddar from Vermont, in other words, we’ve tasted from coast to coast and many states in between.
When Viking Leif Ericson landed near Newfoundland, around 1,000 years ago, he named the North American continent Vineland. This was prophetic, since currently there are commercial wineries in 47 of the 50 United States as well as Canada and Mexico. First developed in America by French Huguenots in Florida around 1560, wine making now flourishes from New York state to California and many places in between.
In the 1920s, Prohibition almost destroyed the wine industry in the U.S. Fortunately, a handful of the best grapes were spared for use in “Sacramental Wines.”
Since the late 1950s, a renaissance in wine making and viticulture has spread from California across the country. The eastern seaboard entered into the world of super premium wines. New York, known for wine from the Finger Lake region, also has a bourgeoning artisanal wine industry on Long Island. Virginia has won several prestigious awards. One of the best sparkling wines is from New Mexico. Missouri is home to dozens of wineries. California accounts for 90% of all U.S. wine production. There is no end in sight to the proliferation of small vineyards producing unique and exciting regional wines. America has truly become Vineland.
When The Hill Team ventured on a wine tour of Southern Oregon, we tasted many award winning exceptional wines. While attending a function in Arizona, Norm and I discovered that our own state currently has 41 vineyards and more on the way. Many of them are making exceptional names for themselves. All three of us are discovering little boutique wineries throughout the U.S., as we venture to out of the way places.
My opinion is that good wine making comes from working with the soil and learning which varietals provide the best results. In the past, Americans frequently tried to grow the wrong grapes in the wrong soil. Now, they appear to have discovered the magic combination of which grapes grows best where.
Shortly, a post will be about categories of cheese and then pairings.
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