Wine and Dine
Cheese Twins' top 3 tips for Austin diners on pairing cheese and wine
If you keep up with cheese, or TV food shows, or even just twins, then you may be familiar with the Cheese Twins. Real-life twin brothers Michael and Charlie Kalish preach about cheese, whether on Food Network or at various food festivals.
Thanks to a consulting relationship with the dairy industry and a partnership with Meiomi Wines, the twins are spending their time offering tips on cheese plates and wine pairings. The advice feels timely, given the current popularity of charcuterie and cheese plates around Austin, but the twins have been into cheese for a while.
"Our background is in cheese making, we spent our 20s making cheese," Michael says. "We're very active in the cheese industry. Pairing wines is a way to amplify the eating and drinking experience to bring two wonderful things together."
You might not think that assembling a cheese plate is all that complicated. Put cheese on a plate. But Michael says they have a strategy.
"You start with a lighter body cheese that's not too taxing on the tastebuds, then move towards a more full-bodied, more robust cheese," he says. "A blue cheese is a fairly strong cheese compared to a triple cream. You go from light to strong. And it's the same thing with wine. The pairings should match one another."
Other factors that you may not have ever considered in your cheese ruminations include texture and visual properties.
"You can go from spreadable cheese to a cheese with more shape and then something more firm," Charlie says. "You can consider different flavors, textures, and colors. A blue versus a creamy pale white. By coloring up the cheese board, it's tantalizing just to look at."
Even with their cheese background, some flavor discoveries take them by surprise.
"I had an old piece of Parmesan stuck in the refrigerator that I normally used to grate over pasta," Charlie says. "But I cut it up and ate it with pinot, and it brought out these flavors of cream soda. When you age cheeses, you get these caramel notes, especially in cheddar. But to pull that out of Parmesan, it was one of those blow-you-away pairings."
Meiomi is one of the bigger recent success stories in wine. It was founded by Joseph Wagner, who is part of the Caymus Vineyards family, and became big quickly after making a well-rated affordable Pinot Noir. After only five years, Meiomi was acquired by Constellation Brands, which also owns Robert Mondavi, Estancia, Ravenswood, Mark West, Corona beer, Casa Noble tequila, and more. Meiomi now makes three wines, all for around $25: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a recently introduced Rose.
"Chardonnay has a nice luscious mouthfeel, with a little oak and a little vanilla," Michael says. "It goes well with cheeses that are similar, like a fresh farmers cheese or cheddar. Anything that's fudgy and creamy like the Chardonnay."
They started the Cheese Twins thing out of a little apartment in San Francisco, after returning from stints working in Europe. By 2012, they began making fun little videos. They were in the right time and place, having witnessed artisan cheese go through a renaissance.
"We're seeing a booming interest in cheese," Charlie says. "We play an active role in the American Cheese Society and they have seen incredible growth over the last five to 10 years. The membership numbers have risen, and so have the number of artisan cheeses that are produced. That's what we're seeing in so many cities around the U.S."
That includes Antonelli's in Austin, Scardello in Dallas, Gourmage in New Braunfels, and Houston Dairymaids in Houston.
"The last time we were in Dallas, we went for a tasting at Scardello with the owner, Rich Rogers," Michael says. "If I recall, they had more than 100 types of cheese. And we also met some people who let us have a sample of what they had ordered. There's something social about it and you get to explore new things."