Cheese Expert Janet Fletcher
Janet Fletcher is the author or co-author of 30 books on food and beverage, including Wine Country Table, Cheese & Wine and Cheese & Beer. Janet publishes the weekly Planet Cheese blog and is the cheese columnist for Specialty Food and Somm Journal magazines. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America and at Chez Panisse, Janet teaches cheese-appreciation classes around the country. A former staff food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Janet received three James Beard Awards and the IACP Bert Greene Award for her journalism. Her food writing has appeared in numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Saveur, Fine Cooking and Food & Wine.
It’s been a great pleasure to collaborate with Janet at the Silverado Cooking School and at other events in the Napa Valley. I’ve long been inspired and guided by her publications: The Cheese Course or Cheese & Wine get opened every time we’re entertaining or experimenting with cheese pairings for a new vintage or varietal. Her commitment to American Artisanal Cheese making is not only personal but as deep and rich as the cheeses she encourages us to celebrate. I encourage you to follow her fascinating Blog, Planet Cheese (just be prepared to visit your local cheese shop or farmers’ market even more frequently than you might have been!)
To follow Janet's Blog Planet Cheese:
Fava Bean Toasts
with Ricotta and Mint
Pour a glass for the chef! We suggest:
2020 Farina Vineyard Sauvignon blanc
2020 "Ingrid and Julia" Rosé
This recipe was inspired by the bruschetta at Bruschetteria, a kelly-green food truck in St. Helena, California. When fava beans are unavailable, you can substitute ½ cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen, or slender asparagus tips.
1 pound fresh fava beans
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 tablespoon freshly grated pecorino romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 teaspoons finely minced green onion or chives
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste
1 small garlic clove, grated or very finely minced
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 slices day-old country-style bread, each about 4 by 2 inches and 1/2-inch thick
Fresh mint leaves or dill for garnish
Remove the fava beans from their fuzzy pods. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat; have ready a bowl of ice water. Plunge the fava beans into the boiling water, return to a boil, and cook until they are tender—about 1 minute if small; 2 minutes if large. (Test a few to be sure.) Drain in a sieve and immediately transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again and peel.
Put the fava beans in a small food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped; do not puree. (Alternatively, you can chop them with a knife.) Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the ricotta, pecorino, 1 teaspoon olive oil, green onion, and lemon zest. Add garlic a little at a time, tasting as you go; you may not want it all. Season to taste with salt and several grinds of black pepper. Taste and add more lemon zest if desired. The mixture should have a lively lemon taste.
Toast or grill the bread on both sides; the center should remain soft. Using the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, brush both sides of each toast with oil.
Transfer the toasts to a work surface. Top with the ricotta spread, dividing it evenly. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Garnish with torn mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Serves 6 as an appetizer
Janet has hand selected some wonderful cheeses to pair with Tres Sabores wines:
Tres Sabores 2020 Ingrid & Julia Rosé:
Cheese picks: Fresh or lightly ripened cheeses such as mozzarella, burrata, Bellwether Farms Crescenza (CA), Nicasio Valley Formagella or Foggy Morning (CA), feta.
The wine is bright, light, fresh and zesty, the sort of wine that gets my appetite going. I would serve it as an aperitif with the kinds of cheeses I like best at the start of a meal. A platter of feta, radishes, olives, mint and Persian cucumbers would be an appealing spring appetizer with this wine.
Tres Sabores 2020 Sauvignon blanc:
Cheese picks: Laura Chenel Marinated Goat Cheese with Thyme and Rosemary (CA); Meredith Dairy Sheep & Goat Cheese (Australia); Green Dirt Farm Fresh Sheep Cheese (MO); Cabra al Romero (Spain),
I like the idea of a lightly herbed cheese with this creamier-styled Sauvignon Blanc, or a cheese marinated in olive oil that you might serve with crostini and a spring salad. The Laura Chenel is fresh tasting and beautifully seasoned; the Meredith Dairy contains sheep’s milk so it’s a little richer and creamier. The Green Dirt Farm cheese is fluffy and delicate; you could season it with some herbes de Provence and olive oil or leave it alone. Cabra al romero is a more mature goat cheese, perfumed by the rosemary on the outside. I think this Sauvignon Blanc has the body and richness to accompany it.
Tres Sabores 2019 Headline White, Willamette Valley:
Cheese picks: With this highly aromatic, crisp and quaffable wine, I want a cheese that’s on the young side, not too serious, very approachable and easy to like. Two of my favorites in that category are Point Reyes Farmstead Toma and Cowgirl Creamery Hop Along. Both are cow’s milk cheeses from Northern California with a similar semisoft to semifirm texture. The Toma has a warm butter aroma and a slight crème fraiche tang; Hop Along is washed in cider and it has a corresponding fruitiness. Both are intended as easygoing cheeses that have wide appeal, as Headline White surely does.
Tres Sabores 2018 Headline Red, Sonoma County:
Cheese picks: Headline Red is a new taste experience for me, made with a variety (St. Laurent) that I don’t know. It has intriguing fruit aromas and medium intensity. The tannins are restrained, so it doesn’t need big cheeses to tame it. The winery’s tasting notes suggest a bloomy-rind goat cheese, which is a great direction. Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche is consistently lovely, with a lactic flavor and a creamy texture when ripe, and it’s relatively easy to find. Made on a much smaller scale, both Tomales Farmstead Creamery’s Kenne from California’s Marin County and Pennyroyal Farm’s Velvet Sister from California’s Anderson Valley, are superb choices in that category.
Tres Sabores 2018 Rutherford Estate Zinfandel:
Cheese picks: It’s hard to imagine a better partner for this wine than Vella Dry Jack Special Select. The designation “Special Select” indicates extra aging. This cow’s milk cheese from Sonoma County is a California classic, and the long maturation gives it a lot of concentration, nuttiness and depth. The wine is intense, like blackberry jam, and it needs a cheese of comparable intensity. A terrific second-best would be Valley Ford Cheese Estero Gold Reserve, an aged cow’s milk wheel from Sonoma County.
Tres Sabores 2019 ¿Por qué no? :
Cheese picks: For this smooth and easy-drinking red, I look to cheeses that are equally easy to eat, with the depth that comes from age but no strong or sharp flavors. Some of the new American Cheddars are particularly fruity and mellow and would be great companions. Good choices include Face Rock Bandaged Cheddar, Milton Creamery Flory’s Truckle and Beehive Cheese Promontory. Beehive Cheese Barely Buzzed—essentially Promontory with a coating of ground coffee—was created in the same “why not?” spirit as the wine and would be fun to pair with it.
Tres Sabores 2018 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon:
Cheese picks: This beautifully balanced and elegant red has classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas and structure. My go-to cheeses for Cabernet Sauvignon are aged sheep cheeses, like pecorino Toscano, Manchego, Carr Valley Cave-Aged Marisa (WI) and Vermont Shepherd Verano. Ossau-Iraty from France’s Basque region is a particular favorite.
Tres Sabores 2017 Petite Sirah:
Cheese picks: For this intense and concentrated red, which has some of the aromatic qualities of Port, I think of tangy English-style Cheddars like Montgomery’s or, from this country, Cabot Clothbound (VT). Italy’s Piave, an aged cow’s milk cheese that resembles a young Parmigiano Reggiano but with more nuttiness and sweetness, would have the power to stand up to this wine. Surprisingly, Alemar Cheese Bent River, a cow’s milk Camembert-style cheese with a pronounced mushroom scent, paired beautifully with it—surprising because I would typically have a reached for a rich white wine for this cheese. Just goes to show that “you never know until you try.”