The spirits of aprés ski
December 28, 2007
Since I have moved to Utah I have grown a great appreciation for one of its most cherished traditions: Aprés ski, the ritualistic event that helps one wind down from a long and arduous day on the slopes. It usually includes some alcoholic beverages and a few snacks. I have worked this tradition down to an exact science that maximizes your post skiing recovery without spoiling you dinner or impeding on your other late-night activities.
First is the right beverage. You want something that is red and full of flavor but not something that is too alcoholic otherwise your energy won’t be able to sustain you through the afternoon. That is why I have decided that Pinot Noir is the perfect après ski variety. In most cases its body is medium at most, though it has the ability to express a flavor profile that can range from fruity, to spicy, to earthy, into downright musk. It thus offers great versatility for your après snacks.
While there are many perceptions of what the perfect après is there seems to be an agreement over a few basic principles. First, it needs to be the right amount of food that doesn’t overfill you before dinner. Secondly, there has to be something warm involved. I have found that there are however additional requirements for a good après ski meal and they all revolve around cheese. There is something about melted greasy cheese that gives you energy and gets you ready for evening festivities.
Here are some of my favorite Pinot Noir wines and the cheeses that melt best with them:
2005 Nicolas Potel Vin de Bougogne ($18) This pinot noir wine from Frances Burgundy region is surprisingly rich, balanced, and packed full of bright fruit and spice. Its perfect melted cheese pairing is Northern Italy’s most delicious wash rind cheese, Tallegio. This is a creamy cow’s milk cheese that oozes even a room temperature but under a little bit of heat it becomes pure bliss. I recommend a fennel, proscuitto, and tallegio sandwich for this one.
2005 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir ($19) This pinot from California’s Santa Barbara region is fruity, luscious, and soft. My favorite melty cheese with this famous wine is the ever classic and stinky cheese, Fontina D’Aosta. This is a cheese known for its Fontina-like imposters, but it is only the Fontina D’Aosta that is the real deal. This is a great cheese to melt over many types of soups.
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2005 Green Truck Pinot Noir ($28) This is a bold and bright pinot that leans toward a more old world and earthy style. With this I lean toward Frances’s Morbier cheese. This unique raw cheese matches the Green Truck’s earth in style. Morbier is made from cow’s milk and is historically a second cheese of the classic Gruyere.
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .