Triple treat: modern tastes, monastic traditions

Belgian specialty beers and Jim Clendenen’s uniquely food-friendly white wine from the central coast region of California were perfect accompaniments at a recent tasting featuring luscious raw milk and monastery cheeses.

Bosteels’ Tripel Karmeliet and Chimay Première specialty beers from Belgium have the complexity and finesse of fine wines.

Tripel Karmeliet is a golden colored, abbey-style modern beer inspired by a historic recipe from a Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde, Belgium. The complexity comes from combining three grains – wheat, barley and oats, from using both the crude and malted forms of each, and from refermenting in the bottle.

The finesse is from the specialty beer tradition of Belgium.

Copper-colored Chimay Première is a true Trappist beer from the Abbaye Notre Dame in Scourmont, Belgium. Chimay Première is an unpasteurized top fermented beer, refermented in the bottle, rich and full flavored.

Chill these Belgian beers to 58 degrees, serve them in a footed glass, and savor them the way we savor excellent wines, for their appearance, aroma, first taste on the palate, multiple flavors in the mouth and their finish.

Open Karmeliet and Chimay as if opening a bottle of Champagne: hold the cork firmly and twist the bottle. Take care not to launch the cork.

The 2000 Primogénito / First Born is uniquely food-friendly, in keeping with the philosophy of Jim Clendenen, the Mind Behind yet another excellent wine.

A blend of three Italian varietals grown in the coastal Santa Maria valley north of Santa Barbara, California, this white wine has floral aromas, light body, full flavor, and a soft clean finish. French oak adds a touch of sweetness, richness and vanilla to the blend, yet the wine has crisp and persistent liveliness and pleases both red- and white-wine lovers.

Food and Wine Magazine's Winemaker of the Year in 2001, Jim Clendenen has been a favorite of people who like to know where their wine comes from since he began making wines under his Au Bon Climat label in 1982.

Primogénito's acidity balanced the creaminess of the cheese, and the wine's sweetness and floral aromas complimented the slight tanginess and earthiness of the cheese. Light, yet rich, this white wine blend was also an excellent pairing with the flavors of the more complex cheeses.

If Tripel Karmeliet and Chimay Première could josh, they would have been elbowing Jim Clendenen’s Primogénito saying "what a friend we have in cheeses."

Tasting Highlights
Tasted at the Slow Food Dallas sponsored reception following the 3/9/04 Director's Screening of "The Cheese Nun: Sister Noella's Voyage of Discovery," Producer/Director Pat Thompson:

Tripel Karmeliet, a specialty Belgian beer by Brouwerij Bosteels, S.A.

Première, also known as Chimay Red, a specialty Belgian beer by Chimay Pères Trappistes, S.A.

Il Podere Dell'Olivos Borgo Buon Natale 2000 Primogénito / First Born, 40% Tocai Friulano, 33% Pinot Grigio, and 27% Pinot Bianco, Santa Maria Valley, California, 13.5% alcohol. Grown, produced and bottled by Jim Clendenen.

Baby Gruyere, Farmstead Cheese, handmade by Mrs. Michael Sams from the raw milk of 45 cows on the Sams' farm in Kemp, Texas, 903.498.3884. Mild with a sweet clean finish.

Bethlehem Cheese, Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem, Connecticut. A fungal-ripened St. Nectaire-type farmstead cheese, handmade from the raw milk of the Abbey's four Dutch Belt cows. Clean earth, fresh milky tang, creamy texture, spectacular rustic rind that most people cut off but is safe to eat according to respected microbiologist Sister Noella Marcellino.

Blanca Bianca, Mozzarella Company, Paula Lambert, Dallas, Texas. A Dallas original, limited-production cheese, handmade from raw cow’s milk coming from local farms. Washed daily with white wine as it ages for 60 days or more. Moist, flavorful, delicate, creamy paste reminiscent of wine and Deep Ellum.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands Cheese Company, Mike Gingrich, Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Inspired by Beaufort from alpine France. Farmstead cheese handmade from non-pasteurized milk of a single herd of Wisconsin cows. Made seasonally, only when the cows are grazing on sweet spring and summer grasses. Cooked, pressed, cave-aged for a minimum of 4 months (cheese tasted March 9th had been cave-aged 8 months). Smooth, complex, mellow. Phone 866.588.3443,

Karen Silverston, March 2004