This weekend your D.C. cheese correspondent attended a special Italian winemaker event at Cheesetique, featuring Dal Maso estate wines and a half dozen cheeses from Northern Italy. They were even thoughtful enough to include one of the “100 Great Cheeses” I haven’t reviewed yet, making my job even easier this week!

Robiola Rocchetta is an award-winning (best dairy product at the 2008 fancy food show) mixed milk (cow/sheep/goat), soft-ripened cheese from Italy’s Piedmonte region. It has a thin, yeasty rind, and a firmer, slightly chalky, pure white center. The paste slowly liquifies inside the rind as the cheese comes to room temperature. The creamy edge is reminiscent of creme fraiche, while the firm center is closer to a fresh chevre. 

The perfect combination of sweet, buttery cream and tangy goats milk, this is an ideal cheese for entertaining that’s sure to please nearly everyone. It’s also a good introduction to goat milk cheese for those, like my husband, who don’t normally enjoy it. Robiola melts well too, perfect in a grilled cheese with some sweet fig spread and arugula. For an incredibly decadent dinner idea, check out this recipe for Pasta with Robiola and Truffles from Food & Wine.

Nicola Dal Maso and his father have vineyards in two D.O.C. zones in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, between Venice and Verona, and was in town fresh off receiving a winemaker’s award in New York. The Dal Maso wines were well flavored, acidic with great fruit and high minerality from the region’s volcanic soil that make them ideal complements for a range of cheeses. My favorite pairings with the Rocchetta were the Primis Spumante Extra Dry, a sparkling wine, and Tai Rossa, a light, fruity red wine. The Primis is made with 40% Garganega, a grape indigenous to the Veneto region, and has more body than prosecco with a crisp, dry finish. Tai Rossa is also a native Veneto grape, and a distant cousin to Grenache. A lighter bodied red bursting with strawberry, it complements the creamy Rocchetta without overwhelming the cheese’s delicate flavors.  Dal Maso only exports to a couple states in the U.S., but be sure to give them a try if you come across them.

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