Happy National Cheese Day, y’all! Regular readers of Cheese + Champagne know that Colleen and I never need a holiday to serve as an excuse to eat cheese, but we’re happy to mark the occasion all the same.

If you’re looking for something different to try for Cheese Day 2010, consider Corsu Vecchiu, a sheep’s-milk cheese from the island of Corsica. I hadn’t noticed this cheese before Monday, when I went to Surdyk’s for its cheese sale, and it was on the list of top 20 staff picks. One taste and I was ready to buy a wedge – despite being a sheep’s-milk cheese, Corsu Vecchiu doesn’t carry the oiliness that characterizes so many of its ovine counterparts. I was surprised and delighted with its lightness both in flavor and in texture and the subtle saltiness that comes through at the end of each bite. I would have eaten my entire wedge in one sitting if I hadn’t stopped myself, but I managed to make the cheese last for two sittings. Surdyk’s recommends a medium red wine on the side, like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo. I had neither in the house (I’m still rebuilding my wine supply after nine months of abstaining), so I enjoyed the Corsu Vecchiu with some fruit for a very satisfying snack.

Which cheese(s) will be enjoying for National Cheese Day this year? Share your picks with us!

A cheese that comes snuggly tucked in its own crock has to be good, right? That was my assumption when I picked up this cute little cow’s-milk cheese at Surdyk’s last week. Though St. Marcellin doens’t fit into our goat-cheese theme, it is a fine cheese to include on your cheeseboard any time of the year.

St. Marcellin is produced in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, which is in the southeastern part of the country – an area known for fabulous food. If you travel there, you’d likely find a raw-milk version of St. Marcellin, but here in the United States, we have to make do with the pasteurized variety, which isn’t really a sacrifice because the cheese is so damn good. Ignoring the rule that you should let a cheese sit at room temperature for one hour before eating it, I let my St. Marcellin sit out for three hours (a.k.a. dinnertime and two episodes of “Mad Men”). By then, the paste was a puddle of ooey-gooey deliciousness, just the way I like it. It was more practical to eat it with a spoon than with a knife at that point.

The taste wasn’t unlike Chaource – a creamy, slightly mushroomy blend of flavors. It had the decadence of a special-occasion cheese, but I never save cheese for special occasions – a Tuesday night is a good enough reason for me! And the three-ounce size almost makes it guilt-free – you know you can’t overdo it because it’s not a large wedge of cheese. If you enjoy St. Marcellin with a glass of a heart-friendly red wine, like a Syrah or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you could even consider it a healthy snack.

Though I had already bought a cheese from the Wine Spectator list for this week, I was fully on board with Colleen’s idea to take a furlough from said list and sample some local goat’s-milk cheeses instead. This week not withstanding (we had a record three days in a row when the temperature didn’t get above 60°), we’ve also been blessed with spring-like weather here in Minnesota, which turns the taste buds toward young, fresh cheeses. I found two delicious specimens at Surdyk’s that are definitely worth a try.

I hadn’t heard of Donnay Dairy before, but this farmstead operation in Kimball, Minn., produces two certified-organic goat cheeses: fresh chevre and the cave-aged Granite Ridge. The family-run farm began making goat cheese in 2004, and it quickly grew in popularity throughout Minnesota. I brought home a tub of the chevre and marveled at its clean, pure taste.

My second cheese hails from my homestate of Wisconsin, and while it’s not as young as the Donnay Dairy chevre, its uniqueness merited a place on my cheese plate. Carr Valley, maker of the previously review Marisa, has created a goat’s-milk blue cheese called Billy Blue. It’s made from the milk of pasture-raised goats and aged for four months, so it still retains the freshness of a chevre while providing the salty tang of a blue cheese. A great blue cheese for beginners, the Billy Blue will definitely see the inside of my cheese drawer again.

But what’s the best pairing for a blue goat cheese? Carr Valley suggests a Sauternes, Port or cider, none of which I had on hand during my tasting. Since I have a little cheese left, though, I might have to do some experimentation over the weekend. That’s homework I won’t mind at all!

I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this week’s cheese, Brie de Nangis. Though I don’t dislike Brie, it’s not one of my go-to cheeses. Cheap grocery-store versions offer very little flavor, and the Brie de Meaux I’ve bought in the past has an odd aftertaste. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that Brie de Nangis’ taste and texture mimicked a French triple-creme cheese more than its similarly named cousin.

A pasteurized cow’s-milk cheese, Brie de Nangis almost disappeared from cheeseboards for a while, but luckily for those of us who like its mild, buttery flavor, it is readily available today. You’ll find it in smaller rounds than Brie de Meaux, and its texture is firmer, too. Even after sitting on the counter for an hour, my wedge of Brie de Nangis didn’t get runny, though it probably would have if it stayed for another hour or two.

Surdyk’s recommends pairing Brie de Nangis with a Beaujolais, while Artisanal Cheese suggests a Merlot. Personally, all I need is some crusty French bread upon which to schmear it.

My love of ooey-gooey soft-rind cheeses has already been well-documented. I love Chaource, I love Mt. Tam, I love any cheese that oozes from its soft shell. So why in the world did I not discover Le Chevrot until this week?

A pasteurized goat’s-milk cheese from France, Le Chevrot is very comparable to Chaource, even though the latter is a cow’s-milk cheese. I found them to be very similar in texture, and the taste, while not identical, wasn’t too far off. Le Chevrot didn’t taste at all like the clean-tasting Loire Valley cheese I sampled last week, but it didn’t have a strong goaty factor, either. Instead, I got a mouthful of creamy, runny deliciousness that I’ve been missing from my recently reviewed cheeses. Yum.

Sauvignon blanc is an oft-mentioned pairing for Le Chevrot, but I think most white wines would be a good match. Even though it doesn’t come from the Champagne region of France, I’d try it with some bubbly, too.

And if you’ll be consuming Le Chevrot yourself, look for the mini variety – I found mine at Surdyk’s – which is only 2.8 oz compared to the usual 6-8 oz. full-size disk. Of course, if you find it to be as delectable as I do, you may need to go for the super-size version.

Ubriaco is a beautiful, lyrical Italian word that conjures up images of sunbaked Tuscan hills, lush olive trees and gorgeous vineyards. But what does Ubriaco mean in English? “Drunk.” Yes, this cheese is wears its alcoholic reputation on its sleeve. Is there a better way to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” than by presenting your loved one with a hunk of drunken cheese?

This raw cow’s-milk cheese hails from the Lombardy region of Italy, not Tuscany, where the cows roam the Alpine hills all day. Ubriaco is bathed in Chianti, which gives the rind a rich purple color and the aroma of grape juice. The cheese is then cured in olive oil, and the result is a fruity-tasting, firm cheese with a few tiny holes scattered throughout the interior.

DiBruno Bros. recommends pairing Ubriaco with Merlot, Cabernet or Pinot Noir, and Surdyk’s, where I purchased my cheese, suggests a Pinot Grigio. Ubriaco gives you some flexibility with wine pairings since its young, fruity taste matches with a variety of wines, provided they don’t overpower the cheese.

This Valentine’s Day, serve Ubriaco with a tray of delicious fruits and chocolates. It’s a simple dessert that doesn’t involve hours in the kitchen, leaving more time for celebrating.

When faced with the prospect of moving to Minneapolis two and a half years ago, one of my first questions was, “Is there a good cheese shop?” My friend, Ariela, who was already living there and had developed her own cheese obsession, assured me that there was. “Oh yeah, I’ll take you to Surdyk’s.” So excited was I that I made her take me there on the first day of my four-day find-a-job, find-an-apartment visit, and I was not disappointed.

Located in Northeast Minneapolis, Surdyk’s is primarily known for its wine and liquor shop, which it claims is the Midwest’s largest. But when it moved into its current building in 1979, the owners added a specialty cheese and gourmet food shop, which is the first place I head. The cheese selection is top-notch, and the very knowledgable staff really don’t mind if you taste 10 cheeses during your visit. (I know, I’ve done it!) Besides cheese, the shop is stocked with all the traditional accompaniments, and some not-so-traditional ones, too (chocolate-covered potato chips, anyone?). You can also pick up lunch at the deli counter, which has a yummy array of soups, sandwiches and hot entrees that change daily. The huge brownies are killer, too.

Surdyk’s offers cheese classes as well, but I’ve never taken one because the fee is pretty pricey, especially compared to Cheesetique’s. Instead, I like to buy several cheeses at once and conduct my own class at home…with myself. I also try to convince my husband to taste my choices, but he doesn’t like gooey, blue or stinky cheese, so most of the time I get it all to myself. Can’t complain about that!

You can find Surdyk’s at 303 E. Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. Don’t go on a Sunday, though – thanks to Minnesota state law, you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday, so the cheese shop is closed, too. But if you’ve got a hankering, don’t worry – the next stop on the Minneapolis cheese tour can oblige!