Sartori Merlot Bellavitano – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Sartori Merlot Bellavitano

IMG_20131014_175333_956Merlot Bellavitano is a favorite here at “the manse”… so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Spaulding Gray never reviewed it… shame on him. I guess it’s cold-hearted on my part to chastise a dead cat… I gotta call it like I see it. And for Spaulding to fail to review Merlot Bellavitano… well, that’s just wrong… I’ll assume it was one of many un-reviewed cheeses left behind on his “To Do” list…

There are many delicious Bellavitano flavors and Merlot is one of the best. While at the Antigo Plant on July 30th, I saw dozens of the wheels floating in large vats of California Merlot. I came as close to weeping over cheese as I ever do; and I come close to weeping over cheese at least once a week… oh boy, I’ve gotta get a hobby…

The First time Spaulding and I tasted Bellavitano was during the holiday season of 2009, while I was mongering down on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland… ahhh… those were the halcyon cheese days… we got an “in and out” of both Bellavitano Gold and Black Pepper Bellavitano. It was our first introduction to Sartori Cheese… the beginning of a cheese affair that continues today and is sure to continue into the future… damn… I sound like a Cheese Geek…

While interviewing Jim Sartori, Spaulding learned about the “magic” of the Antigo Plant. Jim shared that he can take the milk, the cheesemaker and the recipe out of Antigo; make the cheese at Sartori’s Plymouth plant and the Bellavitano simply doesn’t taste the same. Whether it’s the hops from years gone by when the plant was a brewery or decades of the local flora permeating the plant; something special is going on in Antigo. Something special enough to create award-winning cheeses year after year. Merlot Bellavitano has won more than a half dozen awards worldwide in the last four years.

The sweet, nuttiness of the Bellavitano blends with the berry notes of the wine, creating a flavorful marriage that begs you to indulge with abandon… there goes the geek gene again…IMG_20130604_154041_612

Recently at a tasting, my Cheese Buddy, Sean Riley, introduced me to Merlot Bellavitano and Granny Smith Apples… divine… and then we topped that combination with a dollop of fig spread and it was like a party in our mouths… (Read Spaulding’s interview with Sean by clicking here.)

If Spaulding were here… and still speaking to me after my chastisement… I’m sure he would give Merlot Bellavitano 4 Paws out of 4 Paws.

Serving Suggestions: Naked or dressed; either way you’ve got a winner. Dressed with grapes… of the Merlot persuasion, of course; with pears, nuts and as part of any grilled cheese…

Wine Pairing: Wait for it… Merlot.

Beer Pairing: Wheat Beer is a nice pairing, although Mike Wright, Beer Enthusiast might disagree.

Please check out my recipe using Merlot Bellavitano as part of David Eyre’s Pancake.

You can “Like” Sartori on Facebook and “Follow” them on Twitter… and be sure you visit their website for up-to-date news and information about their cheeses.


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