At The Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville, MA, offering quality wine and cheese from all over the world is top priority. Instead of focusing on the lowest price point, the shop focuses on balancing quality and price for the best product. With over 2,000 wines stocked on their shelves, and nearly all of them having been tasted by a staff member, The Wine & Cheese Cask is a warehouse of wines around the world. And if you're looking for a classic wine and cheese pairing, maybe a craft beer or small batch gin, the staff is more than qualified to help you out.
"We carry so many high quality brands of cheese, it's hard to name just one [favorite]," Specialty Foods Manager Chelsea Harris says. "From the U.S. the first that come to mind are Jasper Hill Farm, Cypress Grove, Vermont Creamery, Blue Ledge Farm, Great Hill Dairy, Spring Brook Farm and Point Reyes. A few of my favorite international cheese makers are La Casera and Caseirficio dell'Alta Langa from Italy, and Mitica and La Marquesa from Spain. Countries with long traditions of cheese production still make many of the best cheeses: France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and England."
The Wine & Cheese Cask strives to provide cheese that has breadth and depth in flavor, from international sources and local ones. The storefront's location is perfect for offering local New England cheeses, something the area is famed for. Harris says there are different reasons for favoring both international cheeses and local ones.
"I'm really fond of Italian and Spanish reds paired with a strong blue like Point Reyes Bay Blue or a washed-rind cheese like Willoughby from Jasper Hill," Harris says. "[However,] one outstanding feature of cheese from the U.S. is that you can easily access a greater variety of unpasteurized cheeses than is allowed as imports. Local cheese doesn't have to travel as far; it's lighter on the planet. And of course it helps the local economy."
However, you don't necessarily have to visit a specialty cheese store in order to get quality cheeses. When it comes to finding great cheese options in your local grocery stores, Harris says it's possible, as long as you know what you're looking for. Start with ingredient labels. They'll tell you exactly what you need to know for a quality cheese option.
"First, check the ingredients: Cheese should be made with milk of different types, cultures, rennet and salt," Harris says. "Other keys to a great cheese would be words like 'farmstead,' 'raw milk,' or any of the brand names I listed above. The taste depends on the cheese! Cheese can be grassy, sweet, nutty, meaty, salty, creamy, spicy, buttery. There are basic notes, but the combinations and nuances are infinite. There is a fabulous variety of cheese out there!"
The Wine and Cheese Cask inventory changes regularly, so be sure to keep up with what they're offering if you're eyeing a type of wine or cheese. Don't forget to come by and check out their selection of craft beer and specialty spirits as well.