Beer, Wine, and Booze · Books · Cheese

Learning from DiBruno’s Emilio Mignucci


As mentioned before, we were fortunate enough to attend a class on local cheeses at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday. Emilio was very patient and informative as he explained different aspects of the cheesemaking process as well as his sensory experience tasting these cheeses. Below are my notes on the cheeses and the local wine I might enjoy with it. In keeping with the DiBruno Brothers theme of this post, I’ve adapted wine pairings suggestions from Tenaya Darlington’s House of Cheese. (Tenaya was also speaking at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday, by the way.)

First up was Hummingbird from the Farm at Doe Run. This particular cheese is equal parts sheep and cow milk for part of the year. Similar to Robioloa in style, it was both creamy and earthy. This cheese would go well with a glass of Galen Glen Gewurtztraminer, the tropical fruit and floral nose should play nicely off this creamy cheese.

Next, was Willow, also from the Farm at Doe Run. This cheese is equal parts sheep, cow, and goat’s milk. The goat’s milk in this one imparted a greater tanginess. I immediately pictured eating this cheese with a nice, fresh summer salad, so I would pick a glass of Amalthea Rose (my favorite local rose last year).

The third cheese was already a favorite of mine, Birchrun Blue from Birchrun Hills Farm. Emilio told an interesting story of tasting Birchrun cheese years ago and though they were still refining their technique, it was immediately obvious to Emilio that they were working with quality milk. His description of this cheese was particularly lucid: unlike many blue cheeses, this does not overpower you with black pepper; there is an earthy, mushroom component, but also an herbal quality to it. Emilio explained it as feeling the “botanicals” on the sides of his tongue. While Darlington suggests a Sauternes for some blues, I would like to try it with Unionville Chardonnay.

This was followed by another favorite from Birchrun Hills Farm, Red Cat. Emilio used this cheese to explain the difficulties of rind development, by way of complimenting this one. Darlington suggests Pinot Noir or Burgundy, but I would be inclined to try either a Cabernet Franc from Pinnacle Ridge or a Nero D’avola from Turdo Vineyards.


The next two were complete revelations to me. I had never heard of either creamery, much less sampled their cheeses. Johny’s Clothbound Cheddar, from Alpine Heritage Creamery, was very different from other quality American cheddars. Texturally, it the crumbliness and crunch that I have never experienced in local cheddar. The flavor was equally impressive: nutty, but also with a complex sweetness that Emilio described alternately as butterscotch and tropical fruit. While this may sound like something of a contradiction, it was actually a description of the complex flavor of the cheese. Darlington suggests Bordeux for this, so why not a Bordeaux via South Jersey? One of Amalthea’s Europa series would do nicely.

Der Weichen, from Goot Essa, was a Camembert style cheese with a very earthy taste. Emilio explained how Goot Essa is moving towards a Coop model, purchasing milk from nearby, trusted growers while they refined their craft. While it may be overkill, I would love to pair this with Va La’s Mahogany, which is probably the earthiest local wine I know.

We finished the class with the Havilah from Cherry Grove Farm, another favorite. A lovely nutty flavor to this one, Emilio suggested that it would work very well as a grating cheese over pasta. This cheese I would reserve for my favorite local red: Va La’s Cedar.