Wine, cheese and David Lynch: this potent polygamist marriage of the sophisticated and strange was bound to get together at some point in time.
In anticipation of the July 29th release of Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery and Missing Pieces, I took the time to interview Lindsey Sharp of Pastoral: Artisan Wines & Cheeses in Chicago about her favorite David Lynch films, a maggot fermented cheese, and what she would put on a charcuterie board if she was throwing a David Lynch themed wine and cheese party.
First of all, what made you decide to become a wine expert and cheesemonger?
The thing about being a cheesemonger is that until recently, there really wasn’t a way to qualify people in the profession. A test of knowledge was only made available to cheese professionals in 2012, so currently there’s only a hundred or so Certified Cheese Professionals in the nation. Otherwise, there are several people in the industry who have made names for themselves simply by having done this for decades, or having a sizeable media presence in the field.
Luckily, Matt Whalen is also a CCP! He’s taken a much different path than I have and actually has that credit to his name, but it’s great that we’re able to work with each other and a great number of other knowledgeable people who all have their own experiences, insight, and qualifications to bring to the table.
We’re also definitely not sommeliers- those dudes are highly-trained professionals, and that’s a whole different test to take! Most people at Pastoral are just food, wine, and/or beer nerds who are just very passionate about both learning and sharing delicious things with other people.
What was the process like?
I currently work in our offices as an Assistant Purchaser, which means that I do a lot of numbers-based work revolving around our inventory and receiving practices.
I started out as a cheesemonger at Chicago and suburban farmer’s markets for a couple of summers where I first became enamored with the science and nature behind cheese- for instance, how temperature control can affect the size of holes in a Swiss cheese is a fascinating reminder of just how symbiotic bacteria and food can be.
I eventually took a job at Pastoral, which is a specialty food retailer in Chicago. Because of our relatively small size and focus on staff education, employees are easily able to choose paths that are suited to their interests and strengths. I eventually took on different roles in the stores related to receiving and inventory before moving up onto the purchasing team.
What got you into David Lynch films?
I was introduced to David Lynch primarily through the TV show Twin Peaks, so like most things that happened in the early 90s when I was too young to fully appreciate them, I was only introduced to it later by friends who had had cool older siblings to show them such things.
What is your favorite kind of cheese and why?
That’s such a tough question for anyone who loves cheese! One of my fairly constant favorites is a cheese called Montcabrer, which is an aged goat’s milk cheese from Spain. The wheel is bathed in oil and then rubbed with charcoal before aging, and the interior paste is slightly springy and bone-white. The precise flavor varies depending on how old the batch is and how well it’s traveled from overseas, but if you hit that sweet spot you can expect a cheese that tastes almost exactly like standing in and dense and foggy forest whose floor is covered with rotten old pine needles. Even if you don’t hit the sweet spot, it’s always delicious.
Describe yourself as wine.
Im’ma go ahead and pull out a wine called Sexual Chocolate for this one, because how incredible is that name? An aspiring winemaker noticed cellar workers at other wineries cleaning out their barrels but not saving the sediment; Slo Down Wines was born out of saving such sediment in a giant barrel that they kept underneath a bridge until they could scavenge enough bottles to fill up with their first batch. Every year their techniques changed as they learned to collect what they needed from different sources.
I’m a huge fan of stumbling through and jury-rigging things to work, and I think that refining your process as you go is one of the best ways to get your hands dirty and really learn something that you’re passionate about. Also, Coming to America is one of my favorite movies, so the name of the wine appeals to the cheesy 80s movie part of me as well.
Can you tell our readers what wines, cheeses and other samplings you’d pick for a charcuterie board that reflects the feel and taste of your favorite David Lynch films and Twin Peaks?
- Cheeses: In honor of Special Agent Dale Cooper: Espresso Bellavitano from Sartori. A great standard Italian-style cheese whose rind has been rubbed with espresso grounds, so it packs that much-needed punch of energy required for solving ethereal murders. Also: The above-mentioned Montcabrer, for evoking a hazy forest full of tall pines in the early morning. Also Lincoln Log from Zingerman’s, because who wouldn’t want to make Lincoln Log Lady puns all night?
- Wine: Sans Liege’s “The Offering.” It tastes like cherry pop, vanilla, smoky berries and frankincense, but most importantly: THAT LABEL. THAT NAME. They’re both so on point for a wine to bring to a party, if the theme is something along the lines of creepy and/or ritualistic, which are basically Lynchian themes anyway.
- Meats: Ciauscolo from West Loop Salumi. Smoked, slightly spicy, and dry-cured pork salami held inside a natural casing. The inside has a texture closer to something like a paste rather than hard lean muscle, so it’s not terribly unlike what happens when you unwrap the swaddling of a weird reptile baby.
- Wine: “The Prisoner” from The Prisoner Wine Co (usually available in the fall). It’s typically made by the winemakers throwing together whatever leftover grapes they can get from other vineyards, so every year it tastes a little bit different. The label features a man whose face is not visible, but is being kept shackled and in chains. Pretty intense label and name, but an equally intense wine.
- Cheeses: Casu Marzu, which is described below in the “Lost Highway” section. I feel like this really is the best cheese for both of these movies.
- Wine: “La Pistola,” a great red table wine from up in the Columbia Valley. I can’t explain it, but it somehow feels fitting that this wine was created specifically for a Texas restaurant that ended up never opening, but mostly I consider La Pistola a pretty good (albeit dark) reminder of the outcome of Diane.
- Cheeses: Casu Marzu! A Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese that is made by allowing the wheels to become infested with the larvae of cheese flies. As the larvae eat through the paste, their digestive gasses cause a type of fermentation to occur that gives the cheese a very distinct flavor. There are other examples in Europe of insects aiding in cheese production, but Casu Marzu is probably the most well-known one. I feel like this fits in really well with the idea of transformation, and things never really being what they seem on the surface. This also fits with Mulholland Drive, in my opinion.
- Beer: I’m going off-list here and pairing this with a beer from a fantastic local brewery called Solemn Oath- more specifically, the recently-released “Mr. Inappropriate.” Big hop and citrus notes are pretty much a necessity for washing down the insects from Casu, and the creepy tux guy on the label doesn’t hurt the Lost Highway comparison either.
Items in bold can be found in one of Pastoral’s three Chicago stores:
2945 N Broadway, 53 E Lake, 131 N Clinton.