While on assignment in Springtown, this Texas wine explorer made an exciting discovery. And believe you me, it was quite a surprise, as it didn't come in a bottle or have anything to do with grapes. Nanie Bell Artisan Cheese is handcrafted at La Buena Vida Vineyards Springtown by Dr. Bobby Smith, a legend in the world of Texas wine who has proved once again that he's still got a few aces up his sleeve after thirty-plus years in the business.
"I don't let any grass grow under my feet, that's for sure!"
- Dr. Bobby Smith on finding even more ways to
tempt Texas tastebuds
after three decades of award-winning wine.
I went out to Dr. Bobby's place Saturday on a whim. While I intended on visiting La Buena Vida Springtown at some point in the near future, my weekend was already earmarked for catching up on laundry and TiVo (even glamour girls like me make time for Sunday Food TV). However, after speaking with the man for the better part of an hour Friday afternoon, I was charmed and more than a little curious about what was going on an hour to the west. Dr. Bobby had mentioned that his Tempranillo was nearly ripe, hanging heavy on the vine, and that he was also whipping up a few batches of his new handmade cheese in preparation for the weekend. Throw in a day of refreshingly cooler temps, and would you have been able to resist a road trip?
Visions of lush vines cradling black fruit and creamy fresh cheese danced in my head as I headed to La Buena Vida that day, and the visit could not have been more rewarding. Dr. Bobby's wines will most certainly be explored in their own post soon (barrel samples of 20-year-old Port and newly-fermented Viognier still sparkling with spritz ... pinch me, FP - am I dreaming?), but today we're talkin' cheese.
And what a cheese it is. Dr. Bobby describes Nanie Bell as a "Mexican-style fresh cheese", so I expected something along the lines of a Queso Fresco when we settled in for samples and a sip of Pinot Blanc. To the contrary, this cheese was completely unique - soft and creamy with a pleasant wine-friendly tang. Using his mother's recipe, Dr. Bobby and his grandson make the cheese by hand using fresh local organic cow's milk from Cleburne and a touch of garlic for savory depth. Nanie Bell Spencer Smith, the original family cheesemaker, would surely be proud.
There is plenty to go around, even after I loaded up my own fridge with Nanie Bell. It's great on its own, or makes for a decadent dinner when melted over a burger or folded into an omlette. Right now, you can only get Nanie Bell at La Buena Vida Vineyards Springtown, but as we head into the milder weather of late summer and fall, what better excuse to hit the road? There are some great little farm stands on the way as well, so have fun with a full afternoon of foraging.
Nanie Bell Artisan Cheese, $8
La Buena Vida Vineyards Springtown
650 Vineyard Lane, Springtown
(not to be confused with the Grapevine location - great place, but only loosely affiliated. This cheese is not available there)