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New colors for discerning palates

A wine and cheese shop comes to town.

Tired of making weekly trips to Pike Place in Seattle for gourmet cheese, Stephen and Jennifer Moreton decided to open their own shop.

“There isn’t true gourmet cheese in all of Kitsap County,” Stephen Moreton said. “There are cheeses, but they are all prepackaged.

“Cheese stays fresher in big blocks.”

Adds Jennifer, “What we’re trying to do is a traditional European-style cheese shop,” with cheeses cut to order.

Aiming to serve both the connoisseur and curious, Moreton Gourmet Cheese and Fine Wine opened its doors Sept. 14 at the Pavilion. Racks of wine line both sides of the store, with the refrigerated cheese case taking center stage.

The store currently carries about 30 varieties of cheese that will rotate and expand going forward. Special orders are also welcome.

Complementing the fare are specialty olives, jellies – including the island-made Chele’s Gourmet – crackers, gourmet Moonstruck Chocolates and wine and cheese accessories.

“I want (the store) to be non-intimidating – I’ve felt intimidated before, going into wine shops,” Jennifer said. “We want people to walk in and discover something fun and new that maybe they haven’t tried before.”

Part of their welcome is making all cheeses available for customers to sample, and drawing on their experience to recommend wine and cheese pairings.

“All cheeses can be paired with wine,” Stephen said.

Regional bias

As a rule of thumb, he says, wines and cheese from the same region will tend to go well together.

A classic pairing they recommend is aged Spanish Manchego cheese with a quince paste called Membrillo and Marcona almonds.

One of their favorite cheeses is Great Hills Blue, an artisanal American bleu made in Massachusetts that pairs well with a pinot noir or burgundy wine.

The shop’s stores of wine come from Spain, France, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, the U.S. and Bainbridge Island, ranging in price from under $10 a bottle to top-shelf rates.

Jennifer says in selecting wines, they try to find ones that customers are not likely to find in a supermarket. A personal affinity for Spanish wines shows in their collection, with bottles ranging in price from $10 to $60-$70.

The Moretons pull out a favorite Spanish vintage, Guelbenzu “Vierlas” 2002, which they describe as a full-bodied dry red wine that is spicy and oaky, going well with most Spanish cheeses, steak, lamb or pasta.

Wine and cheese was long a hobby for the couple before it became a business.

A trip to Napa, Calif., three years ago, where they experienced winemaking from picking grapes through to the finished product, was the catalyst for opening a shop.

“This is what I love,” Jennifer recalls thinking. “I love this life.”

The couple chose Bainbridge Island to open their store when they returned to the Poulsbo area – where Jennifer was born and raised – after running a personal chef service in Hawaii for about six years.

The couple hopes to restart that service in November to cook for private dinner parties of six to eight guests. Also planned are wine-tasting events and gift baskets for the holiday season.

“We like to pass on our enthusiasm,” Jennifer said. “We’re definitely still learning, too, but that’s the fun of the world of wine and cheese.

“It’s like a lifelong work in progress.”

* * * * *

The good life

Moreton Gourmet Cheese and Fine Wine is located in the Pavilion on Madison Avenue and can be reached at 842-0691. The store is open Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 1-7 p.m. and closed Mondays.

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