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Intimidated by Cheese? Leave it to Pecorino in Grafton.

Simone Linson cutting cheese at Pecorino in Grafton, MA (Photo: Erb Photography)
Photo: Erb Photography

Simone Linsin’s brigade of cheese purists is unsuspecting. Some of them began training their palates at her country cheese shop, Pecorino, before they could talk.

“Those are our cheese kids,” she says, gesturing to a collage of smiling children holding up wedges of aged goat gouda and triple creme blue as big as their tiny heads. “The kids actually make buying decisions for their families. They sample things from the case, then their parents step aside and let them do the shopping.”

Linsin grew up in Heidelberg, Germany where her grandfather ran a butcher shop. When she and her husband moved from Germany to America two decades ago, she set out to recreate what she refers to as “the good old world.” The center of her universe is the cheese case, which consists of between 50 and 80 selections depending on the season.

Photo: Erb Photography

Linsin doesn’t sell so much as she consults. “Whether they have people coming over, they want to give a gift, they want a snack, or they want something for after dinner—we are prepared to help customers compose a cheese board,” she says, acknowledging that many people are anxious and embarrassed on their first go around with the cheese case.

“We help customers navigate through textural differences: soft, medium, hard. Different milks: goat, sheep, cow, buffalo. Raw milk cheeses, washed rinds, and all sorts of stinkers,” Linsin says with a lightness that at once renders her sharp and approachable. She stares at the case as if it lives and breathes like one of her beloved cheese kids.

Linsin frequently finds herself asking, “How can we elevate the cheese experience?” For a long time, she underestimated the importance of accompaniments. At present, Pecorino carries 35 cracker varieties in its pantry section, along with duck fat, cornichons, specialty spice blends, and heirloom salts.

She fiddles with the spout on a giant metal vat, explaining, “We have olive oil fresh from California here in the tank and we fill three different vessels. People can bring those back for a dollar off their refills.” The olive oil compliments a selection of fresh bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord, with whom they have worked since Pecorino opened 10 years ago.

Back then, Linsin was still skeptical about opening a cheese shop in North Grafton. “To be very honest, I hated this building. It was run down and I didn’t want to be here. This was a shack.” Linsin points behind the counter to reveal the feature that changed her mind, saying, “I hated everything except this 800 degree wood fired oven, which was actually used by a pizza place in the old days.” There was still wood in the oven when she moved in. Her family helped clean the place out and scavenged for refurbish-able materials in the basement of the building.

When it comes to wine, Linsin is particular. “I taste everything before I buy. I don’t do commodity buying. I don’t do deals. Everything is very meaningful to me including how I source it.” Linsin focuses on European wines, but she has also taken to curating an impressive natural wine selection from California.

Linsin prefers to bring lesser known varietals to her shop. “Ten years ago, that was a no-no, because Chardonnay and Cabernet ruled the world in America. I was very fortunate to find a clientele in North Grafton that was eager to learn and raise the level of education around here,” she explains.

When Pecorino opened in 2010, people told Linsin she was crazy. Now, she hosts two tastings a month. “We draw a super-crowd!” she says. Just like Linsin’s original cheese kids, the shop has grown up. In 2019, Pecorino is a fearless touchpoint for food and culture in the community.

See for yourself at their next wine tasting on August 23 from 5-7 p.m.

Photo: Erb Photography
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Winter Reds to Beat Your Winter Blues

Big Reds: Wine To Warm The Winter Soul

Big Reds: Wine To Warm The Winter Soul

We are in the thick of another lovely New England winter, and there are two important questions on everyone’s mind: When is it going to be spring again? And what am I going to drink to warm up? Before all the know-it-alls point out that alcohol doesn’t technically warm you up, because it thins your blood and actually makes you more sensitive to the cold, etc. etc., I know. But there must be something psychologically rewarding about an adult beverage that warms your bones in freezing temperatures. Most hearty New Englanders I know choose whiskey as their liquid blanket of choice. However, a near and dear choice of mine is a big, bold red wine.

Big Reds: Wine To Warm The Winter SoulA bold, spicy red with concentrated rich dark fruit notes and velvety tannins is my drink of choice from December-March, year after year. I am a person driven by logic, and the thought of consuming a cold beverage in cold temperatures confuses me and bothers me a bit, to be honest. Structurally, big red wines are the best compliment to winter weather. First, you get to drink it at a little less than room temperature, which is perfect, because most of us warm our houses to 60-65 degrees which is basically like one huge wine cellar. Also, the regions that these big reds come from, tend to be sunny and hot, creating high alcohol along with those indulgent concentrated fruit notes. Alcohol may thin your blood, but the immediate warming flush to your face is a welcome sensation this time of year. It’s almost like you can feel the sun on your face…almost. Lastly, the hearty body pairs well with hearty winter dishes. Beef stew, pot roast, lamb chops and game meats all pair well with big reds. Together, they warm your body and fill your belly, keeping you sustained for the bitter cold.

If you are not already a seasonal drinker, changing your drink of choice to match the weather, maybe I have now convinced you to be. The next thing you need to know is what to look for at the wine shop. If you like powerful reds with a balance of earth and spice, my favorite regions are the Rhone Valley of France and Ribera del Duero in Spain, with an honorable mention to Portuguese wines. For less earth and more fruit concentration, look for an Aussie Shiraz, California Zinfandel and Malbec from Argentina. These wines should probably come with a toothbrush, but if red-wine-mouth doesn’t bother you, these winter reds will help alleviate your winter blues. A bonus is that most of these aforementioned wines are value-driven, allowing you to stock up and hibernate until its Rosé season again.