October 25, 2012

Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheese and Wine Tasting

Last Friday, I attended a wine and cheese pairing, featuring the Cellars at Jasper Hill and Crush Wine Distributors at Whole Foods Market in Portland. 

Thanks to Shannon and Barbara of Whole Foods for having me, and to Vince from Jasper Hill and Tabitha from Crush for providing a great evening of educational food fun - my favorite kind! 

So obviously all the cheese we had was good, and the story behind the Cellars at Jasper Hill is a great one - supporting local, small farmers, individuals coming together to create resources that benefit the small food producer, and a large corporation creating an 'artisan' product seemingly for no reason other than the love of cheese and community. 

The Cellars at Jasper Hill, in Greensboro, Vermont, age, package, market, and distribute small-batch cheeses from local, small scale dairy farmers. By taking over theses processes, they create cheeses that wouldn't otherwise exist, as cheese aging facilities are very expensive and producing aged cheeses is time consuming. Creating a value-added product also gives dairy farmers additional income. 

Most small cheese makers opt to produce fresh cheese that sells quickly, rather than have so much of their product tied up in the aging process. The Cellars at Jasper Hill give cheese makers the room to create just as much product, and take care of the administrative tasks involved with selling and shipping the cheese to buyers. They sound like cheese angels to me. 

We tried eight cheeses: WeybridgeHarbison, Alpha Toman, Moses Sleeper, Landaff, Cabot Clothbound CheddarBayley Hazen Blue(and one I'm forgetting, but I'm sure Shannon will fill me in on the details as soon as I hit 'publish') and Willoughby, which is an aged Moses Sleeper.   

My favorites were the Moses Sleeper, a buttery, bloomy-rind cow's milk cheese, the Harbison, a bark-wrapped soft cow's milk cheese that tasted woodsy, and of course, the Cabot Clothbound cheddar. Mmm, nutty. 

The Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, was dreamed up by Cabot Cheese, and is the bread and butter of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. It accounts for 50% of their production, and so is their cash cow (cow... cheese... get it?!?). Cabot dreamed up the old style of aged cheddar, wrapped in muslin cloth, and asked the Cellars at Jasper Hill to take over the aging and post-production processes. They ship it all over the country, giving their smaller cheese a ride to otherwise unreachable markets. Cool all around. 

The wines we sampled were all American, from New York Finger lakes Gewurztraminer and Reisling, to Californian Cabernet and Pinot Noirs. It's always fun to see how the wines change depending on what you're eating, in particular the Vermont Ice Cider

The extremely sweet cider was tempered by a nibble of the Bayley Hazen blue, a salty, nutty cheese, without the typical bite of a blue cheese. 

These cheeses and wines are all available at Whole Foods Market in Portland, where you can get chat up the very knowledgable wine staff (I enjoyed a conversation with Colleen after the event about wine) and whomever is at the cheese counter these days (no longer Shannon after she was promoted to lead cheese buyer, sniff).

The holidays are coming up, and perhaps you are hosting out of town guests or having a holiday party. A cheese plate of New England cheeses including Jasper Hill Farms' would certainly impress as an appetizer, dessert, or cocktail pairing (look for our 4th Annual Obscure Holiday Cocktail Tasting in early December!).