Sunday, May 14, 2017


Bucheron is a classic and classy goat milk cheese hailing from the Loire Valley. It was the first goat cheese from France to be exported to the United States. The Loire Valley is a lush area in central France, an area that's not lacking in gorgeous vineyards, beautiful gardens, bountiful orchards, working farms and majestic castles. It's no wonder some of the best goat cheeses in the world are made there. These days, however, log-shaped goat cheeses are made in many different countries, including right here in the United States.

France Boucheron cheese
Chenonceau castle in the Loire Valley, France.

If you could take the rind and inner edge of a young Brie and wrap it around a beautiful chevre, the result would be Boucheron. From its subtle, milky aroma to its lovely snow-white interior, this semi-aged goat cheese is one of the more intriguing and elegant versions of chevre available. You won't be overwhelmed by the smell or the taste, both are mild, not pungent in the least. The goaty tang is noticeable but faint, however, it provides more of a bite than cow's milk used in fresh or any other mild cheese. Still, the overall impression is that Bucheron is delicate, light and sophisticated yet curious.

Bucheron cheese review
Bucheron is a pretty goat cheese from France.

As the cheese ages, the flavor intensifies and the off-white creamline around the edge becomes runnier. More of the mushroom and earthy flavors from the rind and inner edge come out, and the tang intensifies. If you're looking to introduce someone to goat cheese for the first time, this would be a good place to start, though a fresh chevre probably wouldn't scare anyone off either. Be careful not to let Bucheron age too long, though, because you will be left with an ammonia emitting creamline that will overpower the soft flavors of the interior.

When it comes to creaminess, there are many different kinds. Boucheron is creamy like a cheesecake. It doesn't exactly melt in your mouth, but it's rich and smooth with just a hint of dryness. It's a wonderful feel in your mouth as the cheese coats your palate. The slightly sweet interior that has faint notes of citrus pairs perfectly with the more savory, somewhat chewy bloomy rind.

A pretty cheese like this looks great on a cheese board with grapes, crackers, Marcona almonds and large Sicilian green olives. This chevre is absolutely perfect on crusty French bread, but it's versatile and can be added to spinach salads, sandwiches, or placed on crostini with herbs, fig jam or a balsamic reduction. It's surprisingly good on burgers or veggie burgers. You can also put this cheese in a baking dish and let it sit in the oven at 350 for about eight minutes before serving it with honey, chutney or fruit jam, and crackers. Bucheron can also stand alone. You can simply eat it by itself and enjoy all the subtle tones that play on your tongue. 

Bucheron France
The creamline near the outer edge is ivory and oozes.

As far as wines, one of the top choices I can suggest is a Sauvignon Blanc. Chenin Blanc, Godello, Sancerre, Vouvray, a nice pale rose, Cabernet Franc, Amarone, Malmsey, any red wine blends such as Menage a Trios, or a Ruby Port that's not overly sweet also go well with Boucheron. Lastly, if you're daring, go ahead and try it with your favorite scotch.  

Sauvignon Blanc chevre cheese
Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley pairs well with Bucheron.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


People warned me that I might be disappointed by this little Brie-like cheese. I was not. Sometimes the beauty of a cheese is in its subtlety. Perhaps because Hartwell is one of Jasper Hill's babies, those who cautioned me were expecting a jaw-dropping dairy experience with this cheese. Jasper Hill is the same company that produces the wondrous Harbison, a cheese that's unlike any other, one that leaves a definite impression. In the same way that Iggy Pop defines punk rock and you can't compare soft punk (yes, that's a thing) stars to a celebrity so legendary, don't try to compare any cheeses to Harbison. You will be disappointed if you do, but if you go into cheese sampling escapades with an open mind, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Jasper Hill Hartwell
Hartwell cheese comes in a tiny package.

Hartwell may not be the life of the party, but sometimes a wallflower is more intriguing and ends up being the one people hold dear. It's unique in its own right and comes in a downright adorable package. The milk from grass-fed cows is how the cheese gets its overall rich, buttery flavor. It has a bloomy rind that's washed with the sediment from Eden Ice Cider, which gives the soft, outer surface a unique tang. The outer surface has all the characteristics of a traditional bloomy rind, but the earthy, mushroomy flavor is amplified, on the verge of being spicy with just a hint of the country in there. Even the aroma of the cheese is mushroomy, very much like a strong and slightly edgier Brie, though it never approaches hardcore.

Hartwell Cheese Jasper Hill
A young Hartwell has a pretty outer rind.

Elegant cheeses in small packages are hard to find, but this one succeeds where others fail. Its shape, color, and overall look are classy. The inner off-white paste is smooth and even. This is a true semi-soft cheese, slightly creamy with a substantial chewy mouthfeel. The flavor intensifies as the cheese ages.

Hartwell on a whole wheat baguette or on rye crackers makes a fabulous snack. The cheese pairs well with tart apples or seasonal pears, too. You can serve it as you would a traditional Brie, even baked in a crust. Try it on plain crackers with roasted and chopped nuts sprinkled on top or in place of any cheese in your favorite sandwich.

Wines that go well with Heartwell include Chardonnay, Gamay, Zinfandel, Sauternes, Pinot Noir from Chile or even a nice champagne. If you're a beer fan, try this little treasure with a Pilsner.

Hartwell and Chardonnay
Chardonnay pairs well with Hartwell.

From the Jasper Hill website:

Jasper Hill is a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. An underground aging facility maximizes the potential of cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers. Leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is fed to heritage breed pigs, roaming the woodlands beyond the cows' pasture.

Jasper Hill's mission is to make the highest possible quality products in a way that supports Vermont's working landscape. We are driven to be the standard bearer of quality and innovation in the artisan cheese industry while promoting our regional taste of place.

More information about Hartwell from the Jasper Hill website.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

1924 Bleu

Herve Mons has stepped back into the limelight as the affineur of the stellar 1924 Bleu, a blue cheese that's made with equal parts sheep and cow milk, but the true hero here is Francois Kerautret, the cheese marketer who created this charming treasure. He transitioned into a cheesemaker when he had the idea to take Roquefort back to its roots before it received the first ever appellation d'origine of any cheese in 1925 that required cheesemakers to use only sheep's milk and to make and age Roquefort using specific guidelines. Kerautret wanted to go back to using a mixture of milk instead of purely sheep's milk for his version of blue cheese. After a few years of urging, Kerautret persuaded Mons to work with him on a prototype, and, not long after, 1924 Bleu was born. If Roquefort is the bold king and Bleu D'Auvergne is the calmer prince, then 1924 Bleu is the beautiful and lively duchess in the royal blue cheese family.

1924 Bleu
1924 Bleu is rich and creamy.
1924 Bleu Herve Mons
There are a lot of blue-green veins in this cheese.

Aged in Herve Mons' caves near Roanne, almost 400 miles from Roquefort, 1924 Bleu develops a natural rind that has a nice aroma of the country. The aging process continues when the wheels are sent to the United States, and they end up being about four or five months old once the consumer digs into the wonderful, extra creamy interior. The rind adds to the overall woody, earthy, mushrooomy flavor, but the first thing you will notice is a quick burst of salt and a spicy tang that evens out quickly. Notes of straw and a sweet, nutty taste that pairs well with the traditional mold of blue cheeses follow. The longer the cheese ages, the more hints of ammonia emerge, but even when this little blue is past its prime, it's still tasty. But, oh, that rich creaminess! That's what will stick with you. I do suggest that you eat this while it's younger, but if you're not afraid to take a walk on the wild side, go ahead and let it age.

As I often suggest, a nice crusty French bread goes well with 1924 Bleu. Try it with some wildflower honey or on a spinach salad. You can use it in a stuffed chicken or in stuffed mushroom caps, and it also adds flavor to any cheese dip recipe.

I served this blue with Two Rivers Vintner's Blend, but it's an elegant cheese that will pair well with many wines including Arneis, Muscat, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gamay, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc, Sauternes or even a sherry or, for you beer fans, a porter or stout.

Vintner's Blend
Two Rivers Vintner's Blend pairs well with this cheese.