I’ve written many times about my husband’s cheese pickiness – no goats, no softies, no blues, no stinkies. To me, that eliminates the best that cheese has to offer, but hey, that leaves more for me. But he’ll never turn down a smoked cheese (or anything smoked, for that matter – I bought him a smoker for his birthday last month), and when I saw the Willamette Valley Smoked Aged Gouda at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese during my Seattle trip, I knew he’d share it with me. While he did give it a thumbs-up, I have to admit that I’m the one doing most of the nibbling.
Willamette Valley Cheese Company is owned by the Volbeda family of Salem, Ore., and they make their Cheddars, Goudas, Jacks, Harvartis and other cheeses using the milk of their own Jersey cows. You might have a hard time finding their cheeses outside the Pacific Northwest, which is a shame because it’s crave-ably good. The smoked Gouda I bought had the nuttiness you’d expect from a good Gouda, and though your taste buds don’t register the smoke upon first bite, with each chew the smokiness builds in your mouth, resulting in a full, creamy mouthfeel. Cheese snobs often look down at smokies, positing that the smoke serves to hide inferior cheeses, but this Gouda would stand up against any Dutch specimen I’ve tried. It pairs perfectly with a Pinot of either the noir or gris variety (find one from Oregon!) and deserves a hearty wheat or rye cracker as a base.