As much as we love Wisconsin cheeses, it’s time to hit the road again and explore another cheesy part of the country, the Northeast. And we’d be remiss if our whistle stop tour didn’t pull into Vermont, home to some of our favorite cheesemakers and a kick-ass cheese festival each summer. Despite our plentiful consumption of Vermont cheeses, we were able to hunt down some newbies (to us) to sample this week. Case in point – Vermont Shepherd’s sweet and sunny sheep’s-milk cheese.
Vermont Shepherd is both the name of the farm, located in Westminster, Vt., and the name of the raw, 1oo percent sheep’s-milk cheese that cheesemaker David Major produces from spring and early summer milk. Also called “verano” to distinguish it from the winter-variety mixed-milk cheese the farm also creates, Vermont Shepherd is aged three to five months, so when it hits your cheese shop in the fall, it brings a blast of Indian summer with it. I was blown over by the wonderfully floral, honeyed flavor of my wedge as small slivers melted smoothly on my tongue. I detected notes of hay, wildflower and sweet grasses as I nibbled my way toward the rind. Though others have reported an earthy flavor – perhaps from the underground cave where Vermont Shepherd ages – I didn’t taste anything but sweetness and light.
Though I usually pair such cheeses with a white wine, I definitely could see Vermont Shepherd matching well with an Oregon Pinot Noir or another light- to medium-bodied red. Beer lovers would find pairing magic with a nutty brown ale or Hefeweizen.