Alpha Tolman, the latest cheese developed by Vermont wunder-brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler, caused a lot of buzz last year – before it was ever unveiled to the cheese world. Why? Partnering with Culture magazine, the Kehlers recruited volunteer taste-testers from around the country to sample their Alpine-style cheese while they were tweaking the recipe. The samplers received small wedges throughout the course of several months and sent their feedback to Jasper Hill Farm. Since Colleen and I weren’t among the taste-testers, we had to wait a little longer, but no worries – Alpha Tolman was worth the wait. (We’re not the only ones who thought so; it won Super Gold at last year’s World Cheese Awards.)
Made with raw cow’s milk and aged for up to 11 months in the Cellars at Jasper Hill, Alpha Tolman’s label promises to deliver a rich, meaty, buttery flavor. I must have purchased a chunk from a younger wheel, however, because I got the sweet notes of sun-washed hay in springtime. Delicate and nutty, the cheese imparted the distinctively strong aroma of an European-made Alpine cheese, but it lacked that often-distracting Alpine aftertaste I’ve often noticed in similar cheeses. That’s a good thing – I appreciated Alpha Tolman’s relatively light bite.
Often, Alpine cheeses are the focus of winter cheeseboards due to their hearty, stick-to-your-ribs flavors and textures, but Alpha Tolman is the perfect cheese to transition your taste buds into spring. Toast the longer days (and Mateo and Andy’s killer cheese-making skills) with a wedge and some ale or a light- to medium-bodied red.