What better to get you over a disappointing cheese than a wedge of really outstanding, zippy cheese? Lucky for me, I picked up a chunk of Ben Nevis, a raw, sheep’s-milk beauty from Vermont’s Bonnieview Farm, and each bite restored my confidence in the art of cheesemaking.
We’ve written about more than 30 Vermont cheeses in the past four years, and only two others (Vermont Shepherd and Bismark) have been made from sheep’s milk. But the high quality of those cheeses makes a strong case for the state to add more sheep dairies and creameries. Bonnieview Farm, located in Craftsbury, is a fourth-generation family farm that pasture-raises almost 200 ewes from May to October, using the rich, raw milk to make three cheeses. The farm also sells lamb meat and goods made from the sheep’s wool – nothing goes to waste!
Square-shaped and rocky-rinded, Ben Nevis evokes taste memories of a young Italian or Spanish sheep’s-milk cheese with its grassy notes and salty bite. You can find the cheese aged anywhere from 3 to 6 months – my wedge tasted as if it were on the younger side, with its creamy paste and and bright flavor. It lacks the oiliness of many sheep’s-milk cheeses, even after hours on the counter, which makes it seem younger and perkier than many of its Spanish counterparts.
Ben Nevis would anchor a great Vermont-themed spring cheese plate: Pair with a creamy goat cheese, like Torus or another Vermont Butter & Cheese favorite, and a delicate cow’s-milk creation, such as Jasper Hill’s Alpha Tolman. Enjoy with a full-bodied white or your first rosé of the season.