Even though we can’t make it to the Southern Cheese Festival this year, we thought we’d celebrate our own virtual fest with a few featured cheeses from the region. If you’re going to the festival, here’s a new one to look for: Gray’s Chapel from Goat Lady Dairy.
Goat Lady Dairy was founded in 1995 by the “Goat Lady,” Ginnie Tate, and her brother Steve Tate, on a former tobacco farm in the North Carolina Piedmont. One of the first cheesemakers in the state, they set out to make farmstead goat cheese while preserving the land; in 2003, the farm was placed under a conservation easement. Ginnie passed away in 2009, but the farm has continued to grow under Steve’s and his wife Lee’s leadership.
Goat Lady Dairy has sold fresh and soft-ripened cheeses at farmers markets for some time, but a blue ribbon for their Smokey Mountain Round at the 2012 American Cheese Society (held in Raleigh, NC), garnered them attention from further afield. This summer I spotted their Smokey Mountain in the cheese case at Eataly in NYC (pictured, above). Also this summer, they picked up another ribbon for their fresh spreadable chèvre at ACS 2013. (I wrote about their Sandy Creek, a bloomy-rind ashed cheese, last year.)
They have recently added an aging cave to expand their offerings, including this Gray’s Chapel that debuted earlier this year. A mixed milk, raw milk cheese, it blends their own goats milk with organic cows milk from Lindale Organic Dairy. A naturally-rinded square, it ages for three to six months soaking up the micro-flora from their cave that give the rind a rich, musty scent and add an earthiness to counter the fruity notes of the paste. Delicious.
Pair it with a North Carolina craft beer, perhaps a Natty Greene’s Freedom IPA.
If you find yourself in Climax, NC, you can attend a tour and dinner on the Goat Lady Dairy farm. Visit their website for dates and details. Or, reserve a seat at a 5-course Goat Lady Dairy dinner at Mandolin in Raleigh to celebrate American Cheese Month on October 1st.