• Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Big Cheese in Oregon

Echo Mountain –Mixed Milk Blue - Cow & Goat – 1st Place World Cheese Awards in Dublin, Ireland

Rogue Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue Cheese won 1st place at the World Cheese Awards in Dublin, Ireland.

By Rachel Bertone for Growing Oregon magazine

Cheddar. Pepper jack. Blue Cheese. Chevre. Queso Fresco. Pick a cheese, and it is made in Oregon.

From large to artisan, Oregon cheese producers of all sizes are top notch in their craft.

“Oregon cheesemakers are continually educating themselves and are very conscientious about making good, safe, wholesome cheese,” says Lisbeth Goddik, food science professor at Oregon State University. “They are motivated because they truly want to make good products.”

If you look at Oregon’s track record, it’s easy to see their success. Highly respected dairy giant Tillamook has earned a reputation for their award-winning sharp cheddar, colby jack and Monterey jack cheeses, and Oregon’s artisan producers are proudly representing the state as well. Since the Oregon Cheese Guild was formed in 2006, the number of artisan cheesemakers has grown from three to 19.

Oregon’s artisan cheesemakers are recognized as some of the best in the nation. Briar Rose Creamery won several awards at the American Dairy Goat Association’s National Cheese Competition and first place honors for their classic chevre and Freya’s Wheel cheese. Face Rock Creamery won first place at the American Cheese Society’s Judging and Competition for their garlic cheddar Vampire Curds, and Rogue Creamery has garnered numerous awards throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Rogue Creamery was an early innovator in artisan cheesemaking. Its founder, Tom Vella, traveled to Roquefort, France in the early 1950s to learn from the masters and then returned to construct cheese caves at his Oregon creamery similar to what he had toured in Europe. In those caves, Vella created his own Oregon Blue in early 1954. Rogue Creamery continues to be a leader in the artisan cheese movement, which is a natural fit in Oregon. Their cheese can be purchased in the U.S. and also around the world from Paris to Tokyo.

“The number of creameries that have received recognition and awards is great – it really raises awareness as a whole to Oregon,” says Sarah Marcus, who runs Briar Rose Creamery with her husband, Jim Hoffman. Focusing on goat’s milk cheeses, Marcus says she loves the creative process of cheesemaking. “We nurture each small batch to achieve the best flavor and texture, highlighting the seasonal qualities of our cheeses.” Briar Rose Creamery’s “small batches” range from basic chèvre to a spicy chipotle chèvre.

That same diversity and attention to detail can be seen in every Oregon creamery, large and small. Inside the Tillamook plant, cheesemakers have created smoked black pepper and garlic chili pepper varieties to expand their popular line of cheddars. Artisans at Ochoa Queseria make Mexican-style cheese produced in the state, while La Mariposa creates Argentinian cheeses with Welsh roots. Their Chubut, named for the region near Patagonia where the cheesemaker’s father is still making this same historic cheese, is mild and nutty.

Oregon’s cheesemakers are producing cheeses in styles found around the globe – cheeses that often outshine international products in both texture and flavor.

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