This past August in Madison, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Tania Toscana, an aged sheep milk cheese from Ontario, Canada’s Mariposa Dairy. It was love at first bite.
In 1989, Bruce and Sharon Vandeberg, longing to work at home, left the “faster” lane to buy a dairy and make cheese. A gutsy move — however, Bruce had an Ag degree and Sharon’s degree was in food service, giving them the educational background to raise the odds of success. And success continues to come their way with Tania Toscana, which they began making in 2011.
Bruce and Sharon chose goats and sheep to raise and milk; staying away from cow’s milk because of allergy concerns and lactose intolerance issues. The majority of their cheese is chevre sold under their “Celebrity” banner.
Under their “Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve” banner they produce 3 cheeses: two aged goat cheddars and Tania Toscana, an added sheep milk cheese, under the watchful eyes of Cheesemakers Shane Cicchine and Pieter vanOudenaren. Tania Toscana is made with pasteurized premium sheep milk, from 3 local farms. The milk is coagulated with a microbial rennet, making it suitable for vegetarians. The curds are pressed and bandage-wrapped and aged a minimum of 6 months on pine slabs. Shane and Pieter watch the cheese, washing and turning it regularly to ensure its quality and taste.
At 6 months, the cheese has developed mild, sweet, and nutty flavor notes. As it ages, it develops caramel flavors and a richer cognac color. The piece I tasted was more than 6 months old and had developed the sweet, lingering caramel note, making it hard to not eat the entire wedge without sharing it with my husband.
I’m not the only one who has noticed this cheese. At the ACS Judging & Competition in Madison, Tania Toscana won 1st Place in its category, and last month it won a Super Gold at the 2013 World Cheese Awards — one of less than 60 cheeses in the world to receive this distinction.
You can read more about Tania Toscana and Mariposa Dairy by visiting their website.
And please visit my website for reviews of hundreds of cheeses and interviews with cheesemakers, cheesemongers, and more. You can find my website at marcellathecheesemonger.com.
ACS Certified Cheese Professional™