By Marcella Wright, ACS Certified Cheese Professional
It’s fall and for blue cheese fans, that means it’s Rogue River Blue time…
I’ll just say it at the top of this profile, David Gremmels and Cary Bryant are two of my favorite cheese friends; in fact, they are two of the most special, good people I know, admire and adore. But enough gushing about them… time to gush about their award-winning Rogue River Blue.
This cheese has won Best of Show at the American Cheese Society Competition, 2009 and 2011; one of only two cheeses to become the Big Kahuna of American Cheeses multiple times (Uplands Cheese Co. for Pleasant Ridge Reserve being the other, winning three times). There’s a reason for multiple wins; to quote my Mother, “It’s luscious”.
And luscious, it is. Maybe not your typical cheese term, but it describes this cheese perfectly.
David and Cary became owners of Rogue Creamery in 2002, after being chosen by the late, legendary Ig Vella to follow in his footsteps and those of his father, Tom Vella, the original owner of Rogue Creamery. Ig had several offers to buy the creamery; but he wanted to sell to someone who would continue to make cheese at the creamery rather than “buy the name”. In choosing David and Cary, he found a Cheesemaker with a degree in MicroBiology and BioChemistry (Cary) and a Cheese Ambassador (David) who has a degree in Business and Marketing (David).
David and Cary created a company mission promising to make the best artisan cheeses while being good stewards of the earth. The awards hanging at Rogue Creamery prove success of their first mission and anyone who works for them, knows them, or reads the labels on their cheeses knows that they are also successful stewards of sustainability. They also take care of their employees and encourage them to respect themselves, others, and the environment.
Rogue River Blue starts with the highest quality milk from award-winning Rogue View Dairy, named a Dairy of Superior Honor by the Dairy Farmers of Oregon. The herd is made up of Brown Swiss, Holstein and a crossbreed of both. In 2014, David and Cary will open Rogue Creamery Dairy.
After the make, the wheels of cheese are wrapped in hand-picked Syrah grape leaves from the Carpenter Hill Vineyard, which have been macerated in a local pear brandy. Then the wheels are aged for a minimum of 12 months. This cheese is a limited edition and available only from late September until it’s gone, which usually happens around the New Year. A longer-aged “Reserve” of the 2012 make is also available in a small quantity. The reserve was made to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Creamery.
As with last month’s profile from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in ACS’s CheeseBytes newsletter, I was fortunate to be allowed in the cheesemaking room at Rogue Creamery in the late summer of 2011. Every step of the way from milk arriving at the creamery until the wheels are put in the aging caves, the cheese is lovingly touched by hand. They use state-of-the art, modern equipment; but Cary and his band of merry cheesemakers oversee every step. I was allowed to stir the milk as it coagulated. At a precise point, Cary took over the stirring because he knew it was time to start cutting the whey… he knew; I, of course, had no clue…
The cheese, once pressed in molds, wrapped and aging, is watched daily; tasted regularly and released when ready in the early fall. And when ready, again to quote Mom, it’s luscious.
Rogue River Blue is an elegant blue cheese; mildly piquant with pleasant scorched milk notes and a lasting finish of hazelnut and pear brandy.
The 2013 release is about half the size of the 2012 release making this year’s “allotment” per retailer smaller; so, you need to head into your favorite specialty cheese shop and score your own personal “allotment” sooner than later… later may be too late.
However, the good news is that the 2014 release will be larger… but you’ll have to wait until the fall of 2014…
For Marcella Wright’s interview with David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery, click here.