We call Grayson Steve’s ‘Epiphany Cheese’. Years ago he was the winemaker and general manager of Virginia’s first winery, Farfelu Vineyards (for fun visit: http://bit.ly/1RTSZI8). Farfelu means “wacky” in French, which was a nice way of describing what locals thought the original founder was when he started making wine in 1967. Instead of fighting it, he embraced it. (FWIW, there are now 230+ wineries in the state, and it’s our fifth most productive wine state.)
We (Steve and Kim) had an equally wacky idea. There was a nascent artisan cheesemaker movement starting in Virginia in the early 2000s when Steve was managing the winery. He decided to create the local wine industry’s first rotating “Virginia Artisan Cheese Plate” program at the tasting room. Let Virginia’s first winery be the first to shine a spotlight on some of the fun new things being done with dairy in the state!
The first cheesemaker we reached out to was Meadow Creek in the small town of Galax, VA. This was before they started winning national awards for their amazing cheeses. Our “wacky” idea exposed a lot of lucky
Virginia/DC/Maryland residents to some really special cheeses before they could find them in a store. Truth be told, Meadow Creek’s cheese is also what inspired Steve and Kim to start a sheep dairy/creamery in Virginia when the winery closed down. But that’s a whole different story.
With this month’s Monthly Cheese Club, we’ve come full circle. We are once again shining a spotlight on a creamery that not only makes amazing cheese but also will always have a special place in our hearts. Ok, so on to this award-winning cheese. It’s a washed-rind cheese made using raw milk from a single herd of Jersey cows. It is aged for at least sixty days until the wheels form a reddish-orange rind and golden paste.
The texture is fudgy and supple, while the paste is rich and beefy with hints of grass, mushrooms, and onions. (That’s actually not a bad thing for cheese…and to be honest, the smell is way stronger than the taste, so don’t be afraid.) If the smell intimidates you, just taste the paste (the creamy part under the rind). If you like it, ENJOY! And maybe get brave and try the rind. By the way, when it comes to rinds, our rule is, unless it’s wax or cloth, try it. If you like it and it enhances the cheese’s flavor, eat it. If not, don’t’. It really is a matter of personal preference.
Now a bit about the artisan behind this yummy cheese. Cheesemaker & Co-founder Helen Feete owns Meadow Creek Dairy with her husband. She writes about how Grayson came to be on their website, “Grayson was originally inspired by our visit to Wales and Ireland in 2000. As soon as we made the Grayson, we realized how deeply suitable a washed rind style was to our rich seasonal milk–and how key the affinage was to its unique flavor.
It took years of trial and error, several more trips to Europe, and the building of a new cellar before the Grayson came fully into its own, but the result has been more than worth it: a cheese that both complements our milk and reflects the terroir of our cellars.”
Pair Grayson with a full-bodied white, like an oaky Chardonnay. If you’re a red drinker, don’t fret. This cheese is assertive enough for a medium red: Pinot Noir, Rioja, Syrah, Grenache, and Tempranillo.
Ultimately, though, we feel Grayson is at its most excellent served with beer… say a traditional Belgian Quadruple.