One of the things we love about the American artisan cheese movement is discovering the varied paths that the cheesemakers have taken to end up where they are. We love Lark Gilmer-Smothermon’s story. She’s the pioneer behind Montana’s first sheep dairy. She’s Montana’s first farmstead and artisan cheesemaker, and she navigated the regulatory maze to get the first-ever in the state mobile milking parlor approved.
All this from a woman who started her professional life as a photographer in Oxford, England. It was there that by sheer luck her flatmate was the son of Britain’s legendary cheesemonger Major Patrick Rance. Tagging along on holidays, she discovered the world of farmstead and artisan cheese through him.
At the same time, her boyfriend was a fourth generation shepherd, and through visits to his family farm she fell in love with sheep. A trip to the Basque region of Northern France is where the two worlds collided and she discovered sheep’s milk cheese.
Fast forward to today and Lark is busy putting Montana on the U.S. artisan cheese map. Only a few years into officially making cheese, Lark’s flavorful cheeses are sought after as far away as New York City, Portland and Switzerland. When the sheep milking season is over, she purchases cow’s milk from an operation about an hour and a half away. They have access to 35,000 acres of pristine Montana pasture and produce wonderful milk.
And she’s making a difference. She’s made education an important element of her business, teaching the children of the area about the circle of agricultural life. The cheese we’re featuring this month is a cow’s milk cheese called Memento. It’s an ashed, bloomy rind cheese with a creamy center.
With something this creamy and tangy, we suggest pairing it with Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir