This fall, pair your leaf-peeping or brewery tours with a road trip to one of these world-class cheesemakers in the heart of ski country.
Vermont is a rare place in the United States, where you can find cheeses of the same quality you might enjoy on a ski trip in the Alps.
The Green Mountain State is home to more than 66 artisan cheesemakers, many of
whom operate on such a small scale that they can create small-batch, innovative, unique and intensely-flavored cheeses that never make it out of state.
From the world-renowned cheddars produced by Cabot, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, to new operations like Barn First Creamery, a goat micro-dairy near Jay Peak, the state is home to some of the best cheeses in the world—many of which are aged at Jasper Hill’s cellars near Greensboro (which is not open for tours or tastings). Vermont Cheese Council Executive Director Tom Bivins has this advice: “Take a trip to a local maker and ask them to pair their cheese with a great nearby beer. The two often go hand in hand.” All of the following creameries sell cheese on site but only a few offer tastings or tours. Be sure to call ahead if you plan to stop by.
Blue Ledge Farm, Leicester
Not far from the Middlebury Snow Bowl or the glades near Brandon Gap lies Blue Ledge Farm, a 150-acre Animal Welfare Approved goat dairy in Leicester run by husband and wife cheesemaking team (and painters) Greg Bernhardt and Hannah Sessions. Their Crottina took first place in the American Cheese Society competition in 2006 and pairs well with a dollop of honey. The goats’ milk cheese is velvety and smooth with an edible white mold exterior and a delicate, complex tang. Keep an eye out for Greg and their two kids snowboarding at the Middlebury Snow Bowl or for Hannah on her cross-country skis at Rikert Nordic Center. blueledgefarm.com
Crowley Cheese Company, Mt. Holly
If you’re driving between Okemo and Killington on Rte 103, take a trip to Mt. Holly for a taste of the past. Crowley Cheese Company, founded in 1882, is the oldest continually operating cheesemaking operation in the country. Its English-style cheddar-like recipes predate refrigeration and come from a time when every Vermont village had at least one cheesemaker. Today, you can stop by the factory and watch cheesemakers in action or taste their many varieties. Try the medium sharp, which has a creamy, smooth texture and won a Blue Ribbon from the American Cheese Society in 2005. crowleycheese.com
Cabot Farmer’s Store, Waterbury Center
On Route 100 in Waterbury Center be sure to stop by the Cabot Farmer’s Store. The cooperative celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with a special cheddar aged for five years to be especially nutty, with an intense bite and the sort of complexity that comes only with slow aging. This cheese is not for the faint of heart, but you’ll also find tasty mild alternatives to try. cabotcheese.coop
Mt. Mansfield Creamery and Sage Farm, Morrisville & Stowe
If you’re headed to Morrisville to taste brews from Lost Nation Brewing or Rock Art you might want to stop by Mt. Mansfield Creamery. Cheesemaker and snowboarding pioneer Stan Biasini worked as a ski patroller from 1986 to 1995 at Stowe Mountain Resort. Try the creamy, blue-veined Patrolman’s Blues, made from raw cow’s milk and aged for three months to give it a pungent flavor. If you’re skiing Stowe Mountain Resort be sure to stop by the farm stand at Sage Farm Goat Dairy in Stowe. Only available during the winter, Sage Farm’s alpine-style Worcester Tomme is aged three to five months, which gives it a natural, earthy rind. The interior is smooth, nutty and mild, with a little “goaty” kick. mtmansfieldcreamery.com & sagefarmgoatdairy.com
Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Plymouth
If you’re driving anywhere near Suicide Six, Killington or Okemo, head to the Plymouth Cheese Factory, the second oldest in the country, next to Crowley. You can watch Plymouth’s award-winning cheddars being made in the same building President Calvin Coolidge’s father built in 1890 (President Coolidge and his family lived on the neighboring homestead). Try the new Ballyhoo Brie, a mushroomy cow’s milk bloomy rind cheese with a springy texture that won a silver medal from the American Cheese Society in 2018. plymouthartisancheese.com
Spoonwood Cabin Creamery, Jacksonville
If you’re staying at Mount Snow, take the scenic drive to Jacksonville and be sure to try the St. Em, a bloomy-rind cheese made with organic milk. Cheesemakers Nancy Bergman and Kyle Frey styled it after a French St. Marcellin. With a supple, wrinkly rind and a buttery flavor that allows hints of lemon and honey to peek through, it’s a crowd pleaser. Taste their cheese with wine at the on-farm Remedy Wine Bar Fri. & Sat. evenings. spoonwoodcabin.com
Von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfield
Nestled against Mt. Alice in the Mad River Valley, this diversified farm has been in the von Trapp family since 1959. Today, it’s an organic dairy. The Oma is a delicate washed rind Tomme that took third place in the World Championship Cheese Contest in 2018 and gold at the World Cheese Awards the same year. It’s aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill and has notes of butter, raw nuts and roasted vegetables. Von Trapp Farmstead does not offer tours, but you can taste their cheeses (along with beer and cider) at the nearby Mad River Taste Place after a day on the slopes at Mad River Glen or Sugarbush. vontrappfarmstead.com
Featured Photo Caption: Crowley Cheese Company is the oldest continuously operating cheesemaking operation in the country. Photo courtesy Crowley Cheese Co.