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October 28, 2005

Vermont Cheese Weekend

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A couple weeks ago, we headed up to Boston for our annual Fall Foliage Weekend with my guy Josh's parents. Alas, with the long summer heat lasting so far into the usual beginning of Fall, most of the leaves in New England were still vibrantly green or just barely beginning to turn. So to salvage our weekend, we turned to another idea: a cheese tour. Inspired by the NY Times article "Autumn in the Country; In a Land of Leaves, Seeking Cheese," we abandoned our usual Boston drives for a more adventurous trip touring dairies in Vermont.

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We started Sat. afternoon and drove West, stopping at Nashoba Valley Winery, an apple orchard that produces fruit wines. We toured the facilities and tasted their wines and liqueuers. They were interesting. Some were not quite what your average wine snob wants wine to taste like, and some had an unfortunate old-sock smell that detracted substantially from the fruit flavor of the wines themselves, but some were actually pretty nice. We took home a couple bottles of Maidenā€™s Blush, an apple, pear, elderberry blend that has a nice soft dessert wine quality.

After a lovely night at the Brattleboro Holiday Inn Express with a fantastic dinner at Peter Havens (wild pheasant pate, oysters baked with butter and hand-cut bacon, steaks served with fresh, crunchy vegetables and sweet potato spears, and Peter Haven himself stopping to chat at our table) we headed out onto the cheese trail.

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The first stop on the "cheese course" that Josh designed for us was a sheep cheese producing farm aptly named Vermont Shepherd. We pulled into the empty driveway and inspected the small stand with signs posted about the history of the farm. Because the owners are full-time farmers and cheese-makers, they are often not available to give guests a tour, so they leave a small refrigerator of cheese and some bundles of clean raw wool in the stand, and guests are left to buy for themselves, on the honor system.

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We took a quick walk to see their lovely sheep and bought a piece of their wonderful award-winning cheese that tastes something like the softer, more soothing, complex cousin of Manchengo with a hint of fresh wool in it, and I bought five pounds of cream colored wool to send to a friend who spins yarn.

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We also inspected the hole that was once the cellar where James W. Strong, the founder of Carleton College, was born (or so said the sign).

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We then headed north, through the most picturesque Vermont towns, to Grafton Village, home of the renowned Grafton Village Cheese Company (next to this wonderful covered bridge). The town of Grafton itself is pretty beautiful, and we cannot wait to spend a weekend there at The Old Tavern at Grafton, but the cheese really was the highlight. We sampled their raw milk cheddar as in its many ages, starting from one-year-old (very strong and sharp) to six-year-old (much milder and nuttier. Though they were all good, I became addicted to the four-year-old cheddar, with its crunchy bits of nutty sugar, and returned for a second, third and tenth taste. Obviously, we bought some, along with some two-year-old cheese. (I have to say, Iā€™ve always known Iā€™m a dairy addict, but when I get to have real raw-milk cheeses, I truly understand what makes those French tick.)

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From Grafton we headed to nearby Londonderry to Taylor Farm, producer of the Maple Smoked Gouda that won the award for Best Smoked Cheese recently. In a bare-bones store filled with cheese, locally made soaps, and beautiful yarn, we met Jonathan Wright, the owner and operator of Taylor Farm. He gave us a very personal half-hour tour of his facilities, introduced us to his cows and answered all our questions as if we were guests in his home. It was a wonderful, informative and memorable afternoon.

Finally, on the way home, we stopped in Woodstock Vermont. Too tired to tour another farm, we ended up having a cozy late lunch at Bentleys and window-shopping.
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And on the way home, we admired the foliage.

Posted by georgia to Misc on October 28, 2005 01:06 AM | permalink | Email this post

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Comments

Gorgeous photos! Sounds like you had a fun trip!

Posted by: Beth at November 1, 2005 05:02 PM

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