Here’s proof that Virginia is for (cheese) lovers.
Locksley Farms in Loudon County has been producing cheese for only about 18 months but it has already started to make a name for itself. Like all its cheeses, Prince John is named after one of the characters in Robin Hood. And true to its name, this stinky cheese lives up to its “bad guy” image. But deep inside this pungent rind lurks a delightful, mild paste.
You’ll find it to be sweet and salty with a finely textured and silky smooth mouthfeel when fully ripe. And be sure to eat the nicely crystallized rind as that’s where much of the great flavor resides. Over time, the live rind breaks down the paste to make it increasingly gooey and runny — a real treat.
Prince John owes its savory flavor, funky aroma, and silky texture to two things: the rich, high-fat milk and the saltwater brine in which the Prince is bathed. The brine encourages the growth of brevibacterium linens (commonly known as B.Linens), which flourish and create Prince John’s tacky, orangey rind, and its pungent smell.
Origin: Virginia (Loudon County)
Producer: Locksley Farmstead Cheese
Milk: Pasteurized cow
Rennet type: Vegetarian
Age: 2-3 months
Look: Sticky orange rind
Feel: Soft, silky
Taste: Mild, meaty, savory, hints for fruit and nuts
Pairs well with: Black olives, charcuterie, smoked tomatoes
Tastes good with: Sweet wines such as Riesling or Sauternes as the sweetness cuts through the pungency of the cheese. Also, a Gewurztraminer, Beaujolais Villages, or Pinot Noir would complement the cheese.
To taste Taleggio is to taste Italy. First created in the 9th century in the caves of Val Taleggio, it’s one of the world’s oldest and most prized soft cheeses. It continues to be made in the traditional way and is lovingly handcrafted. The cheese was granted a PDO* designation in 1996, and that means its quality is tightly controlled.
Hand-brined with saltwater and then placed on wooden shelves in caves, Taleggio grows a soft gray mold over the sticky rind. Ripening occurs from the outside in, making the texture softer right beneath the rind. The rind is edible and provides a delicious contrast to the creamy interior. Eaten together, the rind and the interior give you an amazing combination of flavors and textures. When fully ripe, the cheese has a pudding-like texture with a rich but mellow taste. The one we have for you on Saturday is beautifully ripened and super creamy.
With a fat content of 48 percent, Taleggio is rich, meaty, and melts like a dream. Fold it into risotto, polenta, or pasta, or use it to make an out-of-this-world grilled cheese sandwich on rye.
Origin: Italy (Val Taleggio, Lombardy)
Producer: Carozzi Valsassina
Milk: Pasteurized cow
Rennet type: Animal
Age: 6-10 weeks
Look: Pale yellow paste, light to orange rind with dapples of gray
Feel: Semi-soft, creamy
Smell: Pungent, mildly funky
Taste: Complex! Mild, fruity, tangy
Pairs well with: Bread. Try it with fruit or honey. Grate it on salads, melt it into an omelet, fold it into risotto.
Tastes good with: Pinot Noir, Italian Nebbiolo wines, Rosé
*DOP in Italian: “Denominazione di Origine Protetta,” which means Protected Designation of Origin.
Grayson resembles Taleggio, but it’s made in Virginia. It’s regarded by some as America’s greatest washed-rind cheese and has the awards to prove it.
At this July’s American Cheese Society event in Richmond, Meadowcreek Dairy introduced a beer-washed version of Grayson, and we’re pleased to offer it at Tastings. Grayson Beer Washed is washed twice weekly for two months in Richmond brewery Hardywood’s Singel, a Belgian-style blonde ale.
Be sure to bring it to room temperature as that allows you to enjoy its glorious and complex flavors. Because it is made from raw milk, its flavors are particularly pronounced. While similar in appearance to Taleggio, you’ll find its texture somewhat softer.
Meadow Creek is a small family-run dairy that prides itself on its environmental and humane practices. The cows munch on native grasses and legumes, and they are never confined. They are pasture-born and pasture-raised. Happy cows make great cheese!
Origin: Virginia (Galax, Grayson County)
Producer: Meadow Creek Dairy
Milk: Raw cow
Rennet type: Animal
Age: 2-4 months
Look: Reddish-orange rind and golden paste
Feel: Semi-soft, supple, fudgy
Smell: Earthy, grassy, rich
Taste: Rich and beefy; slightly sweet, with grassy, earthy, nutty notes
Pairs well with: Crusty bread, dried fruit, apples, cornichons
Tastes good with: Grayson tastes great with full-bodied whites or medium reds, but the ultimate pairing out be Hardywood’s Single Belgian style blonde ale!