Cheese: Original Blue
Producer: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Milk: Raw Cow's Milk
Age: Six months
Vegetarian: Vegetarian rennet
My favorite thing about working for Pastoral is the passion. My colleagues are intensely passionate wine, beer, and food, especially cheese. My customers, also, are people who are passionate about the quality of products and the great pleasures in life. The producers, though, are the ones whose passion is the greatest. They are the ones who go to work at 2am to produce cheeses they have loved for generations, crafting them with so much love that you can taste the passion six months later. Such is the case of the Giacomini family who make Point Reyes Original blue cheese.
The family has been making cheese for over 100 years, since they were in the mountains of Italy. The current dairy sits on a hillside overlooking Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. The herd of Holstein cows was started in 1959 by Bob Giacomini. In 2000 he and his daughters achieved their dream by founding the Point Reyes Cheese Company and producing their amazing blue. Their emphasis is on the land. Their Holsteins graze on organic pastures that collect coastal fog. They are obsessed with terroir, stating "the milk from our own cows on our dairy farm is what is used to make our cheese unique. Original blue cannot be duplicated, even 5 miles away."
The cheese is one of the most perfect expressions of its terroir that I know of. Six months of aging give it a firm, slightly crumbly texture. The aroma is intensely briny, as if you could smell the sea air off the California coast. The first thing you can taste is an intense sweetness that evokes the lush organic grass of the pasture. This is replaced almost immediately by a wash of salty tanginess, like an ocean wave washing over your palate. The cheese melts in your mouth more than you would expect from its firm texture. It lingers a long time and even introduces a slight sour tang towards the end.
I love this cheese as a counterpoint to fruity cheeses, such as Prairie breeze or Tumalo's Classico, or big earthy cheeses like Montgomery's cheddar. Eat it with a Racer 5 and some pickled fruits (we have many) for a truly intense experience.
Yahn Van de Walle is a cheesemonger happily in his second year at Pastoral. When not raving madly about Robiola, he is playing the trumpet, cooking, and riding bicycles in traffic. Yahn says "never turn down free cheese!"