I have long admired Vermont’s cheeses and enjoyed seeking out some of the local dairies on our trip. As with wineries and distilleries, I feel I can better appreciate a cheese having visited its place of origin. The Vermont Cheese Council has 50 members who make more than 150 different kinds of cheese from cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk. It publishes a useful pamphlet (readily available throughout the state) with a directory of members, including whether they accommodate visitors, hours of opening and a map showing locations. I highly recommend the local farmers’ markets, where many producers have booths and offer samples.
The name is not a plea for business; rather, “Consider” is the name of the man who founded the first cheesemaking cooperative in Vermont in 1864. Currently, Russell Glover and Angela Miller are keeping the tradition vibrant with an excellent range of cow’s and goat’s cheeses. My favorites from their fine portfolio are the Rupert, an aged cow’s cheese that can be likened to Gruyère, and the Manchester, a raw goat Tomme with an earthy, nutty character.
Consider Bardwell Farm
1333 Route 153, West Pawlet. Tel. (802) 645-9928
An easy drive from Manchester, this rustic farm operation has a friendly tasting room and small gift shop. Taylor specializes in Gouda cheese with several iterations thereof such as chipotle, nettle, garlic and caraway-cumin. I tend to be wary of flavored cheeses, but I did like the garlic. My favorite, however, put me square with tradition: the excellent, deep-flavored aged Gouda.
825 VT-11, Londonderry. Tel. (802) 824-5690
Begun as a cooperative in 1892 in the pretty village whose name it bears, Grafton continued until 1912, when a fire destroyed the factory. In the mid-1960s, the nonprofit Windham Foundation revived the company, and it continues today. The main operation has been relocated just north of Brattleboro with a factory, but also with an extensive tasting room and gift shop (the aging facility remains in Grafton). Grafton makes several fine aged sheep’s milk cheeses, but I remain partial to the aged cheddars, my favorite being the sharp five-year-old. If you do visit, make sure to try the Queen of Quality, an artisanally crafted clothbound cheddar (not available commercially). I rank this with what I consider to be the world’s finest cheddar, Montgomery’s from England.
Grafton Village Cheese
400 Linden Street, Brattleboro. Tel. (800) 472-3866
Col. John Coolidge, father of former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, built the Plymouth factory in 1890, and it still functions today on the outskirts of Coolidge State Park. I enjoyed discovering this cheese, which, while similar to cheddar, is made in a somewhat different manner. Although the aged Hunter hewed to my preference for aged cheese, I preferred the Plymouth Original, a full-bodied sharp cheese.
Plymouth Artisan Cheese
106 Messer Hill Road, Plymouth Notch. Tel. (802) 672-3650
I first tasted this cheese many years ago, and then lost track of it, so I went in search. Nestled on a hillside, the Crowley Cheese Factory dates to 1882. The cheese is smooth and creamy, similar to young cheddar but without the tang. That said, after sampling several varieties, I preferred my original favorite: the medium-sharp iteration.
14 Crowley Lane, Mt. Holly. Tel. (802) 683-2606
Operating since 2009, this small producer of organic cheese, the Von Trapp Farmstead, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The Savage won me with its firm texture and nutty taste, but my favorite was the delicious Mad River Blue, which is creamy and complex with just the right amount of the bite. Tours by prior arrangement only.
Von Trapp Farmstead
251 Common Road, Waitsfield. Tel. (802) 496-6100
You doubtless know of Cabot due to its wide distribution. A cooperative that began in 1919, Cabot began making cheese in the early 1930s. Although its production is now considerable, the firm still makes cheeses of real note. I eschew the flavored varieties and opt for the Artisan Reserve, which is aged for three years; the Private Stock, aged 16 months; and, when I find it, the Clothbound, which is wonderfully complex. We did not get to the main store in Cabot, but the store in Waterbury, just outside Stowe, carries a compete line of products and offers extensive tastings.
2878 Main Street, Cabot. Tel. (800) 837-4261