New York’s Meadowood Farms specializes in sheep’s-milk cheese, which means the creamery is idle for several months each year. Sheep don’t produce milk year-round in any case, and Meadowood’s practice is to milk them only when they’re on pasture. In Cazenovia, just east of the Finger Lakes, that’s a lot of down time.
Cheesemaker Veronica Pedraza wanted to introduce a cow’s-milk cheese to keep the creamery operating in the off season. But most of the surrounding cow dairies are large operations that don’t produce the caliber of milk she was after. Her dairy inspector knew of one small, immaculate dairy farm—as it happens, only three miles away.
Juvindale Farm—named for owners Julie and Vince Wagner—surpassed Pedraza’s expectations. “It’s the cleanest farm I’ve ever seen,” says the cheesemaker. “I would eat off their barn floor.”
Pedraza turns the Wagners’ especially rich milk into a splendid washed-rind cheese loosely inspired by France’s Reblochon and Italy’s Paglierina. Like the latter, Juvindale is supple and squishy, a slumping beauty not much thicker than a pancake. “I wanted a cheese with bad posture,” jokes Pedraza.
The half-pound disks are matured for two to three weeks and bathed frequently with Finger Lakes Riesling. But the heightened aroma—think mushrooms, garlic, baby diaper—results largely from the work of bacteria (B. linens) that Pedraza adds to the milk.
The rind is edible and crunchy, with none of the bitterness that can plague similar cheeses. At peak ripeness and at room temperature, the creamy interior holds its shape; it oozes but doesn’t collapse. For my palate, the salting is just right.
Pedraza is making only about 200 disks of Juvindale a week but hopes to double output later this year. Concerned about competing in a niche with many established cheeses, she priced Juvindale to move. I paid $22 a pound, which makes Juvindale a rare creature among artisan cheeses: a bargain.
Meadowood is a 225-acre farm with more than a century of history. It had fallen on hard times when a couple from New York City purchased it 20 years ago and began investing in its restoration. They are largely absentee owners, leaving a skilled staff to run it. In her four years at the creamery, Pedraza has put Meadowood Farms cheeses on the map.
Pair Juvindale with a Riesling or Pinot Gris or with a saison-style beer. Look for the cheese at these California locations: Cheese Plus, Other Avenues, Rainbow Grocery and Say Cheese in San Francisco; Farmstead Cheese & Wine in Alameda; Oliver’s Markets in Santa Rosa and Cotati; Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa; El Cerrito Natural Grocery Annex; Freestone Artisan Cheese; Domenico’s Delicatessen in Danville; The Rind in Sacramento; Cheese Cave in Claremont; and Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City. You’ll also find Juvindale at SaxelbyCheesemongers and Lucy’s Whey in New York City; at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and Boston; and at Pastoral in Chicago (all locations).