A few weeks ago, I taught a class on pairing rosé with cheeses. I chose the wines, ordered the cheeses, showed up at the venue, composed the plates. And then I looked at the plates and thought: What on earth have I done?
Every cheese was white, every last one. Simple, fresh, tart and white. For an instant, I worried that guests would think this was the most boring tasting ever. No Cheddar? No stinky cheese? No blue?
In fact, at least for me, these cheeses hit it out of the park. They were just what a crisp rosé wants, and for all their visual similarities, they offered seven distinct aromas, textures and tastes. The class favorite was Green Dirt Farm’s Fresh Sheep Cheese, with good reason, but the big surprise for me was Meredith Dairy’s Sheep & Goat Cheese (pictured above).
I’m usually lukewarm about marinated cheese. Often the seasonings are too strong for me, but this Australian creamery nails it. The pudgy cubes are moist, soft and creamy, and the oil bathing them smells fresh, with just a whisper of thyme, black pepper, and garlic. The company uses a blended oil—extra virgin olive oil plus canola—to keep it from solidifying in the retailer’s refrigerated case. Consumers want it clear.
I’m a little surprised that the U.S. labeling police allowed “sheep” to come first in the name. Ian Griffith, Meredith Dairy’s representative here, says he doesn’t know the milk ratio—the company won’t reveal it—but goat’s milk predominates. In Australia, where it’s the top-selling marinated cheese in a crowded niche, the product is 100 percent goat’s milk. Meredith adds the sheep’s milk for the U.S. only; it makes the cheese creamier, says Griffith, and (I’m guessing) a little less tangy, in keeping with American taste.
Meredith Dairy is a family-run farmstead operation near Melbourne. Owners Sandy and Julie Cameron transitioned to cheese from meat and wool about 25 years ago, after the government discontinued price supports for wool and that industry cratered. They now operate the largest sheep and goat dairy farm in the country, producing primarily fresh cheese and yogurt. Each day’s milk is transformed into cheese within hours. For the marinated Sheep & Goat Cheese, the milk ferments slowly overnight, with minimal rennet. The curd is cut, drained, salted, and in the jars within three days. The flavor is clean and lemony.
Don’t wait for tomato season to bring this luscious cheese home. Pair it with the last of the fava beans or with cucumbers, fresh dill and Kalamata olives; dollop it on pizza and in frittatas; or slather it on bruschetta with sautéed greens on top. What to drink? Rosé, of course. Griffith tells me that avocado toast with nuggets of Meredith Dairy’s cheese is wildly popular for breakfast in Melbourne, and a Google search confirms that.
Expect to pay about $12.99 for a jar (11.3 oz). Availability is good on the West and East Coasts and in the Denver and Chicago areas. In California, look for it at Monterey Market and Star Grocery (Berkeley); Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market (Carmel Valley); Andrew’s Cheese Shop (Los Angeles); Piazza Fine Foods (Palo Alto and San Mateo); Dean & DeLuca (St. Helena); Bi-Rite Market and Rainbow Grocery (San Francisco); and Nugget Markets (multiple locations). “We sell it to virtually everybody,” the West Coast distributor told me.
Taste the Nation
Thursday, July 19
Trefethen Family Vineyards
1160 Oak Knoll Aveune,
Napa, CA 94558
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m
Join me for this cheesy road trip as we sample world-class wheels from seven states. Thirty-five years into America’s artisan cheese renaissance, the nation is chockablock with amazing cheeses that win international awards. On this evening, I’ll introduce you to some of the creations I admire most. Vermont, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Oregon…who knows where we’ll go?