Thunder Mountain Swiss
Eponymously named Chapel Hill Creamery is located near Chapel Hill in North Carolina and is home to Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley together with their small herd of Jersey cows.
Hawley and McKnight had each enjoyed long careers at Whole Foods Market and decided they wanted to get closer to the source of the food that they had sold. In the process of searching for a good milk source in order to begin making cheese, they found that they were unable to get the quality that they wanted. So, the decision was made to buy a small herd of Jersey cows and a 37-acre farm to ensure that the cows could be pasture-fed. Thus was born Chapel Hill Creamery and, in July of 2000, the first batch of cheese was produced.
Today, Portia and Flo focus on the health of their herd of 30 cows as much as the quality of the cheese that they produce. Rotational grazing is practiced on the farm and they limit milking to March through December. The results are hard to argue with, three World Jersey Cheese Awards in 2012.
Thunder Mountain Swiss is Chapel Hill’s take on alpine cheeses such as Emmentaler. It is named after a local high point near the farm. The aroma of Thunder Mountain is lingering and floral. Its deep yellow paste has large round eyes and a sweet, butterscotch flavor that finishes cleanly. The cheese has been aged for enough time to form crystalline structures in the otherwise smooth, but crumbly paste. These crystals give a pleasant crunch to a bite through the dense paste.
A richly flavored cheese deserves a richly flavored wine. Pair this one with a rich white wine such as an oaked Chardonnay. Try eating this cheese with some roasted nuts or Cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) for an extra layer of decadence.