Kathy and Paul Obringer first began experimenting with sheep’s milk cheesemaking out of necessity, as some of their children were unable to digest cow’s milk. The experiment quickly turned into a passion for the whole family. They founded Ancient Heritage Dairy in 2005 after years of experience raising sheep.
After Kathy passed away in 2010, Paul and his sons Hank and Neil decided to move to the Cascade Foothills in the Central Oregon high desert, to a larger facility of 85 acres of irrigated land, enabling them to take their craft to the next level.
Here in the eastern shadow of Mount Jefferson, Paul and his sons produce a range of artisanal, handmade sheep and cow’s milk cheeses. The cow’s milk is supplied from the nearby Poland Organic Dairy, a certified organic dairy with award-winning milk.
The sheep’s milk is sourced from the Obringers’ own herd of 100 Laucaune and Friesian ewes, milked twice a day. The ewes graze freely on pasture during summer, and during the winter they’re fed alfalfa that’s been grown on the property. The Obringers don’t use any hormones, pesticides, chemical fertilizers or antibiotics unless necessary for an animal’s health.
Valentine is a soft ripened, farmstead sheep’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind. It’s named after one of the Obringers’ first and most beloved ewes, born on Valentines day. “We thought it would be perfect to name such a velvety, sweet little jewel after one of our favorite girls,” says Paul. In making Valentine the curd is hand scooped, drained and dry salted, then aged for 2 weeks, during which it’s flipped every other day.
The cheese is buttery and herbaceous, with a rich finish. When aged perfectly, its luscious paste oozes from its rind.
Pair it with a light red, a fruity and dry white, or a rosé.