Nestled on the banks of the Chehalis River in southwest Washington, Willapa Hills Farm is a mix of lowland pastures and timbered hills. Amy and Stephen Hueffed first started dreaming of a lifestyle change during an inspiring trip through Northern California, where they sampled local cheeses and pondered one day producing their own. Fourteen years later in 2005, after taking Washington State University cheesemaking classes in Pullman and Skagit Valley, Amy and Stephen finally settled onto their farm with a flock of 60 dairy ewes.
Since then Willapa Hills, now home to three generations of the Hueffed family, has continuously revised and expanded its activities and product line. The diverse mix of sheep’s milk, cow’s milk and mixed-milk cheeses is produced with a long-term commitment to sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. For example, the farm has switched over to growing all of its own hay, lowering costs of overall feed and ensuring that hay is natural and free of pesticides and commercial fertilizers.
Pluvius was the Greek god of rain, and a historic pass just west of the farm on State Route 6 is appropriately named after him. The pass gets upwards of 140 inches of rain each year, which according to Stephen, “also explains why the grass grows so well in the Willapa Hills and why the milk in our cheese is so reach and creamy.” Wheels of the cheese are aged for at least two months.
In keeping with its name, Pluvius exudes a humid, earthy aroma reminiscent of the air outside in a forest or a field just before it rains. Paste is creamy, soft and butter-colored, with an enjoyable texture dotted with eyes. Flavor is salty, especially toward the rind, with a mushroomy funkiness and a hint of truffle.
Pair Pluvius with a Pinot Grigio or with an amber ale.