West West Blue
After working 30 years as a cheesemaker and as a cheesemaking consultant, Peter Dixon opened his own creamery in 2013 in Westminster West, Vermont, along with his wife Rachel Fritz Schaal and her sister Alex Schaal.
Parish Hill’s cheeses are inspired by the traditional cheeses of Italy. They’re handmade in small batches using raw milk, which is produced at the Elm Lea Farm at the Putney School. The farm is just five minutes down the road from the cheese house, and its milking herd grazes on fresh pasture from June to October. Parish Hill cheese production happens from May to November in order to take advantage of the pastures that give a highly aromatic quality to the milk, resulting in complex and subtle flavor variations.
Milk for cheesemaking is is ripened using homegrown bacterial cultures, which are produced in the traditional manner by allowing the milks from four individual cows to ferment naturally and then propagating them continuously. Traditional calf rennet is sourced from Europe and Quebec, and sea salt is sourced from the Maine Sea Salt Company in Marshfield.
West West Blue is made in the style of a “two-curd” Gorgonzola, meaning that it’s made from two separate cheeses made over two days. The first day’s curd rests overnight, and at the end of the second day’s make, these colder, more acidic curds are mixed with the freshly made, warm curds. It’s a more traditional method of production that is rarely used due to the long and labor-intensive process. “In our case,” says Fritz Schaal, “we think it is well worth the effort.” The cheese is aged between five and ten months.
Cream-colored with blue veining, West West Blue smells sweet and slightly pungent with notes of flowers. Paste is soft and velvety with a slight crunch from the blue mold and a texture that melts in the mouth. On the palate, an initial hit of sharpness dissipates into a mushroomy, rounded earthiness. Strong yet balanced salty and sweet flavors dominate, with additional notes of grass, barnyard and burnt sugar.
Pair West West Blue with a barley wine, a big fat California zinfandel, or a vermouth such as Lacuesta Reserve.