Winnimere is a seasonal cheese that shows off the richness of winter milk from Jasper Hill's hay-fed Ayrshire cows. Winnimere—named for a corner of Caspian Lake—is a washed-rind cheese that's wrapped in spruce bark and produced only from November to April. During its two month maturation, Winnimere is regularly brushed with a cultured salt brine. Inspired by Alpine cheeses like Vacherin Mont d'Or, the wheel is wrapped in a strip of spruce bark that's cut from trees on Jasper Hill's land. The bark helps maintain the cheese's shape, while also imparting a woodsy flavor.
Located in the beautiful rolling countryside of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, Jasper Hill Farm was bought by brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler in 1998. When the farm came into their possession, it was extremely run-down, but by 2003, after five years of hard work, Andy and Mateo acquired their first 15 Ayrshire heifers. Thanks to careful management and focus on building excellent genetics, they now have one of the highest quality milking herds in the United States. The herd grazes from late spring to early fall, and over successive years, the grazing land at Jasper Hill has been improved by planting a wide variety of clovers, grasses, and legumes to enhance the flavor of the milk.
More recently, Jasper Hill became involved with milk production at Andersonville Farm in nearby Glover, Vermont; that milk is now used to produce cheeses at Jasper Hill and at the farm's private cell in the Vermont Food Venture Center. In 2015, the Kehlers teamed up with German company AgriCompact Technologies to produce a hay drying facility: The Randi Albert Calderwood Cropping Center is the first of its kind in the United States.
The brothers have also developed another arm of the business, The Cellars at Jasper Hill. The Cellars, which comprise 22,000 square feet of cheese maturing caves, were designed and built not only to house Jasper Hill's own cheeses but also to mature the cheeses of other Vermont producers. Jasper Hill's own range of cheeses includes Alpha Tolman, Bayley Hazen Blue, Constant Bliss, Harbison, and Moses Sleeper.
When ripe, Winnimere's interior is smooth, velvety, and almost soup-like with complex and layered flavors. Notes of milk, grass, almonds, and wood balance each other and leave a lingering savory finish. The flavor becomes more intense closer to the rind, where crystallized amino acids add a slightly crunchy texture.
Peel off a bit of Winnimere's top rind and dig in with a hunk of baguette—or eat with a spoon. Pair it with a porter or a meaty, smoky red wine.