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Cheesy Road Trip: Oregon


From Butterbloom to world-champion blues, Oregon serves up opportunities for tasteful cheese adventures. Whether your jam is quirky-hip urban centers bustling with farmers markets or quaint wine country towns that retain their historic charm, Oregon has a lot to offer the cheese-obsessed traveler.

The mild, marine climate along the western half of the state means copious amounts of rain that moderate temperatures and support verdant growth of lush pastures to satisfy hungry dairy animals. With these exceptional raw materials, it’s no wonder Oregon is a dairy wonderland.

From the early days of statehood, lowland dairies along Oregon’s navigable coastal rivers provided infrastructure for small creameries to consolidate milk from small farms, producing cheese and butter for local consumption and for export to feed the growing cities along the west coast.

Today, the proud dairy tradition has been passed on to a new generation of artisans creating unique and delicious cheeses that travel with great renown far beyond the region. The creative food community sees an abundance of cross pollination with the robust wine and beer scene.

Fly into Portland and enjoy the urban vibe before picking up a rental car to enjoy the rest of what the state has to offer. Many options are within a short drive of Oregon’s largest city, or stay a little longer to enjoy creameries along the rugged coastline or in the wild and scenic Rogue River Valley.

Cheesemakers To Visit

 

Briar Rose Creamery, Dundee

High up in the Dundee Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area), surrounded by wineries and vineyards, Sarah Marcus created her dream creamery to produce small-batch, handcrafted cheeses made with Ayrshire milk from Perrin Dairy. Stop by the onsite cheese shop for picnic provisions to enjoy at local wineries. Don’t miss decadent, ripened Butterbloom, and Maia, with her custard-like texture and notes of clotted cream and sweet corn.


Fraga Farm, Gales Creek

Head out on the Sunset Highway from Portland and you’ll soon be in farm country. This spring, Fraga Farm debuted a farm stand, where guests can mingle with ambassador goats and purchase cheese out of the self-serve fridge. Take home some handmade wool soap scented with farm-made essential oils. New this year is Vanilla Goat Gelato, featuring the subtle tang of fresh chèvre.


Don Froylan Creamery, Salem

Francisco Ochoa and his family have been making handmade, artisanal authentic Mexican cheese for more than 10 years. In 2020, the creamery moved from its original Albany location to an expanded facility in Salem, conveniently just off the I-5. Visitors can watch cheese being made, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see the team hand-stretching curd for Ochoa’s award-winning Oaxaca. Come hungry and enjoy the new quesadilla bar, where Oaxaca provides the perfect melty-goodness, and the topping choices are up to you.


Face Rock Creamery, Bandon

This coastal creamery is a destination stop for cheese lovers and boasts an expansive window into the making room where the daily magical transformation of milk into cheese is on full display. Try the famous cheddar curds, and don’t miss Face2Face, a tasty blend of cow and sheep milk, both produced by local dairy partners. When you have had your fill, grab an ice cream cone and stroll on the local beach to seethe real “Face Rock,” an iconic sea stack rock formation.


Rogue Creamery, Central Point

No Oregon cheese adventure would be complete without a visit to Rogue Creamery, makers of fine cheddar and blue cheeses since 1933. Savor a range of blues including Caveman, Crater Lake, and (if it’s not sold out) the flagship—leaf-wrapped Rogue River Blue, named the World’s Best Cheese at the 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards. You can buy cut-to-order cheese and artisan provisions to make a brilliant cheese plate, and enjoy a melty grilled cheese made on a solar powered sandwich press, alongside a local wine or beer on tap on the picturesque patio.


Other Noteworthy Stops

 

Good Company Cheese Bar & Bistro, Newberg

The historic city of Newberg is a gateway to the wineries of the Willamette Valley. It boasts a quaint downtown and the only independent cheese shop for miles, opened in September 2020. Cheesemonger Kristen Kidney found a warm reception for her fine cheese and accompaniments from Oregon and around the world. Stop by and grab cheese to go for your tasting adventures or enjoy a cheese-centered meal with local wine or cocktails in the shop.

 


PSU Farmers Market, Portland

Since 1992, farmers and producers have gathered at this bustling and scenic market on the stately park blocks of Portland StateUniversity, where locals and visitors alike stroll and savor the flavors of Portland. Don’t miss Portland Creamery, a family-run operation known for their fluffy fresh goat cheese in flavors such as Sweet Fire and Herbs de Provence. Want something to take home for later? Grab a jar of cajeta, a sweet/savory goat caramel made from whey.


King Estate Winery, Eugene

Just south of Eugene, King Estate has been making exquisite wines with a reverence for the land since 1991 and is now the largest certified biodynamic vineyard in North America. The King family, led by co-founder and CEO Ed King, III, takes a holistic approach to farming that considers the scenic, 1,033-acre estate as one organism, prioritizing soil health and water conservation practices as they make world class wines. Tastings are available by reservation on the expansive outdoor terrace adjacent to the winery.


Cheese + Crack Snack Shop, Portland

 

It started with a food truck and a dream. The food truck still lives on, but this innovative restaurant serves an array of tasty cheese boards and sandwiches alongside beer, wine, and soft serve ice cream. The signature Brie Brûlée caused quite a stir a few years back and is always a good bet with house made butter crackers. This is a prime spot to fuel up after a day of sightseeing. 

 


Where To Stay

 

The Jupiter, Portland

Most travelers start their Oregon adventure in Portland, a city known for its great food; beer and music scene; and “Keep Portland Weird” ethos. Centrally located in SE Portland, the Jupiter offers a great home base to explore all the city has to offer, including the Doug Fir lounge right next door. Rooms are affordable and feature unique local art and mid-century modern style furnishings.


The Vintages Trailer Resort, Dayton

For quirky and notable accommodations while visiting Willamette Valley wineries, look no further than The Vintages. The resort features 35 restored trailers and your own outdoor space and cruiser bikes to enjoy the area. A General Store is stocked with libations and tasty treats if you don’t bring your own. Enjoy a pool, Club House, and 21+ lounge with fire pits to share stories of your tasting adventures.


Want to keep traveling? See what other stops are on our cheesy road trip here.

Christine Hyatt

Christine Hyatt is a photographer, writer, and professional cheese advocate and educator based in Portland, OR. In addition to her work for numerous regional and national magazines, she is a past president of the American Cheese Society, and has collaborated with the Oregon Cheese Guild on documentary-style videos.

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