Cheese of the Week: Rogue River Blue
This award-winning, special blue is one of the most celebrated cheeses in the US.
Named "Best Cheese in the World" at the 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards, Rogue Creamery's Rogue River Blue is not just another blue cheese. Produced in limited quantities, each wheel is hand-wrapped in Syrah grape leaves from a local vineyard that have been soaked in pear spirits. It has a fudgy, rich texture with calcium lactate crystals due to its 9-11 month aging period. When taking a bite of this special cheese, you'll taste notes of pear brandy, vanilla, toffee, truffle, pepper and fig, and a pronounced blue flavor. It's salty, sweet, nutty and fruity all at once!
David Gremmels, president of Rogue Creamery, said to Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council in a Youtube video that Rogue River Blue's "flavor really captures the essence of the Rogue River Valley from pear notes to milk chocolate and vanilla and Oregon truffles and roasted hazelnuts and then savory notes of almost like cured bacon. It's a cheese like no other, it's distinctive, it's glorious, it's the Rogue Valley in a wheel of cheese." We couldn't agree more!
What makes this cheese even more special is that it is made with the highest-quality cow's milk of the year. Early fall in Rogue Valley is characterized by cooler temperatures and weather that bring renewed growth to the pastures on which the dairy cows graze. This period is when the milk is at its best, and only this milk is used to craft Rogue River Blue. The cheese is only available once a year--usually shipping to customers in late August or early September.
The story of Rogue Creamery begins in 1933 when an entrepreneur from Portland, Oregon created Southern Oregon's very first artisan cooperative creamery. Many dairy farmers were struggling financially during the Great Depression, and the aim of Rogue River Valley Co-op was to aid and support these farmers by purchasing their milk and using it to produce artisan cheeses. Legendary cheesemaker, Tom Vella, noticed success of the cooperative, and transformed the company into a thriving cheese factory.
Tom's son Ignazio inherited the creamery in 1998. He joined forces with local entrepreneur David Gremmels, who decided to purchase the creamery from Ignazio. "David Gremmels dreamed of creating a new blue cheese that was inspired by the region in which it was made—Oregon’s bountiful Rogue Valley. He took the finest wheels of blue cheese, created from the distinctively sweet and rich cow milk made only in the autumn, and aged them for many months. He then wrapped the wheels in Syrah grape leaves that are picked in the spring and soaked in pear liqueur. The wheels continued to age while absorbing the character of the leaves, and were eventually released for sale nearly a year later around the time of the Autumnal Equinox." Thus, Rogue River Blue cheese was born!
Today, Rogue Creamery is Oregon’s first Public Benefit Corporation (“B Corp”) for its commitment to improving social, economic, and environmental well-being of the surrounding area. This includes providing a happy, stress-free life for the dairy cows, an extensive solar power system, monthly bonuses for employees to pay for sustainable forms of transportation to travel to and from work, and a robust recycling program.
Rogue River Blue shines spectacularly with fruit compotes and fresh pears. Enjoy it with Sparkling Shiraz, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, or Sauternes. If you're more of a beer person, Porters and Stouts bring out the nutty flavors of Rogue River Blue.
Pre-order it here, and be quick!