World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Rogue River Blue from Oregon, USA.
Country: USA 🇺🇸
Made from: Cow's Milk
Taste: salty, savory, nutty, mushrooms, sweet cream
Aging: 9 - 18 months
Size: 5 pound wheel
Rogue River Blue is made only during autumn, when the cow's rich milk lends itself best to making this exquisite cheese. This multiple award-winning cheese is wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy. The blue veining lends hints of hazelnuts and fruit, and the paste becomes slightly crystallized as it ages.
Beginning at 5 a.m. on a summer’s day in June, the folks at Rogue Creamery spent their morning in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, picking Syrah grape leaves that will be macerated in local pear brandy from Clear Creek distillery — to later serve as an earthy wrap for the creamery’s Rogue River Blue.
Tied with a raffia ribbon, it is Rogue’s seasonal gift to Blue cheese lovers, released in September and available through the beginning of the following year. Aged from nine to 18 months, Rogue River Blue can credit its popularity to attention to detail, including its unique grape leaf wrapping, seasonality and farmstead milk from Rogue’s own pampered cow milk dairy.
“It’s Oregon on a plate,” says Brian Moss, warehouse and packaging manager at Rogue Creamery, who credits the staff for a large part of the final cheese’s outcome. “We work hard on this cheese. It’s made of pears, grape leaves, milk, and Oregon hard work. From milking to you, it is handled with care and love.”
David Gremmels, Rogue’s president and head cheesemaker, began making the Blue cheese in 2002. He found that milk harvested during the period from the Autumnal Equinox to the Winter Solstice makes the best cheese, because the cows are enjoying fresh grass from the pastures after the first rainfalls of the season.
Rogue River Blue’s quality has been backed up by its numerous awards, including Best Blue Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in London, 2003 and ACS Best of Show awarded to the best cheese in North America, in 2009 and 2011.
In tasting Rogue River Blue, Gremmels says the action begins on the top and tip of the tongue with salty, savory flavors. “As the cheese melts across the mid-palate and around the sides of the tongue, it morphs into the meaty, nutty taste of Brazil nuts and, finally, the faintly piney notes of Matsutake mushrooms and sweet cream,” he says.
To find the roots of artisan American cheesemaking, look no further than Rogue Creamery. The Vella family began crafting cheese in southern Oregon during the Depression, even supplying troops with cheddar during WWII. The creamery created a wealth of jobs for the area, and soon came to focus almost exclusively on making blue cheese. In the early 2000s, Tom's son, Ig, sold Rogue Creamery to David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, who continue to uphold the practices and principles of artisan cheesemaking as set out by the Vellas.Carrying on in the Vella family's traditions, David Gremmels takes great care with his handmade blue cheeses made from organic raw milk. These cheeses have taken the nation, and the American Cheese Society Awards, by storm over the past decade.
How to enjoy it
Carefully chosen pairings by David Gremmels include Oregon Pinot Noir, such as Evesham Wood or Cameron, both of which are biodynamic wines. Viognier by Cowhorn Vineyards as well as American dessert wines and aged sherry with coffee notes partner well. Great with beer, Imperial Chocolate Stout by Rogue Ales is a fan favorite.
Source: Cowgirl Creamery, Murray’s Cheese, Cheese Connoisseur.