Loma Alta (Black Mountain): A Gem from Marin
July 19, 2010
Update 11/10/10: Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. changed the name of Black Mountain to Loma Alta, yet the cheese is otherwise the same. Our review was posted in the summer, before the name change.
Black Mountain is a semi-soft/semi-firm cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is made locally by Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County (California). The cheesemonger said that this was a “mountain style” cheese and can be aged for up to 2 years.
Black Mountain is another cheese with an appearance that suggests age. The rind of the cheese is rough, pocked and dimpled; it looks like a cut stone. The rind shows many colors including white, orange, green, tan and gray (some of these may be surface molds). The interior of the cheese is a light, milky yellow and has infrequent small flat holes.
To the touch, Black Mountain’s exterior is dry and very bumpy. One’s finger does not glide across the rind of this cheese. The interior is squishy and a bit rubbery. Black Mountain holds its shape well and does not collapse out of refrigeration.
Black Mountain’s mild scent suggests cooked vegetables (we thought broccoli or asparagus) or over-ripe fruit. Its has a mild sour milk flavor, a hint of salt and also some sweetness–Ben noted its “fruitiness” right away. Black Mountain does not have a strong after-taste and it finishes rather lightly. Compared to soft, washed rind cheeses, this cheese is not as spreadable and it has a harder rind. Some of the outer rind was too tough and was a bit unpleasant in the mouth; perhaps the crust should be trimmed before eating. The interior of the cheese is rich, smooth and creamy.
We all liked this cheese a lot and would buy it again (we ate all that we purchased during our evaluation). Black Mountain has a lot to offer: a mild and pleasant flavor; a rich and creamy texture that holds up well outside of refrigeration; and an interesting appearance that suggests age and beauty. Black Mountain would be a great picnic cheese. This would also be an excellent cheese to share with out-of-town visitors, especially those who like European cheeses.