Estero Gold is a cheese with charms so subtle, they can be easily missed.  During our tasting, we found Estero Gold’s flavors pleasant, yet too laid back to command our attention.  Estero Gold’s casualness is part of its charm, but it does not make a compelling cheese.

estero_gold_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Estero Gold is a firm cheese, farmstead produced locally by Valley Ford Cheese Co. in Valley Ford, California.  It is made from raw cow’s milk and is inspired by Swiss Italian cheeses.  Estero Gold is aged for approximately 4 months before market.

Estero Gold has a rich spun-gold appearance.   The interior paste is deep golden yellow flecked with small holes.  Estero Gold has a natural golden rind that shows impressions and folds from what appears to be a cloth wrap.  Both the rind and paste are smooth and solid to the touch.

Estero Gold has a delicious aroma of melted butter and cheese.

Estero Gold has subtle flavors that are relatively mild and reminiscent of melted Asiago.  It begins with a buttery rich flavor and finishes with a light nuttiness.  The nuttiness has a little prickliness to it that may cause a tingling sensation in the mouth.  It has a little milky sourness, but this flavor is not pronounced.  Estero Gold has a firm chewy texture and leaves a long mildy nutty after-taste.

We thought Estero Gold a pleasant cheese, but its flavors were too subtle to hold our attention.  My juvenile tasters found Estero Gold too acidic in the mouth; both complained of “mouth prickles.”  While Estero Gold did not have strong enough flavor to make it a compelling snacker, we thought it would make a good melting cheese (Valley Ford Cheese Co. suggests Estero Gold is good for this purpose).

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Estero Gold at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

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Hyku is like a breath of summer–eating it makes me long for warm sunny days.  This goat cheese is bright and mild.  Yet it is Hyku’s fluffy, mousse-like texture that makes a lasting impression.  Hyku’s light flavor and airy texture would make a good compliment to a summer meal.

hyku_goat_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Hyku is a soft goat’s milk cheese produced by Goat’s Leap in Napa Valley, California.  It is made with pasteurized milk and has a mold-ripened rind.  Hyku is produced in a small 6-oz. cylinder format and is aged approximately 6 weeks before market.

Hyku looks like a gourmet marshmallow wrapped in a wonton skin.  Its white bloomy rind is folded and creased, giving it a paper-wrapped look.  To the touch, its rind is soft and downy.  The interior paste is brilliant white and looks dense and chalky.  Just under the rind, Hyku has a whisper thin translucent layer of paste the consistency of thickened cream.

Hyku has very mild aroma, with hints of flowers and pool water.

Hyku has mild flavor and a delightful texture.  Its flavor is like a tart cottage cheese, with more saltiness and some bright citrus flavors.  Hyku has a knock-out texture that is so light and fluffy it feels whipped.  The paste is very moist and creamy.

The soft, fluffy mouth feel of the interior paste is superb, but the rind feels like a thickened piece of skin and creates an unappealing contrast.  We all ate around the rind because its texture detracted from the cheese.

We all liked Hyku.  It has an airy quality that seems well-suited to warm weather and light meals.  I would definitely purchase this cheese again. However, I’d give some consideration to Hyku’s rind before sharing this cheese.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Hyku at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). Availability may be seasonal.  We divided our whole cheese into 8 servings.

Hillis Peak is a goat cheese that stretches one’s imagination.  If chevre occupies one end of the goat cheese spectrum, Hillis Peak would anchor the other end.  This cheese has intriguing flavor, nice texture and a lovely appearance.  Hillis Peak satisfies as a stand-alone cheese.

hillis_peak_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Hillis Peak is a semi-firm cheese, farmstead produced by Pholia Farms in Rogue River, Oregon.  It is a washed curd cheese, produced from raw goat’s milk.  The cheese is produced in small, 2.5-pound drums.  During its 6-7 month maturation, the cheese’s rind is rubbed with oil and Spanish paprika.

Hillis Peak is a lovely cheese.  Its rusty rind has a deep chevron pattern across its top and bottom, while its sides have a shallow diamond emboss.  The rust brown rind is separated from the paste by a thin layer of bright orange paprika.  Hillis Peak’s ivory paste is smooth, solid and dry to the touch.

Hillis Peak has nice aroma.  Its rind smells of mineral water, ground corn, and cellar.  The interior paste smells like melted butter with a light popcorn scent.

Hillis Peak has varied flavors.  Its flavor starts with a roasted sweet corn flavor, but its sweetness turns almost jammy.  Hillis Peak also has warm buttery and toasted nut flavors.  The cheese finishes with a light nuttiness.  Hillis Peak leaves a mildly nutty aftertaste that has a distinctive goaty flavor.  Although the rind is natural, it tastes like soil and detracts from the cheese; the paste nearest the rind also has more cellar-like flavors that are not appealing.  Its texture is a bit dry and chewy.

Hillis Peak is a fun cheese.  For a goat cheese, it offers a lot of flavor complexity.  During our tasting, we enjoyed identifying its interesting flavors.  Hillis Peak makes a fantastic snacking cheese and is perfect on its own.  Yet, it is so rewarding and visually appealing that it deserves a spot on a cheese plate.

A serving note: Hillis Peak’s rind sheds orange dust that can migrate to the cheese paste if not handled with care.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Hillis Peak at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  Pholia Farms makes their cheese in small production, so expect irregular availability.

Berkswell is a cheese for savoring.  Its rustic appearance belies its complexity: each time we tasted this cheese, we detected new flavors.  Berkswell is not a cheese for haste.  It demands one’s attention, but is guaranteed to reward.

berkswell_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Berkswell is a firm sheep’s milk cheese from the West Midlands region of England.  It is farmstead produced at Ram Hall by the Fletcher family.  The cheese’s flying saucer shape is created by colanders used during its production.  Berkswell is aged for about 6 months before market.

Berkswell is a sunny, rustic cheese.  The colander forms used during the cheese’s production emboss the rind with a basket weave pattern.  Its natural orange-tan rind feels dry and rough.  Berkswell’s solid paste is lemon yellow, darkening to butterscotch near the rind.  The solid cheese paste is smooth and a bit greasy.

Berkswell has a warm, pleasant aroma.  Its rind smells like straw and cellar.  Its interior paste smells like parmesan.

Berkswell is a full-flavored and rich cheese.  Its flavors are nutty, buttery, sweet and salty.  It has a lovely salted caramel flavor that is buttery, sweet and salty.  Berkswell’s nutty flavor is like a light parmesan; it intensifies towards the finish.  Berkswell ends with a light fruity sweetness and leaves a long butterscotch after-taste.  Berkswell’s texture is chewy and grainy.  The cheese feels rich and fatty in the mouth.

Berkswell is a cheese for slow savoring.  At first blush, Berkswell seems like a straight-forward cheese, but its flavors are complex and demand slow eating.  With its rich and fatty mouth feel, a little of this cheese goes a long way.

We all liked Berkswell, but San Francisco’s weather created havoc with our appreciation.  We tasted Berkswell on an unusually hot summer-like day in Spring.  The cheese’s fatty mouth feel created a heavy impression on the palate; Berkswell would be well-served by a good beverage pairing to cut its richness.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Berkswell at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco, CA).

Coupole is a cheese of pure delight.  This cheese has it all: great flavor, lovely texture, and visual beauty.  Coupole is one of the best goat cheeses we have tasted.  Fair warning: we found this cheese addictive and difficult to stop eating.

coupole_goat_cheese_by_cheesechatter_March_2011Coupole is a soft, aged goat cheese produced by Vermont Creamery in Vermont.  It is produced with pasteurized goat’s milk in a small dome format.  The cheese is sprinkled with ash then matured for 45 days before release.  Vermont Creamery delivers Coupole to market pre-packaged in individual wooden crates.

Coupole looks like a wrinkled snow ball.  It has a deeply wrinkled rind similar to Langres.  Coupole’s rind has a sunny tint and is velvety to the touch.  The milk-white interior paste is dense but not chalky.  Just beneath its rind, Coupole has a silky translucent layer of paste that looks like buttercream icing.

Coupole has a pleasant goaty aroma.  Its rind smells musty with hints of beeswax and daisies.  The interior paste has a more defined honey-like scent.

Coupole is a full-flavored goat cheese with sweet and sour contrast.  The denser core of the cheese has a light honey flavor.  The translucent paste is sour, but more milky sour than citrus sour.  Coupole’s texture is thick, pasty, and buttery.  Coupole leaves a mild aftertaste.

Coupole is a superb cheese.  It is one of the best American-made goat cheeses we have tasted.  Coupole offers fantastic flavor, a rich texture, and a beautiful appearance.  During our tasting, I saved Coupole to the end–much like I did as a child with the best parts of my birthday cake–so that I could savor its flavors and texture more fully.  Coupole is destined for regular purchase.

Coupole’s sweetness suggests dessert, but I would purchase it for any occasion.  Coupole becomes creamier when out of refrigeration, but retains its dome shape.  Even when cut into, Coupole keeps its form.  Coupole should be a top consideration for a cheese plate.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Coupole at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  We purchased a whole 6.5-oz. cheese (about 5-6 servings), pre-packaged in a balsa wood box.  The box can be pulled apart for clean removal of the cheese.