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).

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).

Dallenwiler Wychas is a relatively mild and pleasant goat cheese.  It is a friendly and approachable cheese with a sweet nutty flavor that should have broad appeal.

dallenwiler_wychas_cheese_by_cheesechatter_march_2011Dallenwiler Wychas is a firm cheese from the Oswalden region of Switzerland.  It is made from pasteurized goat’s milk by Odermatt Kaserei.  The cheese is produced in small chunky wheels that weigh under 2-pounds (800 grams).  The cheese is washed daily with red wine during its 3-month maturation.

Dallenwiler Wychas looks like a goat cheese rolled in charcoal, but its hard rind is natural.  Its dark gray and brown rind has a tight bubble pattern that gives it a rubber tread look.  The cheese’s bone colored paste is marred with compressed holes.  To the touch, the cheese is smooth and solid.

Dallenwiler Wychas’ interior paste has a pleasant scent of roasted nuts, but its rind smells of musty cellar, barnyard stink, and wet hay.

Dallenwiler Wychas’ flavor is sweet and nutty.  It has a gentle tanginess at first, but is then predominantly sweet roasted nuts.  It leaves a mild nutty after taste.  The cheese has a chewy texture that is slightly rubbery.  Although its rind is edible, it gives the cheese an unappealing chalkiness.

We all liked Dallenwiler Wychas a lot.  We found the cheese’s sweet nutty flavor and chewy texture appealing.  We polished off our entire purchase of this cheese during our tasting and my kids said it was their favorite cheese of the night.  I would re-purchase this cheese again; it would make a good stand-alone cheese or would do well paired with other cheeses on a plate.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Dallenwiler Wychas at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  In 2011, I have seen this cheese irregularly at Cowgirl Creamery.

Ascutney Mountain is a delicious cheese that calls up comparisons to classic Swiss mountain cheeses.  This US-made cheese is like a younger version of Appenzeller.  It does not deliver Appenzeller’s concentrated flavor, but its flavors are similar and very accessible.

ascutney_mountain_cheese_by_cheesechatter_march_2011Ascutney Mountain is farmstead produced by Cobb Hill Cheese, Vermont.  Cobb Hill is a farm-based community whose residents produce 2 cheeses along with other farm goods through cooperative enterprises.  Ascutney Mountain is a firm cheese made from raw cow’s milk.  The cheese is produced in 10-pound wheels and aged for at least 8 months before market.

Ascutney Mountain is a solid cheese with a natural nutmeg brown rind.  The paste is deep yellow and darkens to golden brown near the rind.  The cheese paste is marked with many irregular-shaped holes.  To the touch, the paste is firm and slightly greasy.

Ascutney Mountain’s rind has a musty cellar scent; the paste smells like freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Ascutney Mountain tastes like a softer–or younger–Appenzeller.  Ascutney Mountain has the tangy and nutty flavors of Appenzeller, yet they are less intense.  Ascutney Mountain has sweet fruity and warm buttery flavors that balance its nutty tanginess.  In the mouth, Ascutney Mountain has a chewy texture with crystallized granules that invite slow eating.  After eating, a sour nuttiness lingers.

Ascutney Mountain was a big hit at our table.  It is a lovely cheese with warm flavor and a nice texture.  Interestingly, our juvenile tasters found Ascutney Mountain more accessible than Appenzeller.  Like a good Swiss classic, Ascutney Mountain is easy to eat and needs no accompaniment.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Ascutney Mountain at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Landaff is a cheese with all-around appeal.  It’s a mild version of farmhouse cheddar; its shorter maturation gives it softer flavor and a creamier texture than aged cheddars.  Landaff is a good everyday cheese, an easy snacker and likely to have wide appeal.

Landaff has its roots in traditional Welsh farmstead cheeses.  It is a semi-firm cheese, farmstead produced by Landaff Creamery of New Hampshire.  Landaff  is made from the raw cow’s milk and matured for 60 days before market.  The cheese is cave-aged by affineur Jasper Hill Farms.

landaff-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Landaff has a simple rustic appearance.  It has a weathered tan rind that is hard and dry.  The interior paste is deep yellow, darkening to caramel near the rind.  The paste is greasy and smooth to the touch.

Landaff has mild aroma.  Its rind smells like wet stone and mineral water.  The cheese paste has a rich buttery scent.

Landaff tastes like a mild cheddar.  It starts fruity with a blueberry jam flavor.  Its flavor builds and becomes sour, bitter and intensely nutty.  It has a cheddar-like tang that one can feel on the tongue.  Landaff finishes with a mild sourness.  Landaff has a chewy and thick texture with nice mouth feel.

Landaff is a nice all-around everyday cheese that could substitute for cheddar.  It would make a superb cheese for a picnic or outdoor meal.  Landaff makes a delicious snacking cheese and has enough zest for a party plate.  It is excellent on its own with no accompaniment.  Landaff Creamery suggests its cheese is good for cooking, too.

My kids liked Landaff a lot and appreciated its mildness relative to other cheddars we have tried.  Landaff is a definite re-purchase.

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

Mayor of Nye Beach is a demanding cheese.  Like a bouillon cube, Mayor of Nye Beach has concentrated flavor in a tight dry package.  We found Mayor of Nye Beach’s goat cheese flavors enjoyable when the cheese was sliced paper thin, otherwise it was too salty.  For balance, the cheese’s sea salt flavor also demands a sweet accompaniment.

Mayor of Nye Beach is a firm goat cheese produced by Rivers Edge Chevre of Oregon.  It is washed in a local ale and aged for a minimum of 2 months before market.  Mayor of Nye Beach is produced in a small, 1-pound square format.

mayor-of-nye-beach-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Mayor of Nye Beach is a solid dry cheese.  Its interior paste is clear white darkening to bone at the rind.  The cheese’s rind is bright orange with some white surface molds.  The rind has a tight grid pattern on its top and bottom surfaces, while its sidewall shows more random creasing.  The cheese and rind are dry to the touch; the rind sheds orange and white bits when handled.

The rind of Mayor of Nye Beach has a scent that is woodsy and a bit like cooked broccoli.  The interior paste smells buttery.

Mayor of Nye Beach has concentrated flavor.  It tastes like a tangy goat cheese with a hefty dose of sea salt.  The rind adds an earthy mushroom flavor that gives some balance to the paste’s saltiness.  Yet, the sea salt flavor dominates.

Mayor of Nye Beach’s texture demands a sharp knife.  The cheese has a dry, almost brittle texture and will fracture.  In the mouth, the cheese crumbles and becomes grainy.  Paper thin slices reduce portion size so that the cheese’s saltiness does not overwhelm.

We all liked Mayor of Nye Beach but we didn’t fall in love.  When eaten on its own, the cheese’s saltiness dominates and demands more balance.  This cheese would do better paired with a sweet beverage or food that counters its saltiness.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Mayor of Nye Beach at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  Our sample was one-quarter of a whole cheese (about 4 oz).

Ocooch Mountain is a big cheese.  It is pungent, rich, fruity and intensely nutty.  Ocooch Mountain is not subtle and is not recommended for beginners.  Yet for the willing and adventurous, Ocooch Mountain is memorable.

Ocooch Mountain is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, farmstead produced by Hidden Springs Creamery of Wisconsin.  It is a firm cheese and has a washed rind.  The cheese is produced in small, 2-pound rounds and is aged for 3-4 months before market.

ocooch-mountain-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Ocooch Mountain looks calm enough.  It has a natural, orange-brown rind that shows some surface scars.  Its dull blonde paste deepens to golden brown near the rind.  The interior paste is riddled with holes of varying sizes.  To the touch, the paste is smooth and greasy.  When left out of refrigeration, the rind’s surface becomes tacky.

Ocooch Mountain has a strong perfume.  On the rind, there are scents of  hot rubber, musty old books, decayed flowers, and sweaty socks.  The cheese paste smells like beeswax, daisies, cheese and berries.

Ocooch Mountain has rich flavor.  It is very fruity and intensely nutty.  There is an underlying smokiness that helps to provide balance.  Its natural rind also mellows the cheese’s intense nuttiness.  Its fruity rich flavors and nuttiness linger long in the mouth after eating.  Ocooch Mountain has a chewy texture.

Ocooch Mountain’s fruity rich flavor reminded us of  Serra da Estrela, the soft sheep’s milk cheese from the Portugese mountains. We all liked this cheese, but its nutty tanginess was too intense for one of my juvenile tasters.

Ocooch Mountain is a sensational cheese.  Its flavors are distinctive and memorable.  Although this cheese may not appeal to everyone, it would be fun to share it with adventurous family and friends.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Ocooch Mountain at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).