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 on September 23, 2015 and available through the beginning of 2016. 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.
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.
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. CC