Cheese/Wine Pairings from Moon Hill Dairy
Moon Hill Dairy in the Elk River Valley prides itself on making fine, small-batch artisanal cheeses and other dairy products from its grass-fed, heritage breed cows, which subsist on a naturally high in omega-3 and micro nutrient-rich diet. “Our cows are a part of our family,” says cheese-maker Errik Hill, who milks the cows by hand every day less than 10 yards from the milk parlor, where the cheese is made and aged. “We try and honor a different cow each month.” Below, Hill, who attended the Culinary Institute of America and has worked as a chef at heli-ski operations across British Columbia, offers insight on a few prime cheeses and wine pairing recommendations.
In His Own Words:
Fromage Blanc: Available in Garlic Herb, Spicy Italian and Cranberry Horseradish, this is perhaps our most popular cheese. Flavored with herbs de provence and garlic, it’s a very versatile cheese, best accompanied with fresh fruit and crackers. Ready for the finest of cheese trays, it can also start your day on a bagel, or get baked into a delightful Sunday morning egg dish or an omelet. We use it with another hard cheese to make gnocchi, which are little pillows of heaven. With its high fat content and smooth texture, it will elevate any dish you’re making.
Wine pick: For me, I enjoy this with a light fresh wine, perhaps a nice Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. The big buttery notes in both the cheese and wine will make you feel as rich as old Uncle Moneybags. Like my momma always says, “the buttery the better!”
Joe: Despite its rather plain name, Joe is a raw milk, California Dry Jack-style cheese that is aged for at least 60 days, with some aged for years. The aging process intensifies the flavor, bringing out the subtle nuances of our Routt County grasses. It’s rubbed down with coffee, cocoa and cayenne before aging in our cave. The rind that forms is entirely edible and gives this cheese a great kick of flavor.
Wine pick: Joe likes to be paired with a wine that can hang on the same level. A Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from California would hold its own. The light peppery notes in the wine pair well with the slight spice of the rind. Dried cherry and plum notes in a zinfandel also enhance the richness of the cocoa on the rub.
Elkhorn Asiago: This is our most mellow and approachable cheese. It’s named after Sleeping Giant. Our asiago is unlike its Italian counterparts; it has a smoother, creamier center that makes it fantastic to grate over pasta. I love it.
Wine pick: For cheese boards, try serving an off-dry prosecco or sparkling wine to cut the big buttery flavor of this Asiago. And how could you go wrong with a glass of famous Chianti Classico, Wild Boar Ragu, and a pile of freshly shaved Elkhorn?
River Runs Blue: This our gateway drug to blue cheese. The small wheel of cheese sprinkled in vegetable ash is the lightest, most chill blue cheese you will find, when it’s young. It reaches its prime at about three weeks, so it doesn’t have an overpowering flavor that other blues have. With a double cream exterior blue with a layer of bamboo ash, it’s a great cheese to excite your taste-buds, changing from its initial blue flavor t to fill your mouth with a creamy cheesy sensation.
Wine pick: A fortified Madeira wine would be great to cleanse your palate between bites. The sweet notes of the wine play off the natural sugars found in our milk. And sipping a dessert wine will give you the appearance of sophistication and exotic flavors. Go ahead, indulge in the sweet temptations of life.
—Note: Find Routt County’s only artisanal cheese at area restaurants or the Community Agriculture Alliance shop on 8th and Oak Street. Or sign up for its Cheese of the Month Club at moonhilldairy.com
By Errik Hill