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Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise

March 11, 2010

Tarentaise from

I read quite a bit about the Tarentaise made at Thistle Hill Farm in Vermont before I actually had a chance to try it.  According to several sources online,  it is as close as you can get to an actual Alpine- style cheese without actually crossing the Atlantic.  This cheese is made in the French Abondance style with a focus on the climate, pasture and “terroir” (the unique characteristics that an area bestows upon certain varieties) that is reflected in the raw, Jersey cow milk used to make this organic farmstead cheese.  Apparently, it is essential that this cheese be made in a copper vat using specific techniques in order to achieve the proper taste and texture of an Alpine cheese in this style.  The cheesemakers,  John and Janine Putnam, utilize a copper vat that was custom built specifically for their use.  It is the only one in Vermont and one of only a handful used within the United States.  With that attention to detail and their singular focus on making a quality cheese reflective of their area at Thistle Farm, I was anxious to find and try this cheese for myself.  On a recent weekend trip to Murray’s Cheese Shop, I had the opportunity to sample this cheese I  heard so much about.

I must interject here that I am a bit biased when it comes to Alpine-style cheeses.  Tarentaise is sometimes referred to as “Mountain Gruyère” and that comparison alone makes my mouth water.

The paste has a wonderful, golden color with an interesting concave edge along the rind.  The only way I can describe the taste is that of nuts with a muted and acidic edge from a raw piece of pineapple if that makes any sense whatsoever.  The acid isn’t on the front end at all, but comes in on the finish that allows the nutty overtones to dance across your tongue.  Thoughts and images of Vermont come into my head as I sit and savour the last wedge of this farmstead cheese.  My wife and I are going up to Vermont for a long weekend in May.  I am looking forward to visiting the area and taking in what inspired the Putnam’s to create this American Alpine classic.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2010 8:07 pm

    You said “Mountain Gruyere” and my mouth watered, too. Either that’s a potent combination of words or you’re a shaman.

    • March 11, 2010 8:17 pm

      Those are the same 2 words that inspired me to search out this cheese in the first place…

  2. March 12, 2010 11:08 am

    You could definitely write a cheese article (with photos) when you go on that Vermont trip! My bet is a food magazine somewhere would go for it…(Saveur? Food & Wine?) I love the depth and breadth of your information and your obvious passion for the subject. Your descriptions are divine. And did you know a cheese-and-beer shop is opening in Rhinebeck any minute now? Might be worth a look-see.

    • March 12, 2010 2:57 pm

      Thanks Cait! That shop sounds like a great addition to Rhinebeck and the surrounding area! I will definitely stop in the next time I am up there…

      Definitely looking forward to the Vermont trip. I haven’t been up there in quite a long time.

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