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Vaquero Blue from Willow Hill Farm

August 3, 2010

There are a couple of cheeses that stood out from the pack at the VT Cheesemakers Festival a couple of weeks ago.   I wasn’t that familiar with Willow Hill Farm prior to this festival.  I had heard the name several times as this farm when discussing artisanal cheese making in Vermont with other cheesemakers and mongers, but I never had the opportunity to try their cheeses for myself…until now…

Vaquero or “Cowboy”  Blue is named after cowboys from Spain migrated to their ranch over 100 years ago.  The cheese is a mixture of cow and sheep’s milk, giving it a much creamier texture and rich color than what you would normally find in a blue cheese.    One of the first things I noticed about the cheese was that there was a slight buttery color to the paste which would definitely come from the addition of cow’s milk.   The cheesemaker, Willow Smart, said that the Vaquero is styled after Spanish blue cheeses such as Cabrales.   This was actually one of the first impressions I had upon tasting, as there was a nice spicy bite right on the front end which I normally associate with a mature Cabrales.  Interestingly enough, Willow said that this cheese won an award at the World Cheese Awards last year, which were held in the Spanish Canary Islands.   What is remarkable about this cheese though, is the finish and the texture.  The creaminess simply melts in your mouth, the spiciness fades away, and it leaves a slight dark chocolate flavor as it dissipates…  Was not expecting that…

This cheese was definitely one of the highlights for me.  I am a big fan of blue cheese, but they are sometimes a bit too “one note” in order to deliver the complexity that most people are looking for.  The Vaquero Blue was a great find for me and should definitely take a place on your board at the next opportunity.

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