Today's NY Times has an interesting article (free registration req'd) about the growing use of cheese caves as a means of aging cheese. I don't think there's any question that cheese caves and other methods of natural (i.e. other than in a refrigerated case) aging are superior methods of curing cheese that bring character to the finished product. And the results are undeniably superb - as evidenced by the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar which won Best in Show at the American Cheese Society competition this year (see photo, taken moments after it was declared the winner). This cheese is made by Cabot Creamery but aged in the Jasper Hill Farm caves by Mateo Kehler. But as the article mentions, most of the cheese caves in the United States are located on the East Coast; in fact, the only true cheese cave in the Northwest that I can think of is the one beneath the house of Kelli and Anthony Estrella of Estrella Family Creamery in Washington...although I know many cheesemakers who would love to have one. There are two primary barriers to the creation of cheese caves. One is money. Creating a hole in the ground or hillside which is also climate controlled and large enough to hold aging cheeses for multiple months or years is no easy feat, not to mention the maintenance costs thereafter. The other barrier is state and federal regulation. Cheesemaking as an industry has come a long way over the past several decades, but cheesemakers still must comply with a maze of regulations such as those that restrict them from selling raw milk cheeses if not aged over 60 days (as you're probably aware, some of France's great raw milk cheeses like the Reblochon are aged less than 60 days). The gap between artisan cheesemaking craft and regulatory constraints continues to be wide. Cheesemakers out west are still battling their states just to age their cheeses on wooden boards (as opposed to steel or plastic); to these folks, aging cheese in a dark earthen cave must seem a distant dream. Here's hoping that the precedents being set in Vermont and Wisconsin will make their way west sooner rather than later.