Tasting Notes: Estrella Family Creamery Caldwell Crik Chevrette

Estrella Family CreameryHere's a fabulous gem of a cheese that Kelli Estrella makes at Estrella Family Creamery near Montesano, Washington. Caldwell Crik Chevrette (named for the stream that flows through the farm) is a classic washed rind cheese that's bathed periodically throughout the aging process in white wine. Estrella makes it with both raw cow and raw goat's milk, adding to the complexity of tones and flavors she nurtures in this amazing cheese. One of the (many) things that makes Caldwell Crik Chevrette so good is that it retains balance -  it's not too salty, not too tart, not too anything, but rather a glorious combination of flavors and textures, all in one cheese. This is something worth appreciating, because washed rind cheeses can be tricky for cheesemakers to maintain and age consistently without things going wrong or all sorts of strange microorganisms taking control of the cheese. This is why you don't see as many domestically made washed rind cheeses as you do the standards like cheddar. But these challenging cheeses are my favorites because when they're done well, they are some of the most incredibly interesting cheeses you'll find anywhere.

The Chevrette is gorgeous to look at and gorgeous to eat: the straw yellow flesh is as soft as custard and literally melts in your mouth. Immediately, salty tangy meaty flavors flood your palate, insisting with their toasty, nutty and cured meat highlights. Then there's grassiness, a hint of pasture that's common to many Estrella cheeses...the overall sensation is complex, rich and buttery goodness.

I think this is one of the most outstanding cheeses currently being made in the Northwest, period.