by Megan Monson
Cheese lovers have a cornucopia of tasty options when it comes to handcrafted cheeses in the Rogue Valley. As the region’s artisanal industries continue to flourish, wine and specialty foods are frequently offered alongside handcrafted cheeses. Here’s where to set out on your next tasty adventure.
Take CrushPad Creamery at Wooldridge Creek Winery, Oregon’s first joint creamery and winery. The creamery is literally located on the winery’s crush pad, which allows curious visitors a chance to peek at cheese production while viewing Wooldridge Creek’s wine tanks. Cozy outdoor seating lets guests enjoy handcrafted wine, house-cured meats and artisan cheeses while taking in panoramic views of the Applegate River Valley and the creamery’s tribe of happy frolicking goats.
Goats at Wooldridge Creek WInery & Crushpad.
Cheesemaker Kara Olmo honed her skills in the intensive cheese-making classes about 20 miles northeast of Grants Pass at Pholia Farm Goat Dairy, an off-grid Rogue River-area dairy that offers multi-day courses every year to small groups of aspiring cheesemakers. Classes are taught by co-owner Gianaclis Caldwell, the author of six books on cheesemaking and dairy topics.
About 30 miles southeast of Grants Pass in Central Point, you only have to park once to get world class cheese, wine and chocolate. A mile west of Interstate 5 on Highway 99-North, Rogue Creamery’s small cheese factory offers tours of the cheddar production room, as well as samples, cheese-themed gifts and its full line of blues, cheddars and curds.
Next door on Front Street, fill up a picnic basket with organic gourmet sweets — blue cheese truffles, anyone? — from Lillie Belle Farms Handmade Chocolates. One door down, Ledger David Cellars pours its signature chenin blanc and other estate wines. And right around the corner on First Street is Montgomery’s Meats, a tiny butcher shop featuring takeout deli sandwiches and house-smoked meats.
Aficionados can put it all together at the Oregon Cheese Festival (March 14-15, 2020) at Rogue Creamery and the newly refurbished CraterWorks maker-space building in Central Point. The family-friendly event features more than 100 booths offering artisan cheese and all its symbiotic partners — specialty foods, beer, wine and ciders. A four-course cheesemaker dinner kicks off the event on March 13. All proceeds from the events go to the Oregon Cheese Guild, which supports the state’s artisanal industry. And that can only benefit cheese lovers.
Ten miles southeast of Central Point, the family-owned Oregon Cheese Cave in Phoenix curates a carefully chosen selection of cheeses from around the world, along with charcuterie, area wines and locally made jams and pickles. Specialties include cheese waffle bowls and dine in or cheese plates to go.