With the rise of artisan American cheesemakers, it shouldn't be a surprise that some of them, like Rogue Creamery and Uplands Cheese Company, are exporting their cheeses to markets abroad. Tasting even a small bite of the lusciously creamy Rogue River Blue (now, imported to England by Neal's Yard Dairy) makes it clear that stateside cheesemakers mean business when it comes to quality.
Hand wrapped in grape leaves, Rogue River Blue has a smooth complex flavor that ranges from sweet and fruity to nutty. Its texture is intensely rich, reminiscent of a Roquefort Baragnaudes. However, unlike Roquefort -- which is produced from raw sheep's milk -- this blue is made from raw cow's milk. And in contrast to many blues, like Gorgonzola Piccante, this one is more sweet than spicy. So, for those of you whose palates have been traumatized by overly-pungent blues, this one is sure to win you over.
Like most delicious artisanal cheeses, the craftsmanship (and local collaboration) involved in producing Rogue River Blue is directly responsible for its brilliant taste and consistency. The cheese comes from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Ore. There, in the Rogue River Valley, the wheels are covered in grape leaves that are harvested from nearby Carpenter Hill Vineyard. But these aren't just any grape leaves: They're all macerated in Clear Creek's Pear Brandy and then tied to the cheese with strands of raffia.
In short, just because the cheese is exported abroad doesn't mean that it loses its sense of home, back in Oregon. Clearly, the beauty of the terroir comes through in the cheese thanks to the addition of local grape leaves and brandy. The leaves and brandy both infuse flavor and help maintain the cheese's moist texture.
Rogue River Blue, now a worldwide cheese celebrity, can be purchased nationwide at cheese shops and specialty-food stores. Alternatively, you can order the cheese online directly from Rogue Creamery.