Ask any good cheesemonger about his cheese of the moment, and he will surely tell you “Winnimere.” If he doesn’t, you can be sure he’s hiding a stash in the back for himself. That’s because it’s Winnimere season, the time of year when the Cellars at Jasper Hill in cold Vermont first release their much-awaited oozer.
Winnimere is one of those legendary artisanal cheeses that people clamor for, and stand in line for; it’s the Harry Potter of cheeses. Mythical. Delightful. A cheese for the imagination.
Why? It’s wrapped in spruce bark, for one thing, which gives it a kind of fairytale quality. And the rind, well, it’s luminous. Imagine a harvest moon, encircled with mist. Are you with me? Are you lusting?
You should be.
Winnimere is a washed-rind cheese that is modeled after Forsterkase, a specialty of Switzerland that, translated, means “Lumberjack Cheese.” Think wool socks, stubble, and the smell of pine.
Winnimere is the twee cousin of Forsterkase. There is less beefiness and more forest magic. Winnimere smells like the cabin before the Three Bears arrived. It smells wild, like damp firewood, and tastes subtly of musk melon, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts.
This is a bold cheese that fires up quickly on the tongue, then dissipates. Etherial. Marvelous. The texture is pudding-like. Imagine a forest custard. If you took the smell of a damp morning hike and asked the Spanish chef Ferran Adria (confession: I am reading his biography by Colman Andrews right now. Delicious.) to infuse the smell into a mousse, that, that (!) would be the flavor.
Cold, it tastes like fairy gelato.
It would be best to eat Winnimere after a sauna, I imagine, peering out at the snow, while a herd of deer nibbled at the bark of nearby trees. Can you see it? Can you taste it?
Formaggio Kitchen suggests pairing this raw-mik dream with Belgian ale. Kirsten Jackson over at the blog It’s not You, It’s Brie suggests throwing a Winnimere party. The ladeez over at cheeseandchampagne.com suggest serving it with an Allagash white, a New York Riesling, or Midas Touch.
Can I recommend that you try it first with a spoon, without bread, without a beverage, wearing nothing but wool socks in bed while someone reads aloud a paragraph or two of Lord of the Rings in your ear? That, I think, completes the experience.
Tip: If you live in Philly, you're in for a special treat. Di Bruno Bros. has ordered a special batch of Winnimere washed in local Root Liqueur, which should arrive later this month. Three special tastings (noted in a previous post) are planned for the public. Don't miss the chance to try this rare combination. I will be there, standing in line, shivering with anticipation.