Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dante: Sharp & Sheepy

Lately, I’ve had a thing for aged sheep’s milk cheeses. Their nutty profiles pair well with stone fruits (cherries, apricots) and they’re perfect to serve on a muggy evening alongside a glass of white wine. Most sheep’s milk cheeses I see in stores are European imports – Manchego, Idiazabal, Abbaye de Belloc. Back in May, though, I tasted the best aged American sheep’s milk cheese I’ve ever eaten: Dante.

Dante comes from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop (WSDC), reputedly the largest sheep dairy in the U.S. The milk is gathered from just over a dozen small farms, and the cheese is made by hand. The same dairy also produces one other cheese, Mona, a mixed-milk wheel. Dante is 100 percent sheep’s milk, hormone-free.

Many sheep’s milk cheeses tend to have a mild flavor profile; their soft notes take time to develop on the tongue. To my mind, they’re like acoustic music – gentle and nuanced without the electric twang of, say, a farmhouse cheddar.

Dante, however, is a bit amped. There’s a pronounced sheepiness that I love, along with toasted nutty riffs that bring to mind marcona almonds. It’s got more chutzpah than your average Manchego but not as much sweetness as Idiazabal -- two Spanish beauties that would be fun to try alongside Dante, if you wanted to put on some Peter, Paul, and Mary and enjoy a sheep’s milk trio.

With its earthy, salty notes, Dante would be a great match for hard cider. A glass of Cava pairs well, too.


  1. What a super cool blog! very original, will composed and definitely well written! Your students are lucky.

  2. I hope you get a chance to try the Coomersdale from Bonnieview Farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. It's a small sheep dairy and farmstead cheese producer. It's a beautiful, nutty and definitely gentle-flavored aged cheese. I was lucky a few weeks ago to spend a day making cheese on the farm.

  3. Thanks for the background on Dante.

    Echoing Nourishing Words, Craftsbury, VT does have a beautiful sheep dairy and farmstead producer, I love it and used to live in Burlington, VT.

    Speaking of cheese :) Not sure if you saw, but I included you as a resource on cheese for the guest post I wrote on cheese plates:

    Hope you enjoy :)

  4. Thanks for the ringing endorsement on Coomersdale. I can't wait to try it! Liz Thorpe has an amazing chapter on sheep's milk cheeses in her book The Cheese Chronicles. I'm reading it now, and finding out what goes into making good sheep's milk cheese fills me with awe.