Petaluma, California's Excellent New Dairy: Weirauch Creamery

The Cheesemonger

A few days ago, my mother took me by the wrist and led me towards the Weirauch Farm & Creamery stand at the Healdsburg, California, farmers' market. All of their offerings are delicious, but one in particular blew me away: Carabiner.

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Weirauch (pronounced "why-rok" or "vhy-rowk", meaning sacred-smoke or incense in German) Creamery has only been making cheese for a year. It's impressive to be turning out such delicious wheels as a one-year-old.

Run by husband and wife team Joel and Carleen Weirauch, the creamery produces an impressive range of cheeses for its size: cheeses aged anywhere from 5 days to over 5 months, some washed, some of an Alpine variety, some semi-soft. The fresh cheeses are bright and punchy, some rolled in herbs or harissa, and the aged cheeses are impressive, showcasing depth of flavor and incredible balance. They taste like cheeses that have been around for a lot longer than a year. Cheese isn't easy to get right, but somehow, this creamery has it dialed.

And no wonder. Joel learned how to make cheese in the French Alps, and both he and Carleen know a thing or two about their flock: Before making cheese, they operated for nine years as a sheep farm, raising sheep and making soap. They received their first two sheep as a wedding present.

The sheep cheeses are farmstead, using milk from the farm's own herd of 65 ewes, and produced on the property itself, a 50-acre establishment in Petaluma, California. The cow milk cheeses are made with the organic milk of a neighboring family-run farm, which affords the Weirauch's the ability to make cheese during the six months of the year when they're not milking the sheep.

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Carabiner was what I chose to take home. It's raw cow, aged just over five months, and made in an Alpine style, which means that it's been cooked and pressed during production. The cooking of the curds caramelizes the milk sugars and the pressing of the wheels makes for a firmer-textured cheese. It's oddly not reminiscent of a typical mountain cheese, like a Gruyere or Comte. Carabiner is less buttery and more robust, almost cheddar-like in flavor but not as sharp, and with a long, nutty finish, slightly earthy. Perfectly salty. Seems like it'd make a great melter, but my family couldn't stop eating it plain.

You can find Weirauch Creamery cheeses at farmers markets in the Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, and San Francisco area, and at Oakville Grocery in Napa, Cheese Plus, and Mission Cheese in San Francisco. For a complete listing of where they distribute, visit their website.

Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and private chef in New York City.

Related: Big Wheels and Why We Love Them Best: Mountain Cheeses

(Images: Nora Singley)

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Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and recipe developer in New York.