Sweet Grass Dairy brought home five top awards for its artisan farmstead
cheeses from the 20th Annual American Cheese Society Conference
held this summer in San Francisco, California.
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR FRIENDS AT SWEET GRASS,
FROM THE EDITORS AND STAFF AT DOC'S NEWS! (details
In The Deep South
the lovely South Georgia town known as the city of roses, seems to be
part Florida. Nearby is the Florida border with the Sunshine States
capital, Tallahassee, the next stop. They share a common culture in
many ways, but Thomasville now has a new and exciting identity. Just
a few miles north of town is the dairy farm called Sweet Grass, and
it is as different and distinctive as any place in the south. For those
who love gourmet cheeses, its nearly paradise.
Gourmet magazines fabulous Michael Green and a superbly talented
local professional named Raymond Hooks guided my first introduction
to the cheeses produced by Sweet Grass owners Desiree and Al Wehner
during a wine and cheese pairing hosted by the High Museum Wine Auction.
Green, a globally recognized wine commentator, introduced each wine,
while Hooks, representing Sweet Grass, led us through the cheeses, with
both explaining the logic of each pairing. What caught my eye and later
my palette was the unique names of each delicious cheese: Georgia Pecan
Chevre; Holly Springs; Georgia Gouda; Thomasville Tomme and others,
all either goat or cows milk based. After a chat with Raymond,
I was on my way to Sweet Grass.
Grass is refreshingly off the beaten path, and a true family farm. Desiree
and Al combine their energies and cheese making experience with the
youth, vitality and imagination of daughter Jessica and her husband
Jeremy, along with the spiritual assistance of two-month-old Aidan (who
has courageously posed in an FSU jersey his dads alma materin
a hotbed of unwavering Georgia Bulldogs.)
There are two herds
of goats at Sweet Grass, the adults who give milk and the young ones
who soon will. There are 96 goats here along with sheep, lambs,
cows and chickens, Desiree revealed, adding, Our milk cows
are kept in a separate farm in another nearby county. She explained
that while Sweet Grass wasnt technically organic (we rarely
use insecticides - only to prevent health hazards to our animals), its
as near as you will find to a farm that eschews processed food, additives,
preservatives and genetically modified food. Jessica observed, Cheese
making is one of the last true artisan processes in this country.
Some prestigious restaurants and gourmet stores have heard about whats
happening in Thomasville. Park 75, the acclaimed restaurant in Atlantas
Four Seasons Hotel, hosted a chefs table recently for a group
of veteran wine and food writers and the cheese served with wine by
Executive Chef Kevin Hickey was from Sweet Grass. Whole Foods and Star
Provisions are now carrying it. The Epicurean, the gourmet food and
wine store near Emory University, offers these incredible cheeses. Restaurants
include respected locals like Seegars, Bacchanalia, The Dining
Room, City Grill and Joel plus Normans, the world-famous restaurant
in Coral Gables, Florida and 11 Madison Avenue in New York City.
The Wehner family set out on their mission in 1993. After 25 years of
traditional dairy farming, they found a better way to farm. Their cows
live outdoors, get exercise and enjoy grazing lush pastures year round.
The goats happily browse woods, fields and pasture. They maintain sustainable,
biological farming practices that nourish the soil life. Our aim,
said Desiree, is to handcraft fresh, semi-ripened and naturally
aged goat and cow cheese that is unique and delicious. Happy animals
produce happy milk and happy milk makes the best cheese.
Sweet Grass, I learned that the average life expectancy of a dairy cow
in a conventional system is about two years after entering the milk
cycle. Milk producing cows at Sweet Grass, enjoying lives free of sickness
and the cruel stress of barn confinement, have an average life expectancy
of about 10 to 12 years. Desiree reminded me its impossible
to make good cheese from bad milk. We choose to have the highest quality
milk. Happy cows and goats make the best milk.
The dairy farm and buildings are nestled in a bucolic paradise. Rye
grass and red clover blanket peaceful pastures. Muscadine vines are
omnipresent, and the leaves are delicacies for the goats (look for some
Georgia Muscadine Cheese on a menu someday) and the goats follow you
around, lovingly rub up against you and can find their way into your
pocket and will nibble away at a dollar bill if youve got one
loose. There is an overwhelming feeling of joy everywhere.
I left Sweet Grass after observing Jessica, holding newborn Aidan, stirring
one of the vats of raw milk at the inception of the cheese making process.
It provided a brief and unforgettable glimpse back into an ancient industry
which, when done correctly, requires personal care if the product we
consume is to have taste and genuine value. Thats precisely what
Sweet Grass gives the world.
I left, vowing to return. That night, I paired Georgia Pecan Chevreevery
bite is an out of body experiencewith a bottle of Jim Sanders
Pulgny Montrachet. A marriage made in heaven. The meaning wasnt
lost. Two Georgia inspired or produced products combining the best traditions
of the old world with todays taste preferences.
I slept peacefully that night in Thomasville.
GRASS DAIRY BRINGS HOME AWARDS
from San Francisco!
The American Cheese Society Competition, sometimes
referred to as the Super Bowl of American Cheesemaking, is very rigorous
with over 200 of the best American cheesemakers from across the country
entering over 400 different cheeses. Georgias Sweet Grass Dairy,
which has been producing cow and goat milk cheeses for just three years,
received five top-placing awards. This brings their total to 11 awards
Sweet Grass Dairy took first place for both their Clayburne and Fresh
Chevre cheeses. Clayburne won first place in the cows milk cheddar
aged less than 12 months category and Fresh Chevre took first in the
fresh goats milk cheeses category. The Clayburne is made in the
traditional old English style by hand-milling the curds and wrapping
the 40 pound blocks in bandages. The Fresh Chevre taste is a direct
result of the diet of the goats sweet clover, lush grasses,
and earthy woods.
Other top recognition received by Sweet Grass Dairy includes second
place awards for their Botana in the cheddar made from goats
milk, aged less than 12 months and for their Lumiere, in the Farmstead
cheeses, open category made from goats milk. The Velvet Rose,
a relatively new cheese for Sweet Grass Dairy, also received an award
with a third place medal in the soft ripened cheeses made from cows
Desiree Wehner and Jeremy Little, the cheesemakers, are dedicated to
providing old-world style cheeses that highlight the rich, high quality
milk the goats and cows produce. The rich milk comes from rotationally
grazed animals that never receive growth hormones or unnecessary antibiotics.
The soil remains the cornerstone for maintaining biological and sustainable
farming practices which results in the high quality foodstuffs. The
quality of the cheeses is directly attributed to the care of the land
and the health of the animals. We have a passion for great food
and for what makes food greatfarming in a manner that sustains
the soil and therefore all life that comes out of that soil,
the Association's webpage for more information: www.americancheesesociety.org
Doc's article about Sweet
Follow the arrow to Doc's story
about a famed Atlanta restaurant which serves magnificent cheeses from
Sweet Grass Dairy
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