New England Road Trip: The Vermont Cheese Trail
With 66 cheesemakers in state and a thriving foodie scene, it’s no surprise that Vermont is a cheese-lover’s paradise. As a fundamentally rural state, some of the best wheels and wedges can be found at far-flung farms, mountain villages, and down unexpected back roads, which makes cheese the perfect excuse to plot a road trip through the state’s most scenic corners. Not all of the farms are open to visitors, so for a true immersion in Vermont cheese, visit during the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, a yearly celebration of all things cultured that’s held at Shelburne Farms.
Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Plymouth
Not much has changed in this scenic valley since John Coolidge founded his cheese factory in 1890—except that Coolidge’s son, Calvin, left the farm to become the 30th President of the United States. History aside, Plymouth Artisan Cheese is revered by cheese lovers for raw-milk, artisan cow cheese that’s made with a “granular curd” process, then cut by hand, and dipped in wax.
Willow Hill Farm, Milton
An on-site aging facility means that cheese goes all the way from fresh milk to aged wheels on this certified-organic farmstead, which has racked up medals at the World Cheese Awards. Don’t miss the buttery Vaquero Blue when you stop by Willow Hill Farm, whose herds live the good life in the foothills of the Green Mountains.
Shelburne Farms, Shelburne
This historic farm’s Swiss cows who graze with perfect views of Lake Champlain—so maybe it’s the scenery that gives their milk and cheese such a rich flavor. Whatever the secret, Shelburne Farms’ Vermont farmhouse cheddar is among the best in the state, and it only gets better with age. At the farm’s Welcome Center, you can taste the mildest version, which is aged just 6 months, or the nutty, slightly-grainy hunks of 3-year reserve.
Crowley Cheese Company, Mt. Holly
With almost two hundred years of cheesemaking experience, this rural cheese factory has their washed-curd process down to a fine art. Make a detour to graze the samples at the Crowley Cheese Factory store, which also stocks products from other local artisans.
Billings Farm & Museum, Woodstock
The picturesque fields at the Billings Farm are a snapshot of old fashioned agriculture, with draft horses pulling ploughs, pastures hemmed in by maple trees, and historic barns. A big-eyed herd of Jersey cows calls the farm home, and Grafton Village Cheese makes the farm’s signature blocks of raw milk cheddar.
Boucher Family Farm, Highgate Center
The Boucher family is known for hand-made, small-batch cheeses with serious flavor, from an award-winning collection of blues to the Tomme Collins, an alpine-style cheese that’s aged between 6 and 9 months. Call ahead to find out when Boucher Family Farm is making cheese from their herd of 140 Guernsey, Holstein, and French Normandy cows.
Vermont Shepherd, Westminster
Head cheesemakers (and shepherds) David and Yesenia Major trace their recipe to the Spanish Pyrenees, but the setting at Vermont Shepherd is pure Vermont: hundreds of sheep graze on rolling pasture, with mountains and forest as far as the eye can see. Taste some of their aged cheese in the small farm store, then meet some of the wooly flock.
Grafton Village Cheese Company, Grafton
If Grafton Village has a lost-in-time feel, the town’s cheese facility is up-to-the-minute, with sparkling stainless steel and cheesemakers in white smocks. Grafton Village Cheese makes a range of cow and sheep cheeses, but they’re known for the clothbound cheddar that’s a favorite on cheese plates around the state. You can try a bit of everything at their tasting facility and shop.
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