Cheese of the month August 2013: Piccolo from Carmelis/Okanagan Valley, Canada

We writers are hunters and gatherers, and as I recently returned from five weeks in England, the US and Canada, my bags were full to the brim with goodies, impressions and wonderful memories. It should come as no surprise then that the cheese of the month stems from far away (well, at least seen from Berlin), that is from British Columbia, in western Canada. Contrary to common belief, polar bears, Inuit and snow are NOT the only features there. The good people of the Okanagan grow wine (and it can be very good – YES!) and some keep goats.

Herd CarmelisPiccolo comes from Carmelis Goat Cheese, a short drive south of the town of Kelowna, an hour’s flight from Vancouver inland on beautiful Lake Okanagan. Surrounded by mountains the landscape reminds me a bit of Central Otago on the southern tip of New Zealand. The climate is marked by the last influence of the Sonoran desert from down in Mexico. The 35 goats the Carmelis team is milking (and their younger as well as male relatives) clearly enjoy living here. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to meet the people who process the milk but they obviously know what they are doing.

Carmelis OkanaganBesides the ash-coated, at once fresh and dense tasting Piccolo I particularly liked Heavenly (flat round) and Chabichou (cylinder-shaped), both with a delicate blooming and the potential to dry and age. All three are great with the local Riesling wines which tend to have a little residual sweetness to balance their pronounced acidity (move over Mosel – this is for real acid freaks!). My favourites came from Tantalus, Mission Hill, Wild Goose, Synchromesh, Sperling and Summer Hill. And if there is real sweetness in the glass, Carmelis‘ goatgonzola blue cheese would be a fitting companion on the plate… In combination with water, beaches and sun more than enough reasons for a trip to „Canada’s Ticino“.

At this point I shoud add that the Okanagan has been on my to-do list ever since I tasted the first cheese from Sally Jackson back at the Slow Food Cheese in September 2001 (thanks Rob Kaufelt!). Sally made beautiful goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses wrapped in leaves, in a very hands-on, one woman, simple environment. Alas, the small farm she ran with her husband Roger near Oroville (the southern tip of the Okanagan is in Washington State/USA) was as remote as she was shy of visitors and I never made it there. Two years ago, under rather sad circumstances she had to call an end to cheesemaking  – wherever you are, Sally and Roger, I hope you’re living a good life. I owe you at lot.

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