Cheese of the month August 2016: Grey Baby from Upper Bench Creamery/Okanagan, BC Canada

This a monthly series which I have been publishing for years. You can subscribe here, to get the latest cheese delivered directly on to your screen. 

July was a wonderfully full month in Heinzelcheese land, and it’s spilling into August. That’s why I’d like to present you one of the great finds from my travels as cheese of the month for this August: Shana Miller’s Grey Baby from Naramata in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Canada.

Shana contemplating Grey Baby

The energetic, blond curled Shana grew up in Nova Scotia, at the other end of this vast country. She had moved to Montréal when, aged 27, upon hearing about the reliably hot days in British Columbia, she decided it was time for a life change. She grabbed her cats, packed the truck, and off she went. Some twenty years later she is married to Gavin, a Londoner and former accountant, she still has cats, and she is making cheese in her own creamery on the Naramata Upper Bench.

Grey Baby the Cat

She learnt cheese making helping out at Poplar Grove creamery which is basically around the corner, and when the couple decided to buy the run-down Upper Bench Estate winery in 2011 she knew she wanted it to include a cheese making facility. She gets milk twice a week from a Dutchman’s Holstein herd a 2.5 hours drive away, and I was greeted with a beautiful cheese board when I arrived for my wine tasting.

cheese tasting Upper Bench

All of which was good. Grey Baby however, named after one of Shana’s cats, was special, and she told me it grew out of this landscape. Which made total sense: for me the Okanagan is where north and south, mountains and water, hot and cold, winter and summer meet. In a similar way Grey Baby combines many facets: it is a brie-style soft cheese, moulded in two phases, but not gooey. It is not flipped, and inoculated with blue mould cultures, but pierced only from the top, developing a grey rind, and some blue inside. Its surface resembles the rugged Okanagan hills with those benches upon which Riesling can grow next to Cabernet, which is almost a contradiction from a European point of view. Grey Baby has character and a kind of spice but isn’t as strong as a „proper“ blue such as Shana’s King Cole, modeled on Stilton, the English classic.

tasting at Upper Bench

I fully realize that you will have to be in or travel to Canada, and probably British Columbia, to sample and enjoy this little beauty (which comes in a larger and a smaller format) – but that’s the whole point of my recommendations in this series: to get you out there and explore! And once you’re there, get hold of Gavin’s wines, his rich and almost tropical (but dry) Riesling, or the super elegant Cabernet Franc, to name only my very favorites. Both are real cat lovers, just like Grey Baby’s maker.

This a monthly series which I have been publishing for years. You can subscribe here, to get the latest cheese delivered directly on to your screen. 

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