Though I had already bought a cheese from the Wine Spectator list for this week, I was fully on board with Colleen’s idea to take a furlough from said list and sample some local goat’s-milk cheeses instead. This week not withstanding (we had a record three days in a row when the temperature didn’t get above 60°), we’ve also been blessed with spring-like weather here in Minnesota, which turns the taste buds toward young, fresh cheeses. I found two delicious specimens at Surdyk’s that are definitely worth a try.

I hadn’t heard of Donnay Dairy before, but this farmstead operation in Kimball, Minn., produces two certified-organic goat cheeses: fresh chevre and the cave-aged Granite Ridge. The family-run farm began making goat cheese in 2004, and it quickly grew in popularity throughout Minnesota. I brought home a tub of the chevre and marveled at its clean, pure taste.

My second cheese hails from my homestate of Wisconsin, and while it’s not as young as the Donnay Dairy chevre, its uniqueness merited a place on my cheese plate. Carr Valley, maker of the previously review Marisa, has created a goat’s-milk blue cheese called Billy Blue. It’s made from the milk of pasture-raised goats and aged for four months, so it still retains the freshness of a chevre while providing the salty tang of a blue cheese. A great blue cheese for beginners, the Billy Blue will definitely see the inside of my cheese drawer again.

But what’s the best pairing for a blue goat cheese? Carr Valley suggests a Sauternes, Port or cider, none of which I had on hand during my tasting. Since I have a little cheese left, though, I might have to do some experimentation over the weekend. That’s homework I won’t mind at all!

While Jill is our resident Wisconsin cheese expert (as mentioned previously, I was raised on Tillamook curds myself), her influence over the years has induced me to add a few Wisconsin cheeses to my list of favorites. Carr Valley makes several scrumptious cheeses, including Ba Ba Blue, cocoa-rubbed Cocoa Cardona and mixed-milk Menage. They are a fourth-generation, family-owned company that has been making cow, sheep and goats milk cheeses for over a hundred years.

Marisa is their cave-aged sheep-milk cheese, named after Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook’s daughter. It is aged for six months, and the cheese’s high butterfat content mutes the saltiness often found in similar cheeses.

Marisa is one of the sweeter cheeses I’ve tasted; creamy and mellow, it practically melts in your mouth. Its smooth paste is punctuated with just a few little crystals. I could snack on Marisa like candy, and it would make a great after-dinner cheese as well. 

Carr Valley’s own cheese and wine pairing guide suggests pairing the Marisa with a chianti, pinot grigio or light ale.