What first attracted to me to this stinky Vermont cheese is its name – Oma is German for “grandmother,” and my next-door neighbors growing up had an oma and an opa. I always thought those were funny names for grandparents (even though I had a bubbie and a zaydie), and they always stuck in my mind. So when I started hearing buzz about a cheese called Oma from the von Trapp Farmstead, I couldn’t forget about it, but I didn’t try it until this week.

Normally, one might think this would be an unusual cheese for a 39-week pregnant woman who is very sensitive to smells to choose. Of course, I am no normal 39-week pregnant woman. It’s a pretty potent one, though pleasantly so, similar to Jasper Hill Farm’s famed Winnimere, which I also bought this week. (Fun fact: Oma is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill!) I remember saying to my cheesemonger that it didn’t seem so stinky when I tasted it at the shop, but the beefiness of the cheese really comes through if you let it sit on the counter for at least two hours. The paste doesn’t ooze like a triple-cream but rather gets soft and ever-so-slightly rubbery. Though I typically eat the rind of most cheeses, I found this one to be a little too gritty for my taste. Pair with a full-bodied, dry white wine or Belgian beer (per Formaggio Kitchen’s recommendations) and get Oma’s funk on for yourself.

Our tour of “blue state” Inaugural cheeses has plenty of fodder in the New England states, and Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm appears four times on the Wine Spectator list. Today’s cheese, Winnimere, is a washed-rind stinky cheese whose funky outer appearance may intimidate the uninitiated. The pink crusted round is wrapped in dark spruce bark, which imparts a woodsy flavor. Inside the salty crust, the cheese is creamy, yeasty and tangy with a subtle fruity sweetness from the raspberry lambic-style beer the cheese is rinsed in. In keeping with their strict pursuit of quality, the spruce bark and beer are obtained from Jasper Hill’s own trees and yeasts. 

I enjoyed the Winnimere paired with Allagash White Ale from Maine and Fox Run‘s Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes region.

You could also try it with a Dogfish Head Midas Touch from the Vice President-elect’s home state of Delaware. 

Winnimere is only available November to April, and I found it in stock at the District’s Cowgirl Creamery.

To learn more about washed-rind cheeses, read this week’s Cheesemonger column at The Kitchn. And tune in tomorrow when our Inaugural cheese tour heads West!

For the first time since starting this blog, I took out my bible, Steven JenkinsCheese Primer, to see what he had to say about Epoisses, my cheese of the week. Steven is known for his strong opinions on cheese, and since Epoisses has been around much longer than the book’s 1996 publication date, I knew it would be included. Sure enough, he waxes on about Epoisses, calling it one of his favorites cheeses in the world, but there’s a catch. Since Epoisses is French and made with raw milk, it must be aged more than 60 days to enter the United States (thanks a lot, USFDA), and Steven did not recommend the pasteurized version. Hmm, well, I figured if Wine Spectator put Epoisses on its 100 great cheeses list, something must have changed in the past 12 years to merit such a ranking. So I threw caution to the wind and bought myself a (pricey) wheel.

There’s no way of putting this mildly – Epoisses is a stinker. How stinky, you ask? Well, according to a BBC story from 2004, Epoisses has been banned from French public transportation systems because its odor is so strong. And this is a French cheese! My husband is not a fan of stinky cheese, so I warned him ahead of time that I’d be opening the carton, and he hid out in the basement while I tasted it. But then when he came upstairs he claimed he could still smell it, and I have to admit the smell was lingering in the kitchen.

Is it a creme-filled donut? No, its Epoisses!

Is it a creme-filled donut? No, it's Epoisses!

But the taste – oh. my. Lord. This cheese is unbelievable. Though most cheesemongers tell you to let cheeses sit on the counter for one hour prior to serving, I let mine sit for two or three because I like them to be really soft and runny. And it was a good call on my part. The Epoisses looked almost like a creme-filled donut, and when I cut into it and the inside came gushing out, it was heaven on a cheese spreader. The cheese was silky, buttery and decadent – every bit as good as Chaource (one of my favorites) and with a little something extra. Maybe it was the slightly stinky (but in the best way) taste that washed over my mouth after each bite. This cheese is a keeper, which is good because I had to buy the entire wheel. Epoisses gets so runny that the lady who helped me at Premier Cheese Market said they will only sell it whole.

It kind of looks like the cheese is wearing a beret.

It kind of looks like the cheese is wearing a beret.

As for the wine pairing, however, I wasn’t satisfied. I did my research online and found that Epoisses is often matched with a white Burgundy or a Pinot Noir, which makes sense because the cheese is from Burgundy. I headed off to Surdyk’s and picked out a Pinot Noir from Burgundy and popped it open last night. I don’t know if it was the particular bottle I bought or just a personal preference, but I didn’t think it was a good pairing. The wine did nothing to enhance the taste of the cheese, and the Epoisses made the wine fall flat on my tongue. (The wine did taste good later that evening when I had vegetable soup and a tomato and mozzarella panini, so it wasn’t a total loss.) But in hindsight, I should have gone with the white Burgundy.

The pinot noir wasnt the best match, but the stem of the wineglass provided some entertainment value.

The pinot noir wasn't the best match, but the stem of the wineglass provided some entertainment value.

So skip the Pinot, but go for the Epoisses. Your tastebuds will thank you. Can’t promise your nose will, though.