Summer isn’t the season I typically think about Swiss cheeses – to me, they belong in a mid-winter fondue or on a snack plate when you’re cuddling in front of a fire. But there is a Swiss for all seasons, and I found the one perfect for warm-weather days: Challerhocker.

Challer what? I don’t blame you for asking – I had never heard of this cheese until it appeared at the Cheese Shop at France 44 a couple of months ago. (The name means “sitting in the cellar,” according to Cowgirl Creamery.) It’s produced by Walter Rass, the maker of Appenzeller, which you may recognize from the Wine Spectator list. Like Appenzeller, Challerhocker is a washed-rind cow’s-milk cheese, but it’s smaller and aged longer (at least 10 months). In her post 19 months old, Colleen noted Appenzeller’s smooth texture, fruity flavor and spicy finish. While Challerhocker is likewise very silky, its flavor reminds me more of clean, fresh straw, with a slightly caramel-like and nutty finish. It doesn’t demand hearty accompaniments like cured meats or cornichons, though it would certainly pair well with those foods. Challerhocker would be just as pleasing with a chilled glass of white wine or, as Janet Fletcher suggests, sherry or Madeira, and a few crackers on the side.

As an interesting aside: Challerhocker also keeps in your refrigerator (well-wrapped in cheese paper, of course) exceedingly well. I bought a hunk back in June before I went dairy-free, and it was still delicious today when I nibbled it again.

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Happy National Cheese Day, y’all! Regular readers of Cheese + Champagne know that Colleen and I never need a holiday to serve as an excuse to eat cheese, but we’re happy to mark the occasion all the same.

If you’re looking for something different to try for Cheese Day 2010, consider Corsu Vecchiu, a sheep’s-milk cheese from the island of Corsica. I hadn’t noticed this cheese before Monday, when I went to Surdyk’s for its cheese sale, and it was on the list of top 20 staff picks. One taste and I was ready to buy a wedge – despite being a sheep’s-milk cheese, Corsu Vecchiu doesn’t carry the oiliness that characterizes so many of its ovine counterparts. I was surprised and delighted with its lightness both in flavor and in texture and the subtle saltiness that comes through at the end of each bite. I would have eaten my entire wedge in one sitting if I hadn’t stopped myself, but I managed to make the cheese last for two sittings. Surdyk’s recommends a medium red wine on the side, like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo. I had neither in the house (I’m still rebuilding my wine supply after nine months of abstaining), so I enjoyed the Corsu Vecchiu with some fruit for a very satisfying snack.

Which cheese(s) will be enjoying for National Cheese Day this year? Share your picks with us!

After nine months of abstaining from wine, it was only appropriate that I select a boozy washed-rind cheese for my first post-partum review. Like the wine in which it is bathed, L’Affiné au Chablis is made in the Burgundy region of France, which is also home to the notorious stinker Epoisses. But if you have a stinky-cheese-phobic spouse like mine, you don’t have to worry about this cheese causing him to hide in the basement for the better part of the evening – L’Affiné au Chablis is much milder than Epoisses and lacks its odorous punch.

So what makes this cheese worth seeking? Its creaminess, of course – as with many soft-ripened cow’s-milk cheeses, L’Affiné au Chablis has a luxurious mouthfeel that’s hard to resist. I let my wheel sit on the counter for a couple of hours and then dug into it with a spoon. My mom was a little weirded out by this gesture, but I found it to be a perfectly appropriate way to consume the cheese. (It was delicious on a cracker, too, in case you agree with my mom.) The flavor of the Chablis is definitely present with each bite, but it was subtle enough to allow the creamy richness of the cheese to take center stage. The wine pairing should be pretty obvious.

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.

One of the many benefits of making friends with your cheesemongers is that you can often get an early scoop on what’s new and tasty in the shop that week. France 44/St. Paul Cheese Shop poobah Benjamin and I have an ongoing Twitter conversation (I don’t see him in the Minneapolis shop much anymore now that he spends most of his time in St. Paul), and late last week he clued me in on some exciting Spanish cheeses that were hitting the case that weekend. So when I arrived at France 44 after yoga on Saturday, the manager, Song, had lots of new cheeses for me to try, and Leonora was one of them.

Leonora comes as a big brick of goaty goodness, and Song used a toothpick to scrape some of the gooey paste for me to try. I was sold immediately. The fresh-tasting cheese had hits of lemon and springtime, while the rind had the tangy bite of a properly ripened cheese. I don’t consider it to be an ultra-goaty cheese, though likely still too goaty for others (ahem, my husband), and the soft texture makes it an instant comfort food. Leonora would match beautifully with a medium- to full-bodied red wine (if I could only have a glass!) and could even be topped with some fruity olive oil and fresh herbs if you want to dress it up for a party.

Neither snow nor rain nor hear nor gloom of night could keep me from getting my hands on a pyramid of Haystack Peak. Well, the story isn’t that dramatic. Unable to locate one of the Colorado-made goat’s-milk cheeses in Minneapolis, I called up Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and asked if the cheesemaker could send me one mere piece. Luckily, a nice woman named Joanna tracked down one of the remaining cheeses of the season and sent it the same day. The cheese arrived, surrounded by ice packs, in perfect condition, and I’m happy to report that the Haystack Peak was worth the cost. (I paid more to ship the cheese than the cost of the cheese itself. Seriously.)

Though the Haystack Peak’s shape immediately made me think of the disaster that was Valencay, the tasting experience was not at all similar. Instead of a soury bite, I got the clean, fresh taste of goat cheese that makes me get excited for spring. Haystack Peak is made from the pasteurized milk of Nubian, Saanen and La Mancha goats, and while I’m definitely no goat expert, I’d say that blend of milks makes a pretty awesome cheese. The pyramid shape can be awkward to slice, but that didn’t stop me from plowing my knife through the snowy wedge, and atop a whole-wheat cracker it was blissful.

Wine Spectator recommends pairing Haystack Peak with an Alsatian Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer, and Haystack Mountain suggests you add some toasted almonds, quince jam or dried fruits on the side. As usual, I am perfectly content with just the cheese and a knife, but if you are able to find Haystack Peak at your local cheese shop, let us know which pairings you prefer.

There are blue cheeses, and then there are blue cheeses, and Persille de Malzieu, from the Langeudoc-Rousillon region of France, definitely falls into the latter category. See all that marbling in the cheese’s paste? That means it doesn’t skimp on sharp, spicy blue flavor. When Colleen and I did our taste test/photo shoot with the cheese a few weeks ago, I thought it may have tasted so strong to us because our pregnancy-altered palates are a bit sensitive, but no, apparently it tastes like that to everyone!

You may not have heard about Persille de Malzieu before. I certainly hadn’t before embarking upon this project. Availability can be spotty (hence, our ordering it from Murray’s rather than buying it at a Minneapolis or D.C. area cheese shop), and it’s a raw sheep’s-milk cheese, which often results in smaller production because sheep make far less milk than cows. But if you’re a blue-cheese lover and can get your hands on it, jump at the chance. Pesille de Malzieu is very moist and salty with a fantastic tang to it. It’s not as creamy as C+C favorite Roquefort, but with a good whole wheat cracker (we love Carr’s) and something sweet on the side, like a raisin chutney or dates, it would be a very satisfying dessert. Wine pairings tend toward the sweet as well – look for a Sauternes or Port.