On Friday, a friend sent me an email asking me if I had ever heard of River Valley Cheese. I had not and it was odd. Odd because the friend who sent me the email lives in California and the River Valley Ranch is only about 25 miles from me in Washington. I noted on their website that the folks there were having an open house on Saturday. I didn't think we'd make it because I had to work and it was the co-signer's birthday weekend. Still, I broached the subject with her and we decided that we could do it.
The ranch is located in Fall City, Washington. The couple wanted to move out of Seattle to a more rural area. The wife sold her business. The husband still works in Seattle, but only commutes in when he has to do so. Originally, they got just 2 cows with the idea that they were going to feed them and then slaughter them. However, at some point the wife decided to try her hand at cheese making. She's enjoyed it so much that the cows are not going to be slaughtered.
It's funny hearing the couple tell the tales. It seems that the wife/cheesemaker is the real driving force behind what has become a small business. When speaking with the husband about their new sheep, he admitted to me that he had no idea where his wife was renting the services of a buck from. She just keeps adding animals - discussing it with him, of course, so they can plan space and pens and such. He happily goes along and contributes to getting the work done.
The cheese? Very good. Several different types of goat cheese are available (click the link above). The mozarella is also very good, but very pricey. They were sold out of that when we decided to make a purchase, but we got to taste it. I'd like to bring it home and play with it in the kitchen a bit. The milk cheddar was a tad of a disappointment. It is sharp in flavor, which I like, but lacks complexity. The goat cheddar was much better. All of the cheeses are raw milk as is the goat's milk that they sell. The owners have the milk tested twice weekly and they are working towards organic certification. It's all fairly pricey, too, so nothing I'm going to run down to buy all of the time, but once in a while it's a nice treat.
When pressed about selling at farmer's markets, the couple said they weren't interested in devoting the time to do so. They also didn't want to hire people to do it. Other markets or restaurants? Nope. They are happy with the size of their business at the moment. They get the prices that they ask and they have the capacity that they want. My impression was that the wife didn't want to ruin her hobby by making the business too large. She enjoys making artisan cheeses and this size is good for her now.
As you can see from the photos below, the open house also allowed visitors to the barn and the pens. The animals took all of the attention rather well. We had a great time meeting them and petting the newborns. This was a trip well worth doing. I expect to do it again fairly soon if for no other reason than to snag me some mozzarella.