Thanks to some previously forgotten hotel rewards points, Jeff and I were able to go away last week for our 4th Anniversary and do something I’ve been meaning to do for years, the Vermont Cheese Trail !
The Vermont Cheese Trail Map was created by the Vermont Cheese Council, an entity dedicated to the production and advancement of Vermont cheeses. There are currently 45 cheesemaking members all over the state and many are open to the public.
We set out early on a Wednesday morning and planned to stop at a few farms on our drive up Route 89. We stopped at Neighborly Farms and Fat Toad Farm on the first day.
Vermont Shepard had an adorable cheese tasting room that overlooked their gorgeous field and flock of sheep. Their Verano sheep’s milk cheese was Jeff’s favorite of the whole trip.
The Grafton Village Cheese Company is located in the peaceful riverside village of Grafton, VT. Their new specialty wine and cheese shop had an incredible selection of Vermont-made jams, wines, cheeses, and chocolates. I was in heaven and it was so hard not to buy everything!
After visiting alone last Fall, I was so excited to take Jeff to Shelburne Farms. They make several varieties of award-winning cheddar. My favorite was the strong and pungent “tractor cheddar” which I later learned is actually a cheesy mistake. Because of the complicated chemistry involved in cheese-making, it’s really difficult to get a batch to come out exactly the same every time. Shelburne Farms creatively markets the batches that didn’t go quite right as tractor cheddar and label it as having “strong and unusual flavors that vary from block to block.”
We stopped at a few locations that weren’t quite what we were expecting or were closed. But the thing about the Vermont Cheese Trail is that even with these misses, it was all worth it. Each stop was a new adventure down a different scenic Vermont backroad and there was always something interesting at the end.
We only made it to about five farms over three days, and I can’t wait to go back and visit more on future road trips. Here are some helpful hints in case you want to head out on your own Vermont Cheese Trail adventure;
VT Cheese Trail Tips
- Normally I wouldn’t advise wasting paper, but it really helped to have the cheese trail map printed out and in the car with us. It has the address and contact info for each location, an indication of whether they are open to the public or not, and the hours of the farm stores. The VT Cheese Council has also created a Google map, but keep in mind that you might not always have cellphone reception.
- Remember that just because the farm has a store open to the public, it’s not necessarily an open invitation to wander the property unescorted. That being said, if someone is at the farm when you arrive, don’t hesitate to ask. To be honest, this advice is mostly for me – I practically invited myself on a goat foraging walk on one farm and wandered down to photograph a field of sheep on another, I felt really bad when they all started baaahhing and running towards me like I might feed them . . .
- Some of the farms are a little further off the highway than the cheese trail map indicates. Do not let this deter you! They were never too far out of the way, and were always worth it.
- Many of the farms did not have public restrooms so make sure you stop on the way, and consider bringing hand sanitizer if you can’t help petting adorable livestock. Remember to bring a pair of shoes that can get muddy.
- Bring a cooler with an icepack, crackers, and a cheese knife to enjoy your cheese in the car. Or better yet, bring a blanket and have a spontaneous picnic in the Vermont countryside with your new favorite cheese.