Following the Berkshire Cheese Trail
Above photo: Goats and cows are the backbone of the Berkshire Cheese Trail. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism
Story by Anne Roderique-Jones
Anne is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who covers travel, food and lifestyle topics.
Head to Northeast dairy country for some of America’s finest cheeses.
My first college job was at a frilly fromage shop on Market Street in San Francisco. Every weekday, I came home from work smelling like a fine Humboldt Fog (that legendary local goat cheese). But it was here — at an impressionable age and on the tightest of purse strings — that I developed my love affair with cheese. I relished an aged Roquefort, punctuated with blue veins of mold. I learned to spread buttery Camembert on toast, and made a cracked pepper pasta with Grana Padano for a date. (We later got married.)
I’m your classic turophile, which, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the best word to describe an ardent lover of cheese. And just like any true devotee, I set out on a pilgrimage to discover some of the finest in our country, made — surprising to some — in the area surrounding the Berkshire Mountains. Upstate New York and Western Massachusetts are where a wide swath of cheesemakers craft some of the country’s finest fromage. In fact, a nonprofit, Berkshire Farm & Table, launched a bona fide “cheese trail” as a way to tour the Northeast through a dairy lens.
According to Angela Cardinali, founder and director of the program that highlights food culture in the Berkshires, “The cheese trail was created by Berkshire Farm & Table as one way to experience many of the cheesemakers in the region.” She calls the trail a great way to “visit farms and taste terroir.”
My trip begins in Ghent, New York, at Hawthorne Valley Farm: a working biodynamic farm since 1972 that was one of the first U.S. dairies to be certified organic. The creamery makes and sells raw milk, buttermilk and cheese, in addition to four flavors of yogurt.
I roll up in my SUV, sporting a pair of suede heeled booties, fully unprepared for the mud and ice. My shoes sink into the sludge as I work to snap photos of the 60 dairy cows roaming the property. Inside, the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store is kind of a grocery for the socially conscious. I quickly locate the cheese stand, a virtual shrine to dairy goodness. I stop off for a fortifying lunch (and to let my kicks dry) of white bean, kale and sausage soup; seeded bread; and a wedge of Alpine — the farm’s signature product. For dessert, I save room for more cheese.
At Old Chatham Sheepherding, Dave and Sally Galton’s flock of 2,100 dairy sheep produce cheese you’ll find at Whole Foods, Fairway and Murray’s. The farm’s Ewe’s Blue, sold in whole wheels or wedges, is creamy and biting. An hour away, you'll find Grace Hill Farm in Cummington, Massachusetts. Normande and Ayrshire cows produce artisanal raw-milk cheeses, such as Gruyere-style hard Alpine, cheddar and Valais.
Cricket Creek Farm, my final stop on the cheese trail, is a grass-fed dairy farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Along with cows, the property is home to laying hens and heritage-breed pigs, who greet me anxiously upon arrival, posing for the camera. Inside the self-serve farm store, there’s a rectangular window made for checking out the creamery in action. Here, industrial-looking equipment, a small fan and buckets flank rounds of soft and fluffy Berkshire Bloom, set out to be dried.
Before even leaving the parking lot, I open some newly purchased Sophelise, a milky and mild cheese encased in a doughy, bourbon-washed rind. When cut, it spills out a gooey and glorious product that I (almost) regret eating in the car. But hey, I’m a turophile — I just wipe off my dirty booties and dig in.
RelatedView all articles
Read more stories about the Northeastern U.S.
Count on ocean views, stately mansions and signature dishes.
Everyone is welcome in this Massachusetts beach town.
The drive from New Haven to Mystic features abundant attractions.
The northwest Connecticut road trip showcases scenery and shopping.
Massachusetts oyster farmers also recognize the value of investing time.
The Boardwalk draws crowds to the beach, but visitors also enjoy other entertainment.
The only national park in the Northeast has stunning fall scenery and unique carriage roads.
Bigger cities such as New York or Los Angeles are well-known for their galleries, but here are five that might surprise you.
These literary spots offers a unique experience in addition to a good read.
These art galleries seem to fly under the radar but are definitely worth the trip.
Backyard-barbecue fanatics and serious road-warriors can take their passion for wood-smoked meats to the next level.
She rekindled the flame in Washington, D.C., and then found the best joints in town.
Baby back ribs, pulled pork, chicken, turkey and brisket satisfy smoked-meat urge.
No particular plan made for the perfect vacation.
The coastal town features boat trips, hiking trails and fresh seafood.
Lovers, families and risk-takers converge at a water wonderland.
Soak, relax and rejuvenate in this charming West Virginia town.
A couple takes a break from their hectic lives to visit Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Glamping is a more luxurious form of traditional camping that still allows you to connect with nature.
The Northeast features memorable destinations for your next vacation.
Enjoy the vibrant colors of the city at one of these scenic spots.
Head to Northeast dairy country for some of America’s finest cheeses.
Legendary resorts ensure a relaxing journey.
One hat typifies the connections made through buying and selling old items.
Globe hunting at flea markets is just part of the travel adventure.
Art, music and restaurant scene offers weekend fun.
Pizza lovers flock to farm in Arkville, New York.
Head back to nature and visit Growing Heart Farm in Pawling, New York, to investigate the growing trend of the farmhand vacation.
A former college runner comes back to the sport after a six-year hiatus.
Generations Connect on the Ski Slopes of the White Mountains.
Each resort has its strengths and its own vibe.
Lincoln, New Hampshire, features great lodges and shops.
The Big Apple offers plenty of scenic spots to train.
Adam Alexander shares what he loves about his home in North Haven. Read about what he's learned from living on the tiny island in Maine.
People form travel friendships at home while pursuing personal passions.
An apparel designer and architectural artist learn to appreciate their home by spending time away.
Hike, swim or just enjoy the views on this rural road trip.
The city has grown from a sleepy town to a vibrant destination.
Chefs find innovative ways to prepare the state’s specialty.
People are discovering the origins of their food.
From New Orleans to the Northeast, one foodie sets out to explore the sweet beyond.
Maine’s inlets, bays and islands hold countless wonders and mysteries.
The quaint town offers a bounty of seafood, a scenic shoreline and even a house made of paper.
The idyllic destination is only a two-hour road trip from Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.
The fastest way isn’t always the best way.
Charming towns feature many options for art lovers, history buffs and foodies.
Forward-thinking farmers and artists create a hidden gem.
Peaceful drive includes historical hotel and resplendent mansion.
Hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views.