Talk About Cheesy: The Finger Lakes Region Cheese Trail

It’s time to give cheese its due! Which is why the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail was created a few years ago by area dairy farmers in order to shine a spotlight on the great variety of cheese that is produced in the same region that has basked for so long in the accolades of local wine production.

Situated between the cities of Syracuse and Rochester, New York, the Finger Lakes region spans an area of about 75 x 50 miles and is home to a series of no less than 11 linerar lakes that are often said to resemble a hand (hence the term “Finger Lakes). The Finger Lakes Wine Trail of Western New York state promotes exactly what is says: wine. So it stands to reason that cheese should get the same respect don’t you think?

Just Say Cheese

The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is made up of about a dozen or so cheese makers who in turn have opened up their doors to visitors. It’s not only a great public relations move as members of the trail offer special open house events on weekends and holidays so visitors can sample different cheeses and learn about cheese-making techniques, but because the cheese tours are self-guided, visitors have a great opportunity to explore as they poke their way around the hills and valleys that make the Finger Lakes so unique. It’s a win-win situation if ever there was one!

Thirteen Great Reasons to Take the Cheese Trail

According to the Finger Lakes Wine Trail website, there are at least 13 good reasons to travel the cheese trail and all of them happen to be the very farms found on the trail. In no particular order, I offer you the following. So venture forth and bring some crackers:

Sunset View Creamery – The Hoffman Dairy in Odessa, is a 5th generation operation. Carmella Hoffman and family have been crafting Cheddars, Monterey Jack Style Cheeses and Fresh Cheese Curds for nearly six years, using pasteurized milk from the family dairy.

Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co – Nancy Richards has been crafting cheeses, made from raw cow’s milk, belonging to Nancy’s family – Taber Hill Farms in Mecklenburg.

Shtayburne Farm – An old-fashioned working dairy farm that produces the purest, nature kissed, and most flavorful cheese. Their dairy farmers hand-craft their country cow milk into 15 blends of cheese for retail consumption. Stop by their on-site retail shop to buy cheese blocks, curds, and bars, along with a variety of attractive gift and sampler packages.

Hillcrest Dairy – A small, family run dairy in Moravia, New York. Their cows are pasture raised and their milk is minimally processed. On the farm, they produce several cheese, milk, and butter products, and offer tours by appointment.

Keeley’s Cheese Co – A new venture, Keeley McGarr is producing cheeses on her family’s dairy farm in King Ferry, on the East side of Cayuga Lake.

Finger Lakes Dexter Cheese Creamery – Rose Marie Belforti is the first and only producer in the western hemisphere to offer an authentic, probiotic kefir cheese from raw milk from grass-fed Dexter cows in King Ferry.

Muranda Cheese – The Muranda Cheese House created by the Murrays in Waterloo is producing cheddar from raw cow’s milk.

Lively Run Goat Dairy – One of the first commercial goat dairy operations in New York State, beginning production in 1982 and located in Interlaken. Chevre, made in the traditional French style, Feta, and a goat blue cheese are available.

Side Hill Acres Goat Farm – Russell and Rita Kellogg established a goat dairy in 1982 in Candor. In 1994 they started a goat cheese processing plant and produce premium quality hand crafted goat cheeses and milk products.

Engelbert Farms – Owned and operated by Lisa and Kevin Engelbert, it is a certified organic farm raising dairy, beef, veal, and pork on their 600 acre farm in Nichols, NY on the Pennsylvania border. The farm’s milk is being made into 16 varieties of cheddar, gouda, swiss, jack and mozzarella cheeses, sold via their new farm store and at a few retail outlets near the farm.

Cowlick Farm – Committed to fresh, local dairy products, this working farm exclusively features Creamline Jersey cow milk in all of their dairy products. Their unique shop offers a variety of uniquely blended aged cheese, Farmstead cheeses, and fresh Gelato. Stop in to taste their pure farm-fresh products and meet their happy cows – they even sleep on waterbeds!

4 Tin Fish Farm – 4 Tin Fish Farm is a family owned and operated micro goat dairy located in Central New York. The farm initially started out as a hobby, but as our passion grew we began to shift our thinking as to how we might make it profitable doing what we love. Our goal is to provide farmstead cheese to local customers and raise quality Alpine dairy goats.

Snofarm Dairy – On Snofarm, the main goal is the health, well being, and quality of life of the employees, owners, livestock, fields, and forests. We manage our resources to achieve these goals. We make our money by selling quality milk from a healthy dairy herd fed feed produced in a sound ecological way.

Cheese and Wine: a Great Combination

So how exactly do you enjoy Cheese and wine, and how do you mix and match a sharp cheddar with a crisp Cabernet? Again, according to the Finger Lakes Wine Country website, keep the following in mind:

– Razor Sharp pairs well with the dryer wines–it helps to bring out the flavor of the wine and the cheese.

– Down on the Beach pairs well with Oaked or Stainless Chardonnay, BacoNoir and Merlots.

– Deep Seneca goes best with Semi-Dry Reislings (the Finger Lakes Reislings are wonderful) Johannisberg Reisling, Pinot Gris, and the Semi-dry reds.

– Tomato Basil Jack or Curd pairs well with the Dry Reds (they go well with Pasta) and the Rose’ style wines.

– Tyson’s Zatar pairs well with ANY AND ALL Reislings! and the Gewurztraminers. This cheese will amaze you. Depending on what it is paired with depends on what flavors are brought forward. Any of the wines that compliment “spice” will pair well with this cheese.

– Buffalo Curd: This is traditionally a “beer and cheese” combo, but pairs well with the lighter bodied sweeter wines both red and white.

– KTM’s Garlic Delight: pairs well with any of the middle of the road wines, but goes nicely with a Seyval Blanc or Cabernet.

It’s taken me about 20 years to finally feel comfortable drinking wine and now I have to start all over again with cheese? So be it. The Finger Lakes Region Cheese Trail. Not just for crackers anymore!

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