Founded in 1892, The Grafton Cooperative Cheese Company consisted of dairy farmers who were looking to make use of their surplus raw milk. A 1912 fire destroyed the original factory, but the Windham Foundation - a nonprofit organization striving to preserve Vermont’s rural way of life - restored the facility in the 1960’s. Thanks to these efforts, the newly-refurbished and rebranded Grafton Village Cheese Co. helped usher in a new era for the community and continues to champion small, local farms in its award-winning products today.
Named for the scenic bluff overlooking the village of Grafton, Bear Hill is a washed-rind, alpine-style cheese made with raw sheep’s milk and cave aged for 10-12 months. This cheese combines the sweet and nutty flavors characteristic of alpine cheeses with a fruity and savory complexity brought on by the sheep’s milk. The rustic rind should range from pale tan to ruddy brown, with aromas of stone and butter. Bear Hill has a firm yet pliant texture, turning creamy on the tongue. Rich aromas of hazelnut and browned butter give way to a balanced harmony of flavors ranging from toasted nuts to artichokes in butter, with a long, savory finish. Best served as a table cheese, Bear Hill is also very meltable. Slice with French-style jambon and butter for a delicious alpine sandwich, or serve with pickled vegetables and a sweet mostarda. Pair with aromatic, spicy whites and reds such as Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Cote du Rhone, as well as IPAs or Normandy-style hard ciders.