Cheese Travels with Jim Wallace

A journal of travels to explore the old ways, history, and process. Visits with the cheese makers and photographs of the surrounding beauty. Jim teaches traditional cheesemaking in the US and can be contacted via ...

About Me

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Western Massachusetts USA, United States
I have been visiting cheese makers throughout Europe for many years now, researching the old ways of traditional cheese making . I currently teach several workshops on traditional cheese making in the US and can be contacted at ... ____ In my recent past I have traveled the wild places of this planet making photographs and fine prints. The blend of my cheese travels and making photographs combines the best of both worlds.

January 3, 2010

Sept 25 Home Sweet Home

It always seems after 3 weeks away I am totally ready to get back home. This trip was more intense than previous trips and it was great to take a breath, make the morning Cappuccino and then unpack.
A lot of notes, photos, and new contacts for future trips, plus all of the new inspiration and ideas banging around in my head. It's time to organize all of this and get back to work. Another newsletter to get out for Ricki and 4 workshops coming up, its going to be a busy couple of months.

Sept 24 the Flight back home

The flight from Geneva was better than usual considering modern flight procedures. I routinely ask for a bulk head seat for my long legs but was told there were none left. Instead they put me in a row that was totally empty and I had 3 seats to stretch out on and actually was able to sleep. Robin also had a row with a free seat to herself.
Everything went fine until we reached Montreal. Here we had to lug all of our belongs clear across the airport up and and down stairs etc and check in again going through all of the customs and immigration details (takes a lot longer with my new knee). This all took about 2.5 hrs so it was good we had the four hour layover. Finally the quick flight to Hartford and Home.

Sept 23 Back to Geneva area

Today's weather is again bright and beautiful. Another spectacular drive takes us over the mountain passes again from the cheese town of Beaufort to the city of Annecy located at the base of the mountains of Savoie. We manage to time it well to visit our friend Pierre at his cheese shop/cave then off for a fabulous lunch with him.

Pierre's shop in Annecy is situated perfectly for his trips into the mountains for Reblochon, Beaufort, Tomme d'Savoie, etc as well as a number of wonderful cheeses in surrounding areas and Switzerland. His shop is one of the most unique I have seen yet. The front room   showcases his many cheeses but as you enter the next room you are standing on a glass floor and below you for all to see are his cheeses laid out in his urban cave. Pierre has become a very good friend and often accompanies to the mountains to visit his cheese makers. His family has been selling cheese here for many generations and he knew the grandparents that sold cheese to his family shop.
With Pierre the talk often goes to the background of what it takes to make cheese in this traditional ways and the problems with sustaining this in the modern world.

We finish up today with a drive up into the Juras mountains and pack our trophy's for the flight home tomorrow. This was quite a drive out of Geneva but it was very quiet and relaxing for the pack-up.

Sept 22 through the Tarantaise Mountains of France

Finally, sunny and bright! After yesterdays long drive left us shy of our goal to spend the night in the cheese town of Beaufort and since today was such a beautiful day, we felt we would make it a leisurely drive through the mountains and just enjoy the day.  This was a great choice and made up for the past week or so of rain.

Our travels took us down through the valley from Val d'Iser to the town of Bourge St Maurice which is the heart of Beaufort cheese country. The caves for Beaufort Cheese here are a superb place to find the best examples of one of the worlds finest cheese. No disappointment here for us except that Robins glasses were probably still sitting on the counter when we left.

From there it was back up into the "High Country" As we traversed the mountains again to the small cheese town of Beaufort. one of my favorite diversions is the drive to Ville des Glaciers on the way to Cormet de Roselend. The end of this valley leaves us at the base of Mt Blanc with all of its glaciers hanging off the mountain (at least for the near future). Quite a spectacular place.

The late morning and early afternoon drive took us through some of the finest Alpine pastures with the wonderful Tarantaise preparing their wonderful milk for the evenings cheesemaking. Nothing like the sound of these animals munching away on the fleurs n grasses while their bells echo across the valley.

One of our favorite lunch stops is at the head of Lac Roselend and since it was close to the the end of our journey our next priority was an extended lunch and wine as we lay in the warm sun. Time to clean up the cheese bits we have accumulated and wash it down with the remaining wine. Life is good on days like this so it was late afternoon before we packed ourselves up for the drive down to our hotel in the town of Beaufort. A good dinner and a nights sleep and we will be good to go again.

Sept 21 Over the mountains to France again

After our very late night at the dinner in Alba it was time for the long drive to Torino and over the Alps this morning. The skies were quite moody this morning with many layers of mist and fog as we headed up into the mountains. Our route is one of my favorite drives .. up over the pass at Mt Cenis into France and then climb back up into the  Mountains and over Col de l'Iseran.

An uneventful drive up to the pass of Mt Cenis in very thick fog so Robin missed the spectacle of this turquoise mountain lake. I have done this several times in the past and it is one of my favorite spots. At the end of the lake on the french side we did stop at a small farm with one of my favorite cheese makers. I am always amazed at the cheese she has in her small cooler, some of which comes from her neighbors since there are all types of cheese makers on this mountain. The cheeses were spectacular as usual and we quickly decided they would probably not make it back home since they were so hard to keep away from.
The incentive for her I think is the absolute beauty of the view there.

Our goal was to make Bourg St Maurice on the french side of the Alps but by the time we reached the last high mountain pass at Val d' Isar we were beat and spent the night in this empty ski town.

Sept 20 Barolo and Alba

Well it has been quite some time  since I have had a chance to post here (Sure like 3 months). Anyhow life gets in the way and after 3 weeks in Europe I was well behind in answering cheese making questions plus running four cheese workshops during Oct and Nov ... and then the holidays !!! Oh well, back to it...

After two pretty intense days of workshops and talking with cheese makers in Bra it was time to move on. Most of the really great cheese was gone by Saturday night anyhow and "the truth be known" we were just plain cheese OD'd. So this morning it is time to catch up on some work, have a great breakfast and move on to the Langhe hills  and the Barolo wine region which is really only a few Kilometers from Bra, actually just across the river.

But first we detour along the way to the "Slow Foods University" in Polenza truly one of the most beautiful food learning centers in the world. Following this we continued up into the hills and to our rest point for the day, a beautiful hilltop "Podere" looking out over a sea of vineyards and across to the town of La Morra. Once we settled in and had a bit more cheese and wine (well yes, the cheese appetite returns!) we are off to the village of Barolo and its wines