As young adults, brothers Sebastian and Dan von Trapp wanted to get as far away from the family dairy farm as possible.
Their grandparents had established the enterprise in Vermont's Mad River Valley, and their parents had tried to keep it commercially viable by switching from conventional to organic milk production.
But about five years ago, after a few years in other professions, the brothers had a change of heart. They begin to think about how they could make the 150-acre farm sustain the next generation, and the answer, not surprisingly, was artisan cheese.
Sebastian quit his job in the software industry and undertook an informal cheesemaking apprenticeship, first at Vermont's esteemed Jasper Hill Farm, then with several small cheese makers in England. Dan, who had worked in home building, tackled the construction of the creamery.
Two years ago, the brothers introduced the first product of von Trapp Farmstead Cheese, a small washed-rind wheel they christened Oma, the German term of endearment for grandmother.
Oma is a farmstead cheese made with raw milk from the von Trapps' mixed herd, predominantly Jerseys and Jersey crosses. When the 1 1/2-pound wheels are 4 to 7 days old, they go to the caves at Jasper Hill Farm, where two other Vermont brothers - Mateo and Andy Kehler - oversee the maturation of several Vermont cheeses, including their own.
Oma spends 60 to 80 days in the caves, undergoing weekly washing with a brine bath containing brevibacterium linens. This friendly bacterium, as it multiplies, produces the cheese's sticky salmon-pink surface and its effusive aroma, a beefy scent with roasted peanut and mushroom notes.
The wheel measures about 2 inches tall and 6 inches across. The interior is the color of pale butter, with many pinhead-size openings and a supple, semisoft texture. You can bend a slice without breaking it. This cheese has a big personality, with apparent salt and a faintly bitter finish, but overall, it leaves the impression of careful cheese making and affinage.
I know you're wondering, and the answer is yes. The brothers are descendants of the famous Austrian von Trapps. Grandfather Werner von Trapp, who started the farm, was a tenor with the Trapp Family Singers.
Look for Oma at Cowgirl Creamery, Bi-Rite Market and Mission Cheese in San Francisco; at the Pasta Shop in Oakland and Berkeley; Cheese Board in Berkeley; and Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa.
An India Pale Ale, with its cleansing bitterness, would be my choice as a companion for Oma. Racer 5, a thirst-quenching IPA from Healdsburg's Bear Republic Brewery, is on tap at Mission Cheese, so you can try the pairing there.
Next up: Point Reyes mozzarella, a new farmstead cheese from West Marin.
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