The amount of times a “new” Spanish cheese appears in the United States is about as often as I’ve said no to a pint of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. So about once or twice a year or so (I make an effort not to walk down the frozen sweets aisle in the grocery store or look ice cream in the face). So when we get a new one, it feels pretty special. Montealva is the latest Spanish cheese introduction to our west coast.
Distributed by Cowgirl Creamery in California, Montealava is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese made in Andalucia. It has fresh, lightly green herbal and citrus notes, flavors of untoasted hazelnuts, and a rich sweetness acquired through 60 plus days of aging. I’ve even heard people say they taste mustard notes in the finish.
Though it seems to come in various ages, the one that we get is around two months. This seems to be a sweet spot for people for aged goat’s milk cheese. When it’s young yet firm like this it can even appeal to goat cheese newbies because it doesn’t taste too punchy. Like it a little punchier? Try Achandinha’s Capricious.
The Alvarez family makes this sweet bright cheese from the milk of their 450 Payoya Andalucian goats. Fun fact? This breed was practically saved from extinction because they make such tasty, rich milk. They don’t make much of it, but people who make cheese with it claim its richness is worth the effort. The Payoya have elegant curving horns, are born to climb the rocky hills of the region, and adorable curly tails. Those herbal notes you taste in the cheese? That’s what those lucky foragers are snacking on in the hills.
Last week I taught a Rich Wines and Decadent Cheeses class at The Cheese School of San Francisco and we served this in it (hello high butterfat goat’s milk). While this is a cheese that really went with any wine from un-oaked to oaked, it really shined with the heavy Roger Perrin VV French Syrah and the raspberry-noted Green and Red Chiles Valley Zinfandel. If I was at home cooking and needed a pre-dinner snack, I’d slice up a few pieces of Montealva and eat it with Andaulician’s wine gift to the world- a dry sherry. I love it with en rama-style, unfiltered sherry like Hidalgo’s.
Olives! Keep an eye out for a marinated olives recipe that would pair perfectly with Montealva. See that Friends in Cheese carrot marmalade in the pic? That’s good with it too. I also like Montealva shaved over marinated Spanish boquerones.
Lastly, be sure to check out my blog next week. I’ll be giving away tickets to the Cheesemongers Duel at the Calfornia Artisan Cheese Fest!