Oregon’s Dundee Hills: A Delicious Briar Rose Cheese Sandwich

Briar Rose cheese Iris, marked as “sell now” means,… ready to go.

When visiting Portland a few weekends ago, cheesemaker Sarah Marcus invited me to visit Briar Rose Creamery. This was elating for a couple reasons.

First, I’ve long loved Briar Rose cheese and was very excited to sample some I hadn’t tried before— the new Carena, and their classic feta I just never got my hands on.

And second, Briar Rose is surrounded by amazing wineries and breweries. This meant that my boyfriend, who was accompanying me, and I could make a proverbial cheese sandwich of our trip by stopping at a winery before (Winderlae), and a brewery after (Wolves & People).

Carena Reserva, raw-goat.

Briar Rose cheese is located just 30 miles from Portland in the greener-than-green Dundee hills. In the middle of pines and ferns and moss and rain, cheesemaker Sarah Marcus focuses on goat’s milk cheeses (As a side note, from Briar Rose to River’s Edge, some of the best goat’s milk cheese comes from the Oregon mountains. Deal with the goat’s milk devil? Unsure).

Sarah in hairnet in one of the cleanest creameries I’ve been to, holding Carena wheel.

Trees just outside the creamery. Proof in Portland.

A couple years ago I wrote about Briar Rose’s Lorelei link on my blog. This time I was especially excited about trying Briar Rose’s newbie.

Carena is a firm washed-rind (link) cheese with a crumbly bite. Though made from lively goat’s milk that Sarah or her husband Jim drives an hour-and-a-half to source over the mountains every day they make cheese, the wheel is delicate— with notes from floral, to  honey, to cashew, to a touch of coconut. This plus a dry or off-dry Riesling would be perfect.

Close up of two Carena’s- one raw milk (the crumbly, older guy), one pasteurized.

Or…. with a Pinot Blanc from Winderlea Vineyards about five minutes down the road who was kind enough to squeeze us in so would could try their small-production beauties. Unoaked, lightly yeasty, clean and apple-flecked, their Pinot Blanc could have been confused for Alsatian version. Lorelei would have been my pick for their Pinot Noirs.

Next at the creamery we tried Briar Rose’s feta, which won 1st at the American Cheese Society Conference recently. Instead of making a salt-water brine, Sarah ages her cheese for months the traditional way- in whey. Goat’s milk feta rules in my book, and Briar Rose’s is one of the best in the states. They also got the stamp of approval from my boyfriend, who reminded us that in Turkey where he grew up, “cheese,” just meant “feta.” He also didn’t think he was much into goat’s milk feta until he tried Sarah’s.

Bucket’s o’Briar Rose feta maturing in their whey.

Granted we had to finish up our trip with beer so we made our way to new brewery Wolves & People. Awesomely enough (says this Norwegian-American), Wolves & People often has a Norwegian food truck park outside of their brewery for drinker’s lefse needs, but since they weren’t around that day and we only consumed about a quarter-pound of cheese and were still hungry, we hit up Red Hills market and grabbed sandwiches. Try their Reubens.

Turned out  Wolves & People session ales were mighty tasty with Carena and Lorelei both.

What happens when you brine her cheese in local wine? Sarah will let you know.

Briar Rose cheese gets its basket shape after draining in these forms.

Thanks for the visit, Sarah and Jim! As always, a fan of your creamery and the brewery and winery sandwich that surrounds you.