The project began with two goats, Kiera and Nala. They were meant as company for the horses that Andrea and Harker Rhodes put onto pasture when they moved to Sunset Rock Road in rural Lebanon, New Hampshire. Then the goats took over.
Andrea now milks thirty French Alpine does twice daily, churning out fresh chèvre and yogurt from March through December, and freezing curd to carry their supply through the dry winter months. In 2015 the couple added a palatial barn and milking facility, and now make enough cheese to furnish a few local cooperatives, restaurants, and CSA programs.
Sunset Rock Farm’s chèvre is a brilliant off-white color and very lightly scented. The texture at refrigeration temperature is crumbly, but it warms to spreadability at room temperature, and gets meltingly springy when warmed. Delicate and milky and not too sharp, the cheese retains its spring pasture notes despite pasteurization, and offers a chive and oniony savoriness with hints of chamomile and thyme. The flavor is both grassy and buttery, studded with field herbs and faint flowers, and the salting is deft.
Sunset Rock Farm also produces seasoned versions of their fresh chèvre, including Garlic Thyme, Garlic and Chive, Onion and Pepper, and Sea Salt and Dill. I find the plain cheese to be the most versatile, smashing it with snipped herbs onto fresh baguette, serving it warmed atop salad with a crackling of black pepper, or dolloped onto pizza in lieu of weightier mozzarella.
Wine for Sunset Rock Farm Chèvre
The quintessential wine pairing for fresh goat cheese is, of course, Loire Sauvignon Blanc—Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé—whose grassy herbal essence and ping of acidity meets the cheese head on. (New World options from California and New Zealand are also solid.) Other good options are brisk white varieties like Vermentino, Picpoul, Muscadet, Vouvray, Albariño, and Grüner Veltliner.
Dry Provençal rosés are also terrific with fresh chèvre, and I especially like this option when serving it with raw tomato salad. Red wines should have good acidity and bright berry flavors to match the cheese’s liveliness: Gamay (Beaujolais) or fruity Pinot Noir work well. Steer clear of oaked reds and whites.
Fresh chèvre can serve as a dessert with a drizzling of honey and handful of berries. In this case try it with Brachetto d’Acqui, a fizzy, red, lightly sweet wine from the Piedmont, or Moscato d’Asti.
Sunset Rock Farm Chèvre
Sold in an 8 oz. container, $16/lb.
Sunset Rock Farm, Lebanon, New Hampshire