Activities

Vermont’s Cheese Trail: The Best Cheese in Vermont

You know you have a problem when one of the vegetable bins in your fridge is dedicated to Vermont cheese: aged cheddar, extra sharp cheddar, kid-approved mild cheddar, vintage cheddar, alpine cheddar… cheese slices, cheese shreds, cheese snackers. You get the point. See, I have what some might think is a great problem to have… My boyfriend works for Cabot Creamery Cooperative. Cabot happens to be the biggest producer of cheese and dairy products in the Green Mountain state (and beyond).

In all honesty, we don’t eat that much cheese… but we always have plenty on hand. Cheese plate, anyone? Due to the omnipresence of cheese in my life, I have become a self-proclaimed Vermont cheese connoisseur and enjoy sampling many varieties to learn the subtleties of each variation. The brinier and bolder the flavors the better for my taste buds. Truly farm-to-table, it’s fun to see the cheese-making process come to life in Vermont.

The Vermont Cheese Trail

Lucky for all of us turophiles, caseophiles, and fromagephiles (aka serious cheese lovers) out there, there are over 50 cheesemakers in Vermont, producing more than 150 cheese varieties. The Green Mountain State has more cheese makers per capita than any other state, which isn’t hard to believe with the number of herds hanging around our great state. Vermont even has a Vermont cheese trail you can follow. This map shows all of the cheesemakers across the state, designating which ones are open to the public for retail sales and farm tours.

So, what cheese makers are producing the best cheese in Vermont? Where are the best places to find the biggest cheese selections in Vermont for purchase? Keep reading to find my picks for getting your cheese fix the next time you’re exploring Vermont.

The Best Cheese Makers in Vermont to Visit

Northern Vermont

Cabot: Cabot is a farmer-owned co-operative that’s been operating since 1919. Although you can find Cabot cheese in just about every grocery store, co-op, and even gas stations in Vermont, a trip to Cabot’s Visitor Center in Cabot, Vermont, is a unique experience. Tour the facility, watch the cheese-making process, and enjoy tons of samples from the biggest cheese producer in the state.

Shelburne Farms: Shelburne Farms is arguably the most beautiful home to a cheese-making facility in Vermont. It’s set on Lake Champlain and has stunning westerly views over the Adirondacks and architecture. Their aged Farmhouse cheddar is some of the best in Vermont, alongside Jasper Hill’s Cabot Clothbound. It’s made daily from the raw milk of Shelburne Farms’ Brown Swiss cows. If you can’t make it to Shelburne, Vermont, you can purchase their cheese online with every order supporting their mission of educating for a sustainable future.

Southern Vermont

Grafton Village: The first time I had Grafton Cheddar was at Long Trail Brewery’s 25th Anniversary Party. It was the end of the night, and somehow, I ended up with four bricks of their delicious cheese in my purse (no, I didn’t steal it). I ate those blocks for days and loved every bite. Grafton Village in southern Vermont is a great stop to sample cheeses and find other Vermont edibles and gifts. Make sure you try the Truffle Cheddar and award-winning Bear Hill.

Plymouth Artisan Cheese: Plymouth’s cheese features some of the most memorable packaging of all Vermont cheeses; all offerings are wax-wrapped in bright colors. The artisanal cheese comes from a single herd in Vermont that’s continually monitored for quality. The facility at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, offers a self-guided tour, along with cheese samples and even a cheese museum. Interestingly, the cheese factory is the second oldest in the country, dating back to 1890! The factory was built by Colonel John Coolidge, father of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. For the cheese and the history, Plymouth is a must-stop cheese destination in Vermont.

Sadly, Not Open to the Public

Although it isn’t open to the public, it’s worth acknowledging Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro as the producer of the very best cheese in the state (in my opinion, although I’m sure many will agree). I had the amazing opportunity to tour the facility this past summer, which consists of seven cheese caves (or “specially calibrated vaults” as they call them). It was one of the coolest Vermont experiences I’ve had. Seeing the delicate handling and specific conditions cheese needs to age to perfection gave me a newfound appreciation for the art of cheese making. The extensiveness of the Cabot clothbound cave was nothing sort of breathtaking. Although you may not be able to visit the farm and production facility, you can order the cheese online here and pick it up at many stores throughout Vermont.

The Best Places to Buy Cheese in Vermont

Northern Vermont

The Cheese Shop, Cheese and Wine Traders, South Burlington, Vermont
Cheese Traders is the best place to find a huge selection of Vermont cheese at the best prices in Vermont. Cheese butts and odd cuts allow you can get some steals on typically pricey cheeses so long as you don’t care about an oblong shape. In addition to cheese, you’ll find local meats, preserves, and everything else needed to round out your very own Vermont charcuterie platter. Don’t miss the basement for an awesome selection of wine as well. If you live in the area, sign up for their Cellar Wine Club, which includes two bottles of wine and one cheese pairing for month.

Willey’s General Store, Greensboro, Vermont
I am a huge fan of Willey’s General Store. It’s located just a few (dirt) miles down the road from Hill Farmstead. Not only can you find Hill Farmstead shelvies, you can also find the best selection of Jasper Hill Farm cheeses I’ve ever seen in Vermont. It just so happens that Jasper Hill is within a few miles as well. It’s well worth a stop for the quintessential Vermont country store experience as well.

Cabot Annex, Waterbury Center, Vermont
Located half-way between Waterbury and Stowe is a “strip mall” with four of Vermont’s best makers: Cabot Cooperative, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, Lake Champlain Chocolate, and Danforth Pewter. The Cabot Annex  has many options to try before you buy. Don’t miss the kick-ass selection of local brews, ciders, and other Vermont-made products as well. The location seems is popular with tour buses, so in case it’s busy when you arrive, pop next door to Smugglers’ Notch to sample some of the best spirits made in Vermont. If you’re in southern Vermont, Cabot has another storefront in Quechee that’s worth a visit as well.

Dakin Farm, Ferrisburgh, Vermont
Located roughly half-way between Middlebury and Burlington on Route 7 is Dakin Farm, one of my go-to drop-in stops for some serious sampling. Dakin Farm is well-known for their maple syrup and maple creemees in the summertime. In addition to many Vermont-made goodies, Dakin Farm boasts a big selection of Vermont cheeses.

Southern Vermont

The Taftsville Country Store, Taftsville, Vermont
The first time I entered Taftsville’s Country Store when exploring between Woodstock and Quechee, I was blown away by their huge cheese case. Cheese comes in blocks, so you have the option to purchase as much (or as little) of a specific variety as you’d like. It’s one of the best places in the state to get bulk cheese, if you’re a serious cheese lover. Don’t miss the Grafton Three-Star Cheddar!

Throughout Vermont

Any Co-op in Vermont: The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-Op, Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier, and City Market / Onion River Co-op in Burlington all have a huge selection of local Vermont cheeses, as do most Co-ops throughout the state. Make sure to browse their cheese cases, as you never know what goodness you might find on any given day.

Best Cheeses in Vermont

In case you’re curious, here are my current top 10 best Vermont cheeses… There are oh-so-many good Vermont cheeses that it’s nearly impossible to limit myself to just ten. What’s your go-to Vermont cheese? Keep the conversation going, and share your favorites in the comments below!

  1. Jasper Hill, Moses Sleeper
  2. Cabot, Clothbound Cheddar 
  3. Jasper Hill, Willoughby (fair warning – this cheese will make your fridge smell terrible, but it’s worth it)
  4. Cabot, Alpine Cheddar
  5. Jasper Hill, Bayley Hazen Blue
  6. Vermont Creamery, Bonne Bouche
  7. Maplebrook Farm, Smoked Mozzarella 
  8. Spring Brook Farm, Reading Raclette
  9. Blue Ledge Farm, Maple Chevre
  10. Twig Farm, Tomme

Need more Vermont cheese in your life? Then check out the Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival, arguably the biggest cheese event in Vermont, happening this year at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms on Sunday, July 16, 2017.