Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Singing the Praises of Rogue River Blue

Innovation and respect for history reflect the ongoing legacy at Rogue Creamery. Did you know that Rogue Creamery was the first producer of blue cheeses west of the Mississippi? This fact alone reflects the intrepid spirit of the founding Vella Family. Their decision to build a creamery in the Rogue River Valley during the Great Depression and provide stable jobs for the townspeople was a testament to the family’s support of area farmers who provided them with milk. Rogue Creamery even received a United States “E for Effort” award for their contribution to World War II by employing women and paying a bonus for milk to help servicemen’s families left running the farms on their own. These really were early American cheese pioneers.

Now over 80 years in the business, Rogue Creamery continues to represent the pioneering spirit through artisan cheese making and its evolution. For the past 10 years, under the leadership of David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, Rogue Creamery has demonstrated their commitment to excellence in cheese production. Southern Oregon is an agricultural wonderland, and in my opinion, no cheese more clearly reflects terroir (the taste of the land from which it comes). Their commitment to local ingredients contributes to the excellence of Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue Cheese. This award-winning cheese has claimed the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show recognition for two of the past five years, and deservedly so.

What do I like so much about this cheese? The taste! The flavors of the cheese WOW your senses. Complex savory, sweet cream, spicy and fruity flavors explode in your mouth. Equally complex is the texture, best described as creamy, crunchy-smooth. And the cheese is gorgeous, a lovely white laced with green-blue veins all wrapped up in grapes leaves.   

So what makes this cheese so good? Let’s start at the beginning. Rogue River Blue is only made between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice because the cheese makers see a change in the milk during this time. This high-quality milk is sourced from a nearby dairy farmer whose Brown Swiss and Holstein cows graze in 1250 foot elevation pastures bordering the Rogue River. They eat a variety of pasture and native grasses, hop clover, wild herbs, Himalayan blackberries and wild flowers, supplemented with grass hay, alfalfa and grain off the ranch. The milk is transformed by cheese makers passionate about quality and committed to the artisan tradition of small, handmade batches and careful aging. To top it off, this special cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves hand harvested from the local Carpenter Hill Vineyard and macerated in pear brandy made in the county. I would call Rogue River Blue cheese “super local” -- the care for every aspect of this cheese makes it one of my all-time picks.

The autumn equinox is my favorite time of year and the main reason is Rogue River Blue. Towards late summer I begin to long for the cheese to be released and look forward to savoring that first taste of fall. And now it’s here! Just released over the weekend of September 21, look for it in our cheese department! That’s where you’ll find me. I’ll be the one singing “Here Comes the Sun” but what I’m really singing is “Here Comes the Rogue!”

Have you tried Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue? What do you love about it?