Like many cheeses, the Oregon Cheese Festival gets better with age. For more than 15 years, the gathering of Oregon’s artisan cheesemakers, vintners and brewers has attracted foodies from all over to Rogue Creamery in Central Point. Sponsored by the Oregon Cheese Guild, the farmers-market-style event includes tastings, special releases and educational classes. It’s now one of the largest cheese-themed festivals in the nation.
“Education is a key part of our mission,” says Francis Plowman, Rogue Creamery’s “cheese narrator,” who handles public relations for the festival. “We will have two classes that are offered at no charge to festival guests.”
In the past, the first class has been led by the likes of John Greeley, American Cheese Society (ACS) Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and chairman of the ACS Cheese Competition Committee, and focused on judging cheeses, selecting award winners and understanding what makes a good cheese. The second class has typically been a seminar, teaching people how to pair artisan cheese with drinks; past hosts include James Kohn, co-owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks.
For those simply interested in sinking their teeth into delicious artisan cheese, there’s plenty of that too. Attendees can sample cow, sheep and goat cheese from Oregon creameries, including Pholia Farm, La Mariposa Creamery, Ochoa Creamery, Tillamook County Creamery, Willamette Valley Cheese Co., Fern’s Edge Goat Dairy, Oak Leaf Creamery, Rivers Edge Chevre, Briar Rose Creamery, Face Rock Creamery, Portland Creamery, Rogue Creamery and many others. In addition, the festival will include a number of Oregon chocolate-makers, wineries, breweries, distilleries and other culinary artisans.
The Oregon Cheese Festival has been recognized by Culture magazine as one of the Top 10 Cheese Festivals in the U.S. Tickets cost $15 for cheese tastings and demonstrations, and a $10 wine, beer and spirit tasting fee also gets you a commemorative glass. The scrumptious, four-course “Meet the Cheesemakers and Winemakers Dinner” offers only 120 seats and has sold out for many years running. Proceeds benefit the Oregon Cheese Guild.