Appeared March September in Dairy Foods Magazine
Copyright BNP Media

It’s been ten years since Pat Elliott established a professional cheesemaking operation in rural Rapidan, Va., and in that time, the scope of her cheese operation has grown considerably while its character has remained constant.

Now there are new cheeses to sell and a new cheesemaker in the cheese room.

“Carolyn Wentz is my daughter-in-law,” says Elliott, a country doctor who still sees patients but has also become a fixture in the American artisan cheese community.  “She and my son have had a couple of kids and she was ready to go back to work, and she said ‘the only job I want to do is to make cheese.’  She’s a florist by training, and it seems that’s a good background for cheese. She’s very thoughtful about how things go together—colors and flavors and so on.”

In The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, Jeffrey Roberts tells the story of how Elliott began keeping sheep after she fell in love with and bought a pet Border Collie. The dog needed animals to keep it busy, the sheep needed to be milked, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When she started selling cheese Elliott was milking 15 ewes. She now keeps around 200. For years her award-winning sheepsmilk cheeses including Piedmont, Stony Man and Pride of Baccus were made in a 20-gal vat. Now it’s a 75-gal vat that still gets filled at least twice a day.  All cheeses are made with raw milk from Elliott’s East Fresian sheep.

“At first I did everything myself, which is a good way to start because then you know how everything needs to be done,” Elliott says, adding that the staff now numbers four fulltime. “Now I’m doing mostly paperwork and marketing, and I take the night shift during lambing season. Getting people to milk is always a big challenge. But with Carolyn on board I can go to ACS and not worry that there is work not getting done.”

Indeed Elliott attended this year’s American Cheese Society Conference in Chicago.

Among the new cheeses that Elliott and Wentz are developing is a soft aged French-style cheese similar to Camembert.

Everona Dairy

23246 Clarks Mountain Rd.Rapidan, Va. 22733
Established 1998
Visitors by appointment
540/854-4159

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