In Quebec, you can get your cheese delivered to your door.
"We deliver it just like it was a pizza," says Jean-Philippe Hudon, sales and marketing manager at Fromagerie Chaput in Châteauguay, Que. "It's the Chaput express - we get it to you fresh, we educate you about the product and in return we have loyal customers."
You'd be grateful for the drop-off if you were ordering a seven-kilogram wheel of company's fresh and sweet-smelling Champagnole.
The flavours in this raw goat milk cheese develop over six months of aging. It takes that long to ripen such a large wheel as well as let the flavours unfold to their full potential.
The rind of the Champagnole is a soft combination of gold and grey. Its colour and ridged texture is a beautiful compliment to the creamy white paste that shows a tannish-grey shadow near the rind. The cheese is dense and refreshing in flavour - salty, citrus-y and grassy. Its "goatyness" is apparent only in the tangy aroma and flavours.
The Chaput family have been making raw-milk cheese exclusively for 10 years. The five family members who run the business use hands-on methods to make all their cheese.
"We are one of the most lo-fi cheese makers in Quebec," Mr. Hudon says. "Nothing is done mechanically - our only piece of mechanical equipment is the cheese press. We are often perceived as semi-industrial because we have been around so long, but we are fighting hard to get that label off our back."
This dedication to tradition is attributed to Patrick Chaput, who started making cheese at Fromagerie Chaput about 10 years ago instead of importing it from Europe.
He learned cheese making by working on a farm in the Jura region of France and modelled his business philosophy on that experience. But when he came back to Quebec to replicate what he'd learned, he had to adapt it to the local environment. "The climate was different, the milk was different," Mr. Hudon says.
Fromagerie Chaput organizes tastings to educate customers about the different flavours and health benefits that distinguish cheese made with raw milk from those made with pasteurized.
Mr. Hudon emphasizes that a cheese cannot develop the same flavour complexity as it ages if you do not have the original bacteria that comes in raw milk.
"A lot of people - even within the industry - don't see the difference," Mr. Hudon says. "We start with the bacteria that is naturally there, some of which you cannot reproduce. Some of these bacteria wake up two to three months into the ripening process and start changing the cheese's flavour yet again."
For a cheese like Champagnole, Mr. Hudon stresses the importance of milk quality and having a relationship with your farmers.
All of Fromagerie Chaput's goat milk comes from a farm called La Chevrière de Monnoir. "We know the animals are treated with great care and that the environment is clean and rich with good bacteria. That's what is expressed through our careful affinage."
You can get immediate goaty gratification from a fresh chèvre, but the refined flavour of an aged goat cheese such as Champagnole is worth waiting for.
On the block
Origin: Châteauguay, Que.
Producer: Fromagerie Chaput
Cheese maker: Patrick Chaput, Marie-Laurence Chaput, Jérémie Chaput
Milk: raw goat
Type: firm, pressed, washed rind
Shape: 7-kilogram wheel
Distributor: Fromages CDA, Provincial Fine Foods, Benton Brothers
Purchase on-line: www.chaputcheese.com
Montreal: Fromagerie Atwater
Toronto: Cheese Boutique, A Taste of Quebec, Whole Foods
Peterborough, Ont.: Chasing the Cheese
Saskatoon: Souleio Foods
Sue Riedl studied at the Cordon Bleu in London.