Many of our travels are focused around our favorite annual events, allowing us to keep up our wanderlust routine and re-visit our favorite getaways at least once a year. The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival (my personal favorite), located in Shelburne, Vermont, showcases the best of the best of Vermont's local farm's products, and mainly my favorite food in the world - cheese - competing for the best cheese of the year.
The festival features over forty cheesemakers and is held at national landmark Shelburne Farms, a gorgeous 1,400 acre working farm overlooking the beautiful shores of Lake Champlain. A simple and stunning setting, the farm centers around a historic farmhouse from the turn of the 20th century.
When you enter the festival you're greeted with a large smorgasbord of local goods, including cheese (of course!), this is all a brief preview of how you will spend your day. The best part about the Cheesemakers Festival is not only the cheese that you and many others gather to celebrate, but everything great about Vermont. Winemakers, brewers, chefs, farmers, and many others are gathered to celebrate the incredible culinary and drink scene happening in Vermont.
When you enter you are given a wine glass and sent through the tent to sample cheeses and meet the makers behind the magic. The experience is about creating your own wine and beer pairings as you graze the local offerings. As you pursue the artisan food producers and cheesemakers you're met with brewers and wineries that pair perfectly with all the local and regional fare. Basically, your day is spent tasting the delicious food samples and trying some different beers, wines, and spirits, all while meeting the teams behind these beautifully crafted products.
Upon arrival at the festival you’re given a voting ballot upon entry to choose your favorite cheese of the Fest, this will be your most difficult task of the day. You’ll find yourself using adjectives like creamy, sharp, delicate, buttery, and earthy. The list will go on! Among our favorites this year were the ashed goat cheese from Woodcock Farm and the Lillé from our local favorite, Vermont Farmstead. Lex was completely won over this year with Von Trapp's Mt. Alice; a creamy camembert three to five-week old cheese, definitely not to be missed. She was also completely enthusiastic after meeting owner and graphic designer of Plymouth Artisan Cheese. What a cool and tasty experience for us both.
We spent a couple of hours immersed in the festival, tasting the different products and networking with all the local producers. Having grown up in Vermont and knowing some of the cheesemakers personally, the art of cheese making is something I have always held in high respect. It is a delicate process that provides amazing rewards.
If you are not caught up on the Vermont beer scene this is a great place to get your feet wet. I can’t go without the classics whenever I am in Vermont! Including: Magic Hat Brewing, Long Trail Ale, The Alchemist (Heady Topper is life changing!), Shacksbury Cider (locally sourced apples, dry, refreshing, and amazing!), last but not least Switchback Brewing Co. I could go on and on. Most of these brewers re located just down the road in Burlington, so definitely make a weekend out of the festival and visit your favorites! I have included a helpful link for your access. https://www.vermontbrewers.com/breweries/.
While we purchased and packed up many cheeses, here are a few of our favorite artisan products that we brought home that day:
Marsh Hollow's beer jelly, Shacksbury ciders, Vermont Homestead's roasted tomato and garlic bruschetta topping, O Bread Bakery's spicy olive focaccia, SILO Distillery's lavender vodka, Olivia's garlic & herb croutons, and some pieces from Farmhouse Pottery.
Every year we wind down our tastings with a sandwich and salad from Bluebird Barbecue and our Shacksbury Spritz ciders on the shore of Lake Champlain. Taking in the refreshing lakeside breeze and thinking back to all of those fabulous cheeses we just tasted (also prepping our ballots for submission). This festival is truly a great way to celebrate good food, local fares and artisans, and a breathtaking landscape all while enjoying the Summer season. Did we mention there's live music and baby goats?
Where to stay? If you can plan ahead, we suggest staying at the Shelburne Inn, just a few minutes walk up the shore on Farm property.
We also suggest the Middlebury Inn located in the small and quiet town of Middlebury, Vermont. Although this cute little inn is 45 minutes away from the festival, we love the surrounding restaurants and bars with a quaint atmosphere that is simple and sweet. A nice getaway after tasting an abundant amount of cheeses among many other artisan foods and having a few drinks.
Be sure to get your hands on a cooler bag before you enter the festival and plan to stock up on (not only) cheese, but all of the artisan products complimenting the cheesemaker's products. We suggest arriving early; the festival opens at 10am and we promise you will want to spend the entirety of your day here (festival shuts down around 4pm). Our main suggestion for making the festival the best it can be is do not hold back from sampling, tasting, or sipping the cheeses and beverages offered to you there. Come hungry! Every single item is truly the best and is hard to be forgotten.
So, mark your calendars for August 12, 2018, and book early (http://vtcheesefest.com/), it always sells out fast. See you next summer!