Tahoe Cheese Nevada – 50 States of Cheese
Nevada. A beautiful, barren state with a history of famous ‘G’s.
Guns. Gold. Gambling. And now Green. David Green.
Together with his wife Dawn, David Green has finally put Nevada on the American cheese map with the 2013 launch of Tahoe Cheese. And like the original settlers before him, David brought ideas and expertise from back east to strike out into the Silver State. Like any self-respecting American pioneer, David recovered from bad fortune, state government roadblocks and threats to his supply chain before finally perfecting the model at his new family home in Carson City.
First, the bad fortune. Freezing weather in the mid-1980’s wrecked their Florida citrus farm and David had to act. “We had to quickly find another use for the land and the added-value of cheese making was the best solution.” They set to work and established Winter Park Dairy (www.winterparkdairy.com) and, like Nevada, the local government was not ‘experienced’ in handling the gray area of raw milk laws.
Second, government roadblocks. David set to work reworking the governing milk laws in Florida. Federal law prevented raw milk cheeses being sold that had not aged for sixty days, a law that remains today. Florida had no law (and no meaningful cheese industry) so the dairy had to work with the government to be able to gain a raw milk license. Finally, in 2008, the dairy became the first licensed raw milk cheese producer in the state.
Thirdly, the Green family was so successful in Florida they hit a supply problem: Milk. David explained: “The milk supply in this country is monopolized by cooperatives. We grew too big and couldn’t grow because we couldn’t get the milk we needed. We needed to find an independent supplier who could grow with us. We started to look west.”
By now, with a wealth of hands-on dairying experiences, training at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and, crucially, knowledge of how to write policy for a state government to license raw milk cheese, the Green family started searching for the right place to expand. That search led to the largest independent cattle dairy out West, owned by Nevadan native Chad Turner. Chad partnered the Green family and the herd of five thousand cows is now right next to the new cheese plant in Mason Valley. David again helped with the state government to get licensed. Incredibly, the plant was up and running in just six months. “We figured it all out in Florida. We knew what to do once we arrived in Nevada.”
Chad handling the cows was exactly what David wanted. “I never wanted to milk another cow as long as I live! It allowed me and Dawn to focus on business development. We wanted to create new markets.” By now, it shouldn’t surprise you to know David isn’t just your regular farmer-cum-cheese maker. He has an MBA and an impressive vision for growing businesses. Access to more milk wasn’t the only reason for heading west. “We supply a lot of big hotels as we focus on higher end artisan cheeses. We have started to look to Asia to supply hotels and higher end places there so we are really well placed this side of America. The Asian cheese market is getting really hot now.”
Working with legendary consultant Peter Dixon, Tahoe Cheese refined their recipes and quickly started to supply the Hyatts, Marriotts and other higher end establishments in nearby Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles- huge markets. Master cheese maker Keith Blok has just joined the company and brings a wealth of expertise from working in other major plants. David said: “Keith brings a vast wisdom to the table, he’s forgotten more about cheese than I’ve ever learned.” And one final piece of business expertise introduced by David… fast turnaround of stock. “We keep our cheeses to just six pound wheels so they age quicker. When they hit sixty days they are straight out of the door. We don’t hang on to inventory.”
This fast-aging philosophy means milder cheeses (something the emerging Asian market prefers, not so coincidentally…). The raw milk, natural rind cheeses are all GMO free, gluten free and still hand crafted, while still achieving high production volumes. Their Alpine Bleu is made with vegetarian rennet and is a signature cheese, while the Black & Bleu is a twist on the traditional blue cheese with the inclusion of organic roasted cracked peppercorns. “Our Black & Blue has just become so popular. We got the recipe from a missionary from India- I guess this cheese was blessed!”
The Nevada Cheddar has a full-bodied flavor despite the short aging, described as sharp and buttery. The key is the freshest possible raw milk, with cows enjoying outdoor living all year round in fresh Alpine air. The Tomme de Sierra is based on the Pecorino style and local chefs are now using it in place of Parmesan and Romano. David has spent years figuring out the market and how to position his products. Quality is the Tahoe Cheese mantra.
Anyone wanting to know how to make a living in the tough dairy industry should sit up and pay attention to the team at Tahoe Cheese. David didn’t get this far by mistake. “I haven’t met another dairy farmer since I arrived in Nevada. The economies of scale are just so vast elsewhere and the margins are too skinny. You have to find your market, regardless of whether you aim big or stay small. The mid-size dairy businesses are getting hit so hard. We focused on quality, specialty cheeses. We knew where we could compete.”
If you find yourself enjoying some local Tahoe cheese in a Vegas casino restaurant someday, remember the story behind the cheese. In a state full of gamblers, the Green family has stacked the odds in their favor by producing the best new cheese in Nevada.
For more information visit www.tahoecheese.com.
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