When I reached out to Marcia Barinaga back in January, I hoped that she wouldn’t start laughing as soon as she read my e-mail. What I was asking for sounded crazy, I’m sure. I hoped to buy an entire day’s make of Baserri, her delightful farmstead Basque-style ewe’s milk cheese, which is limited in production and high in demand. I hoped to provide an unprecedented learning and tasting experience for our staff and guests alike by tasting cheese from the same batch as it matures and changes. Fortunately, Marcia welcomed the idea and even sounded excited, promising to select a nice batch for us.
The hardest part has been waiting! Marcia manages her herd of ewes seasonally, breeding in October with lambs arriving in March. She allows the new lambs to stay with their mothers for a month before weaning them and then, in April, begins milking and making cheese. Because Baserri is a raw milk cheese, by law it must be aged for 60 days. Marcia selected Batch 22 for us, made on June 1, 2011, a day when her yield was 21 wheels of Baserri.
Each month, we will have 2 wheels from the batch to taste and sell, until June 2012 when we will open that last wheel to taste Baserri at an age of 12 months. Before the wheels come to Bi-Rite, they are aged and cared for by Marcia and her assistants at Barinaga Ranch in climate-controlled rooms designed specifically for aging cheese. Because cheese is alive, it is constantly changing, and our hope is to gain a better appreciation for how Baserri evolves throughout the course of its life. As a relatively new cheesemaker, Marcia hasn’t quite settled on the ideal age for Baserri and is eager for our feedback. Help us! We’re keeping a binder in the cheese department to record our notes for Marcia, and we would love to include your feedback and tasting notes.
I just got back from Barinaga Ranch with our first two wheels of Baserri from Batch 22 in the back seat. We’re opening the first wheel today! Come in for a taste.