The French cheese maker of Walla-Walla : Monteillet Fromagerie

Joan et Pierre Louis

Monte Alban © JuanSalvador shutterstock

Monte Alban © JuanSalvador shutterstock

Mexico, 1978

Pierre Louis is native of Millau, Aveyron. Bag on the back, he traces the road and visits the country. After crossing the Atlantic and the United States, he has just arrived in Monte Alban, Mexico, center of the Zapotec culture.

Joan is a native of Walla-Walla (Washington State, USA). Daughter of a farmer, she earns her pocket money by rodeoing. She has come to venture to Mexico, to the Oxaca side, just outside of Monte Alban for a few weeks.

It is there that the meeting takes place. After a Mexican dinner, they spend the night dancing before leaving, each one on his own, but having taken care to exchange their addresses. Pierre Louis continued north towards the capital, Mexico City, while Joan headed south towards San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Walla Walla, 1978 – 6 weeks later

Le comté de Walla Walla - Coucher de soleil

Walla Walla County – Sunset

While back in Walla Walla and working as a chef at a local restaurant, Joan sees Pierre Louis arrive. It took him 3 days to hitchhike here from El Paso, Texas.

He is in love.

Marguerites ©iravgustin  shutterstock

Daisies ©iravgustin shutterstock

Dayton, Walla-Walla County (5 hour drive from Seattle) – March 2015

36 years later, Pierre Louis and Joan are still in love. At first, Pierre Louis worked on Joan’s family farm as a wheat farmer. Then, as the years went by, they wanted something else, another lifestyle, in line with each other’s culture. At that time, wine growing was beginning to take off in the region. Pierre Louis, as a good Frenchman, thinks cheese as soon as there is wine. It’s in his genes, it can’t be explained :p . He thinks that he could produce here, he just needs to acquire the necessary know-how.

He returned to Aveyron in 2001 and learned the basics of cheese making in the Roquefort region. With his newly acquired traditional technique, he returned to Dayton and with Joan bought their first animals. They will be goats. It was impossible in this part of the world to find a single dairy sheep. They finally found some some time later via a Swiss who raised them in British Columbia.

Fromagerie Monteillet

Fromagerie Monteillet

Today they produce a dozen different cheeses made from a mix of sheep’s and goat’s milk. They are made in a completely traditional way, the milk is just thermized (American regulation obliges), that is to say carried during 30 minutes at a temperature of 63°C.  Then, according to their desires, they produce different types of cheeses: from a very mild fresh cheese, to feta cheese, to cheeses that are a little more mature, such as Perail.

Fromages Monteillet

Monteillet cheese

I had the chance to taste their products and I enjoyed it. Pierre Louis and Joan want their production to reflect the terroir of Walla Walla, in the same way that the wines reflect theirs.

Fromage cendré

Ashen cheese

Les fromages de chez Monteillet

Monteillet’s cheeses

Fromages - Monteillet

Cheese – Monteillet

They sell directly, either at the farm or at farmers’ markets, and also sell to the various wineries in the region for food and wine pairings. It was a very nice meeting.

Joan et Pierre Louis

Joan and Pierre Louis

Fromagerie Monteillet – 109 Ward Rd – Dayton, WA 99382

About Walla Walla …

Walla Walla really exists. Yes it does, I swear. The name is of Indian origin. This small town is located about 5 hours drive from Seattle and is in the heart of a rural, wine and agricultural region.  On the vineyard side, the activity dates back no more than 40 years, but it has become a key source of the region’s economy. There were 20 wineries in the 80’s and today there are 750.

Les vignobles de Walla Walla

Walla Walla Vineyards

Some French people work here, mostly in the wine industry. They form a French connection and meet regularly to practice their language. If you come to visit Seattle (which is attracting a lot of tourists at the moment), don’t hesitate to go to the east of the state to discover this whole region.

It’s a great place to be

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