The Farm: 32 acres in the Walla Walla Valley with an on-farm dairy and cheesemaking facilities
What They Seed:
Alpine goats and East Freisian-Lacaune sheep
What They Feed:
Farmstead Goat & Sheep cheese using traditional techniques and inspiration from the Roquefort region of France
Where You Can Find Them:
Farmers Markets: Walla Walla (Thursday, Saturday)
On the Farm: On Farm Tasting Room & Store
Phone & Online Orders: Call or email to order from anywhere in the US
Feeders They Supply:
Restaurants: Brasserie Four, Whitehouse Crawford, Saffron, Whoopemup Hollow Cafe, Jimgermanbar
The story of Monteillet Fromagerie begins with a love story: two passionate people whose paths crossed while exploring Aztec ruins and Oaxacan culture, who were destined to join forces and make farmstead cheese in Eastern Washington, happily ever after.
Joan grew up on her family’s second generation wheat farm in the Walla Walla valley. She went to college in California and then worked in film and claymation for a number of years. She was very artistic, also working with glass and ceramics. In the late 70s, she returned to Walla Walla and decided to stay, taking a chef job in a small local restaurant. Before starting the new position, Joan promised herself a trip to Mexico.
Pierre-Louis Monteillet, a world traveler and adventurer from Millau, France was backpacking with a friend and had recently landed in North America, making his way to Mexico. Joan and Pierre-Louis ended up around the same dinner table one night, with a number of other international travelers, and instantly hit it off. The night was spent enjoying music and dancing. They exchanged contact information the next day and parted ways. Joan returned to Washington and not long after, Pierre-Louis appeared! He had hitchhiked to Walla Walla to be with Joan!
Pierre-Louis started working on the family farm and eventually he and Joan took it over from her parents. Pierre-Louis was in no way a farmer, but he jumped in wholeheartedly and learned everything there was to know. It didn’t take long before he was driving the tractors, repairing equipment and even helping on the construction of their new timber framed farmhouse. Joan and Pierre-Louis had their own gardens, raised and butchered their own meat and tried to be as self-sustaining as possible. They farmed wheat for about 20 years; government subsidies afforded them to take winters off and travel, often to Pierre-Louis’ home of the Roquefort region of France. Joan always admired Pierre-Louis’ friends who made cheese. Eventually wheat farming became less enjoyable; Monsanto was coming into the valley and becoming very controlling of the farms. The Monteillets wanted out. Joan had an idea to start cheesemaking, to diversify the farm and complement the growing wine region. And so began their transition to a dairy: they seeded a grass pasture and headed to Roquefort to learn to make cheese from the pros. Upon returning to Walla Walla, they began building their own cheesemaking facility and purchased a herd of Alpine goats and East Freisian-Lacaune sheep. Soon the farmstead cheesemaking operation was up and running.
The Monteillets produce a variety of cheeses, all handmade and using traditional methods. From fresh chevre and feta, often flavored with herbs from the farm, to a variety of soft-ripened, semi-hard and hard cheeses, aged 3 to 12 months. They sell to restaurants and at farmers markets as far away as Portland and Seattle. The cheeses are unique and of high quality, something customers appreciate and chefs love.
Joan and Pierre-Louis have put everything into their farm the past 15 years. In addition to raising and milking the animals and making the cheese, they’ve also offered cheesemaking workshops, operated a vegetable CSA, run a tasting room, hosted farm stays and events and had a variety of interns and employees to help with the farm and farmers markets. They share a mutual love and respect for the land, the animals and their craft.
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