The path to cheese glory runs straight through a flock of sheep. At least, that’s the lesson the Obringer family learned in 2005, when the Oregon ranchers started crafting wheels of French-style fromage from the nutty, creamy milk of their own Lacaune and Friesian sheep. A decade later, Ancient Heritage’s goods have racked up cheese awards nationwide while seducing hordes of local eaters and chefs. (Customer reactions to Paul Obringer’s subtle rounds make the company’s farmers market booth sound like an NC-17 movie.) “Sheep’s milk, with its inherent richness, brings a note to the table that no one else has,” says Steve Jones of local shop Cheese Bar. “Paul is constantly reexamining and retooling his cheeses, and every year they’ve just gotten better and better.”
The next tweak is a big one: Ancient Heritage is transplanting its entire facility from Madras to an urban creamery in a low-slung Southeast Portland building. Obringer, who now shares cheesemaking duties with 21-year-old son Hank, will trade high-desert peace for an urban operation that could include a retail counter, creamery tours, and cooking classes—not to mention providing ricotta and giant wheels of its “Hannah” cheese to its space-mate, the rustic Italian restaurant Renata. “We tend to do things in bold strokes,” Obringer says.
Three Ancient Heritage classics
Hannah: The Madonna of local cheeses: “Cheddar meets parmesan with some sheep’s milk thrown in,” says Jones. “It’s bangin’ on all the notes you want it to hit.”
Adelle: Hank Obringer calls this herby, drippy sheep/cow’s milk cheese a “gateway” drug for people who (woefully) think they don’t like brie-style cheese.
Isabella: The Obringers’ newest recipe taps Italian inspiration: a washed-rind cheese that’s dewy, gooey, and little bit funky—but not too funky.
Find more local foods and drinks to swoon over in our A to Z Food Lover's Guide to Oregon.