Owned by Gianaclis and Vern Caldwell, Pholia Farm is located near Central Point, Oregon, and is one of only a handful of goat dairies in the United States that has a herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats (that, for the record, are neither small nor Nigerian).
The farm is a model of sustainability. It is off the grid, and powered by solar and hydro-electric systems installed by Vern, a former career Marine.
The dairy herd consists of about 30 milking goats. The Caldwells initially chose Nigerian Dwarfs for a 4H project for their young daughter (due to their managable size). Several years later, Gianaclis and Vern find themselves with one of the best herds in the country. They have worked hard on improving genetics and the goats lead a happy life, listening to National Public Radio and jazz, and grazing at pasture for as much of the year as the weather permits.
Gianaclis makes cheese in a room adjacent to (but separated from) the milking parlor and the main barn. The quality of the goats' milk is outstanding and Gianclis approaches cheesemaking in a very methodical and diligent way.
Formed in Roquefort basket molds, Elk Mountain is made from raw milk in the tradition of a Pyrenees-style aged tomme. Named for the elk-populated mountain where Pholia Farm is situated, cheeses are aged for six to eight months, during which time they are washed with Honey Wheat Ale, brewed by Wild River Brewery in neighboring Grant's Pass.
Not surprisingly, this process adds considerable character to the body of the cheese as well as a lovely golden color to the rind. The interior paste is a delicate, bone-white in color.
The texture of Elk Mountain is smooth and dense with occasional holes or slits. Flavors are meaty and robust with a slight tang and a nutty finish.