Posted: September 05, 2013
Author: Susanna Magruder
Sometimes you find the best things when you aren’t even looking. I was recently scouting some hikes for an upcoming trip along the route of the Glacier Express. We were going to spend 3 days in the Valsertal, home of the small village of Vals and the Vals Thermes, famous thermal baths designed by Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor. But before we soaked, we were going to hike a gorgeous loop overlooking the Zervreilahorn and past 3 alpine lakes to a small cheese dairy that I had read about from other travelers. However, I never made it to that dairy, because en route, at about 2000m, I saw a small hand painted sign that read “Ziger Kase‣” (fresh cheese) with an arrow pointing towards a small hameau of stone Walser buildings.
When I arrived in the center of the small settlement, a door creeped open and I noticed a small child, maybe 2 years old. Her father ushered me into a small room where they were making cheese, closing the door quickly to preserve the heat, I noticed there was a second child (6mos.) in baby seat behind the door. I exhausted my basic Swiss German skills and was elated to find that the mother spoke English - she was a kindergarten teacher before she had children. Felix and Andrea have a limited lease on the farm - sort of like a National Forest lease in the USA. They were not born into the craft of cheese making, or even farming for that matter, but are really renaissance farmers and crafts people, living a simple and beautiful life in the mountains of Graubunden. Felix has renovated all of the barns, which consist of a main house with living/kitchen room and cheese cave, a small sleeping barn, a guest barn, and 2 barns for the resident goats. He learned to make cheese though a brief course in the Canton of Bern and then came to home and started experimenting. His attention to detail and passion are what make his small-batch artisan goats’ cheeses so sought after for those in the know. From the fresh Ziger Kase - similar to an unsalted ricotta, but a little dryer (it is pressed slightly), to the soft oozy tomme-style cheeses, and the more firm large cheese wheels with flavors reminiscent of the alpine herbs and flowers favored by his heritage breed goats.
If you find yourself in Vals, always take the route less traveled and definitely follow the hand painted signs! A week later, I brought my group of ladies back to Felix and Andrea’s alp for a cheese-making demo and tasting, one of the highlights of our trip.