On a much smaller scale, I found (Marion took me to) an organic cheesemaking facility--fruitière biologique. For this visit, I'm sure mostly due to having Marion with me, I was able to have a closer look at the production facility. Arriving after 5 p.m., there was no cheesemaking to see and I was too early for the 7:30 p.m. delivery of milk. For this facility in Chapelle du Bois, all milk comes from the farmers in the town, all of which meet the guidelines for earning not only the AOC distinction, but also that of being organic. Jean-Paul Blandot, one of the farmers, gave me a detailed and humble tour of the facility. It harkened memories of our small, dedicated Texan cheesemakers. Jean-Paul continually insisted that I would not be interested in seeing the facility, no production to see, no innovative technologies, nothing of interest to me. It was all I could do to express that every bit of worn-and-torn secondhand vats, chipped tile, and fluorescent-lit caves brought more excitement than ten Eiffel Towers. I think he got the point eventually. More than anything, I was happy to meet Jean-Paul and see the facility for I could sympathiwe and get behind the operation. I've got a special place in my heart for the small guy persevering from passion and integriy. I also gfelt a bit at home, pulling for our small production facilities in Texas offering a product of quality rather than convenience.
However, even the small producer is still pretty big. They had 4 caves, one of which was being phased out for it consisted of plastic walls, which do not allow for proper control of air flow or huumidty. Farmers did not want their milk-turned-cheese in there, and stores did not want it either. Hence the three new caves, which housed Comté and Morbier. Due to a lack of space for the amount of cheese they produce, not all of the cheese is aged to the point of sale here. It might stay for a few months, after which wheels are sold to stores and arffineurs throughout France where they will finish the aging process.
The new cave for Comté
After the tour, Jean-Paul invited me back to his farm to see the cows and witness the delivery of the milk. I regrettably had to decline as the dinner hour had arrived and I had about an hour drive to the bottom of the mountain to find food before the stores closed. Despite the missed opportunity, I'm still willing to sacrifice convenience for quality.