Wine and cheese are classic buddies, and pairings from the mountains anywhere are among my favourites. I live in the Swiss Alps, at 1,100 metres, with a small herd of beautiful Val d’Hérens cows next door; in spring and fall they eat down the pastures that surround my garden, and in early winter I listen for their bells after the early morning milking, as they head out of the barn in hopes of finding some fresh grass before the frost and snow do their work. Their milk eventually becomes raclette cheese that we can melt over our garden potatoes. Life is good on those days, and I shout my thanks to the “girls” next door.
One of the delightful surprises of living here is the occasional and unexpected arrival of goats and sheep as they are herded from one pasture to another at this mountain mid-level, now that snow is falling on the peaks. More people are raising them and the herds are getting larger, as more consumers eat cheeses from their milk.
Yesterday morning’s coffee at our house was abruptly interrupted by pounding hooves and tinkling bells, which don’t sound at all like the much heavier cow bells. A flash of black, brown, and white – and I was out in the garden with my camera. Three minutes of high action! The herd attempted to visit our garden and those of the neighbours, dogs raced and barked alongside and in front of them, a shepherd ran up and down and around them at the front, another at the back. Those staffs are not just for show either. The dog in the barn where the cows live was beside herself with excitement.
We recently had some work done in the garden and I had hoped to replant the grass in front of the house, but it snowed last week. Today that snow is covered with hoof prints. Serendipity! Glad I didn’t bother with the lawn. I think they did a little tree pruning as they passed through, and in spring I’ll look for long hairs from the ones I love best, the Valaisan black and white shaggy sheep.
Tomorrow night, in honour of our neighborhood visitors (they’re temporarily in a field below us now), we’ll have some goat and sheep cheeses and a bottle of local wine. I’m busy reflecting on the perfect pairing.