Author: Don Fraser
The Niagara Peninsula is a renowned wine region, married with superior culinary experiences that are buoyed by local produce and delicacies.
Upper Canada Cheese Company joined this scene as a premium small-batch, cheese-making creamery and artisan-food boutique.
Located in Jordan Station, the creamery approaches the Niagara Escarpment and is near to the Comfort Family Farm in St. Anns, whose Guernsey cow single-herd provides milk for its award-winning, luscious and high-protein product.
Founding Partner Wayne Philbrick, who grew up on a Niagara peach farm, was an early enthusiast of Niagara’s bounty. A purchase of tasty cheese on a trip to Quebec inspired a project working with milk produced by the Guernsey herd.
“This really started as a passion for Wayne,” said Upper Canada Cheese Co. General Manager Jennifer Hart. “He was trying to get back to basics, with good-quality local cheese with superb taste and texture. He knew about terroir and how the cow’s milk changes, depending on the seasons and the forage.”
After experimenting with different 100% Guernsey milk versions, by 2005, Upper Canada Cheese Co. was founded with two well-received cheeses— Niagara Gold Cheese and Comfort Cream. Their expanded lineup of handcrafted products now includes goat’s-milk offerings, with the agri-business remaining Niagara’s only dedicated creamery.
“People come to Niagara to experience these fantastic wineries, breweries, cideries — all the fruits and vegetables we grow and the restaurants we have,” Hart explained. “So the concept here, is to be an intrinsic part of this culture.’”
Upper Canada Cheese Co.’s business includes a wholesale part; distributing to groceries, specialty stores and restaurants. It also has a ‘cellar door’, where visitors can come and taste the cheeses and view it being made by hand.
An enticing main boutique, located on 4159 Jordan Rd., sells their cheeses as well as gift boxes, and charcuterie-friendly table treats like honey, jams, breads and crackers, olives, meats and seafood — most of it locally, or Canadian sourced. A selection of hand-crafted kitchen-oriented giftware is also displayed.
Upper Canada Cheese Co. has also started an online shipping service, whose coverage area includes Southern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, with a quarterly cheese subscription available.
Even after 17 years in business, the shop and creamery site can still be a happy and unexpected discovery for people, laughs Hart. “Sometimes, visitors and customers tell us: ‘I didn’t know you were here, or ‘We just saw it, stopped to check it out, and had no idea how great Upper Canada Cheese was.’
“So there are still people finding us, and they’re really glad they landed here,” she said. “Every great wine region needs delicious locally-made cheese as part of the complement.”
For more information, please visit uppercanadacheese.com