Meet the Maker:

Simon-Pierre Bolduc

Fromagerie La Station de Compton
Compton, Quebec

Narrow curving roads hug undulating hills in the Hauts Cantons de l’Est, cutting between tiny lush pastures, clumps of shade and well-kept barns. This is cow country: brown, buff, cream and black-and-white haunches punctuate the greenery, and pungent, sweet, sharp aromas are thick in the humid air. These seemingly timeless and very nearly precious surroundings are site of the Bolduc farm and family-run Fromagerie La Station de Compton.

In just eighteen months of operation, cheese maker Carole Routhier and her son, affineur Simon-Pierre Bolduc have created three raw-milk cheeses of quality, character and deserved reputation. Simon-Pierre moves excitedly back and forth from ripening room to reception area, sloshing purposefully through a sterilizing footbath each time, clutching samples for our delectation. “I love to hear what people think. I spend so much time alone in my laboratory!” he laughs, suggesting that even he finds his obsessive métier a bit much some days.

Compulsive attention to every detail is the basis of cheese making success. Are the cows healthy and eating well? The Bolducs are fourth-generation farmers, maintaining a troupeau fermier (closed herd) of pureblood Holsteins, reared on a diet free of pesticides, hormones and genetically modified substances. Is the raw milk treated with care so that flavour-giving bacteria thrive while potentially contaminating organisms are kept at bay? The fromagerie’s tanks and vats gleam pristinely in a tidy little room, vibrating cleanliness in the afternoon light. Does the affineur have sufficient technique and artistry to craft sweet curds into fragrant. savoury wheels with complexity and personality? Even casual tasting reveals that Simon-Pierre has the knack.

The heated pressed curd Alfred le fermier is aged up to eight months, developing a balance of tangy and round nutty flavours. Simon-Pierre kindly cut into a wheel of his finest batch to date. Its raw milk character was obvious, though in a nuanced way. Alfred is like a Portuguese Sao Jorge that is minding its manners,
keeping the salt, fire and rusticity in check.

Comtomme is Bolduc’s first foray into washed rind affinage. Its ruddy, tacky surface and supple, aromatic, bittersweet paste are hallmarks of the classic Trappist-style cheeses popular in Quebec since the early days of Oka. Like Alfred, Comtomme is slightly demure, daring to be pretty where others are flagrant. (More and more, I rarely want to tackle a cheese so volatile that my eyes water!) Simon-Pierre relates that he is tweaking the Comtomme to enhance its amertume, but that to say any more might give away secrets.

A third offering, available only at the fromagerie, is La Station. This young, springy washed rind cheese has obviously been the subject of plenty of experiment during its making and ripening. The batch we tried was amazingly tasty, although Simon-Pierre considered it too acidic. La Station has a dense melting richness that conveys lively herbal and floral flavours. This “greenness” is reminiscent of Torta del Casar, but without that Spanish cheese’s impression that you’ve licked the lawnmower clean!

La Station was appropriately wonderful with a glass of Unibroue’s Ephémere, a nice hoppy beer flavoured with apples. (Somewhere out there I hope a cheese maker is washing rinds with this brew!)

Alfred and Comtomme are widely available in Quebec, at Montreal shops like Qui Lait Cru, Fromagerie Hamel and Fromagerie du Marché Atwater, and at dépaneurs (I kid you not!) in the Cantons de l’Est. A new distribution arrangement will see these cheeses make their debut in Toronto soon.