Meet the Maker – Alpine Valleys’ Own Cheesemaker Vanessa Lipscombe

Victoria’s Alpine Valleys is quickly becoming well-known for our artisan food and wines. We’re incredibly fortunate to have one of the country’s finest cheesemakers in our midst. Local Vanessa Lipscombe not only provides an exceptional selection of local cheese to enjoy, but also shares her fount of cheese knowledge in our Billy Button cellar door.

For Vanessa of The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers, her cheese journey began about 13 years ago. “My partner Luke [Armstrong] was in cheese sales when I met him,” she says. “For him, it sparked an interest in cheesemaking, so from there, he took on a role at an artisan cheese company to learn the craft.”

soft cheese on a board with tomatos and walnuts on the side

Eight years later, after some travel and research in Europe, Vanessa and Luke relocated to High Country, Victoria, with the dream of starting their own little company. Vanessa, a teacher by trade, was a passionate foodie in her own right. “I have been lucky enough to join Luke on this adventure,” she says. “I’ve taken on the roles of selling at farmers’ markets, sales and marketing, deliveries, some day-to-day cheese care, wrapping and product tasting!”

When they began to imagine their cheese company, Vanessa and Luke had a few principles they wanted to uphold: “Stay small, use the best-quality milk from ethically minded farms and make cheese we love to eat ourselves with big flavours,” she says.

From these dreams, The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers in the Alpine Valleys’ Myrtleford was born. Today, Vanessa and Luke make and mature their full range of Peaks cheeses.

They source their milk from the Kiewa Valley, the next valley over. “We were very lucky to meet Linda Quast, who runs a small organic dairy with the rare Normande breed of cow,” says Vanessa. “The milk is very creamy and famously used to make many French cheeses and butter. Plus, the valley is renowned for its lush pastures due to high rainfall.”

Local Alpine Valleys Cheeses

At The Peaks, Vanessa and Luke manufacture their cheeses by hand using traditional methods and mature them in cellars. As they ferment the cheese, their focus is on creating environments in which specific microbes can help them achieve the desired cheese textures and flavours.

Artisin cheesemaker

One of the cheeses Vanessa and Luke make is the Cloudlet, a creamy, surface-ripened goat’s cheese with a thin rind. It has a light, milky flavour that when fully ripe boast hints of hazelnut. Another cheese, Bon Accord, one of the most popular at Billy Button, is a white-mould cow’s milk cheese with a fudgelike texture. Its flavour has notes of earthy root vegetables.

Cheesy Expertise On Hand at Billy Button’s Bright Cellar Door

Coincidentally, Vanessa is also a valued member of the Billy Button team, working in our Bright cellar door. She adds her vast cheese expertise to the selection of international and local cheeses we have on offer for both tasting and purchasing, as well as a great understanding of our wines. “I work at the cellar door, doing tastings and creating yummy cheese platters to enjoy with the wine,” she says. “It’s a role I love, chatting with visitors about the local area, the wine and the wide selection of cheeses – not just ours but from all over the world.” Our customers are certainly better off for her words of wisdom!

The Ultimate Cheese and Wine Pairings

So, what are Vanessa’s favourite Billy Button wine and cheese matches? “I often recommend trying our goat’s cheeses, the Monolith or the Cloudlet, with the 2021 vintage of ‘The Demure’ Pinot Blanc,” she says. “It’s refreshing acidity cuts beautifully through the creamy and complex characteristics of the cheese.” (The Monolith is a mould-ripened, grapevine-ash-dusted goat’s milk cheese.)

“I also love eating our Mountaineer, an alpine-style semihard cow’s milk cheese, paired with one of the Billy Button tempranillos,” she continues. “This is great wine to pair with savoury dishes, and that cheese has a washed rind and matures in our cellars for three months, giving it a deep, savoury flavour. This pairing really allows the cheese to shine.”

We look forward to showing you just how these wines and cheeses shine when we welcome you to one of our cellar doors, where Vanessa or another member of the Billy Button team can take you on a delicious tasting journey.

In the meantime, why not read more on how to pair cheese and wine at home, or cook up this decadent baked cheese with truffle recipe and pour yourself a glass of Billy Button Nebbiolo?

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