Located just minutes from downtown Woodstock, Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese is an award-winning fromagerie nestled within the rolling hills of Oxford County, Ontario. Oxford County proudly calls itself the dairy capital of Canada, with cheese being produced there on an industrial scale dating back more than a century. This is due to the area's rich local terroir, with its unique loamy soils, balanced amounts of rain, and contrasting hot and cold seasons all combining to create ideal conditions for farming to flourish.
Gunn's Hill is the result of years of dreaming and planning by owner, operator and cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein. Shep's grandfather founded the neighbouring dairy farm, and his passion and talent was passed down to his grandchildren, leading Shep to hone his cheesemaking skills in both the US and Canada. It was his time spent abroad in the Swiss Alps, however, that saw him truly fall in love with the art of cheesemaking, returning back to the rich terroir of Oxford County to both honour the legacy of the land and make his own mark on the artisan cheese world.
Today, Gunn's Hill produces several different artisan cheeses inspired heavily by the techniques and recipes Shep learned while overseas. Handeck is one such cheese, a handcrafted washed-rind named for the tiny swiss village 'Handegg' where he learned his craft.
Good quality cheese comes from good milk, and Shep believes that the very best comes from the neighbouring dairy farm which is still run by his father and brother. It takes a massive 1500 litres of milk to make only 6 wheels of Handeck, which is hand washed in Beau’s lager. It is then aged on cedar wood planks for up to twenty-four months, resulting in a rustic, spotted brown rind and a firm, golden-hued paste. With very rich and complex flavors and nutty overtones, Handeck won best Farmstead Cheese at the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix and pairs well with red wines such as Pinot Noir and also dark roasted beers.