A husband and wife team decided to make French-style goat's milk cheeses during the Covid pandemic, and their success was almost instant.  

Out on the grasslands north of Benalla, near the old town of Winton, are a husband and wife making exquisite farmhouse goat cheese. Moussa Taouk and Victoire de Raphelis started Little Cedar Farmhouse Goat Cheese during the pandemic. De Raphelis had wanted to return to her home country, France, to learn to make the cheeses she had known growing up, but the pandemic stopped that plan, so the pair went about establishing a herd of 24 Saanen milking goats and building a small dairy.  

The season lasts from spring to the beginning of winter and the kids stay on their mothers for three to five months. Only three-quarters of the 25-hectare farm is grazed by the herd; the rest is bush dedicated to habitat for the regent honeyeater. The pasture is divided into 24 grazing cells, which provide the goats with fresh pasture every four days. This gives the mix of native and improved pasture a chance to regenerate and stops parasites from breeding up in the soil.  

The cheeses are made every day from milk that is handled very carefully to maintain quality. The range starts with fresh lactic acid cheeses set with natural lactic acid bacterial starter. The chevrette is a beautiful clean-tasting white log with a lovely fresh tang. Little Cedar also makes Twilight, a wonderfully fresh lactic curd set in extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with rosemary and thyme or garlic and chives. Its sweet cousin is La Plume, a sultry blend of whipped soft curd and decadent caramel made from the whey. These are joined by Mokoan Night, a medium round with a geotrichum rind whose wrinkly texture hides a slightly gooey layer over a disc of soft and supple cheese. 

At the height of milk production, soon after the new year, the pair make a tomme, a medium round of pressed and cooked curd that is aged for around nine months. A silky yoghurt and a lightly salted labne round out production.  

The Little Cedar range is a sell-out at farmers’ markets including Wangaratta, Mansfield, Albury and Coburg. The Little Cedar farm gate, just off the Hume Freeway near Benalla, sells cheese platters, light refreshments and goat-milk gelato. 

Products: Yoghurt, labne, fresh cheeses, geotrichum cheeses, aged cheese.

Little Cedar, 21 Bowers Rd, Winton, littlecedar.com.au