A slice of tasty at the Culpeper Cheese Company

By Posted on Dec 21 2013 | By

 East Davis Street shop serves the everyday gourmet 

Experience counts. The more one gains the greater chance of success. Perhaps that explains why the Culpeper Cheese Company is a favorite haunt of folks who love quality cheese, wine, craft beer, soups and sandwiches.   

Jeffery Mitchell

Jeffery Mitchell

“I became a wine buyer when I was twelve years old,” says owner Jeffery Mitchell chuckling. “My mother was a hard working single Mom and loved her Chardonnay. When she broke her hip I was tasked to buy wine during her recovery.”

Mitchell remembers the corner shop owner cooperating with his mother during her convalesce by selling wine to the young lad. “One day her favorite chardonnay was out of stock and I made a buying decision on my own. It was a bottle of Verdicchio with a neat looking fish scale pattern. Unfortunately, the high acidity Italian white wine did not agree with Mom’s palate.

“When I bought that wine home it was not a good evening. I learned there had to be radical differences in wine tastes. And that a bottle’s shape did not make the wine,” he says smiling.

It was a lesson learned at a young age and provided the base for Mitchell’s ever evolving knowledge of gourmet foods.

After graduating from college, he took a course on serving wine in restaurants. “It was my first wine class but by far the best I’ve ever taken. The instructor served ten wines. The first nine were purposefully hideous; over-oaked, high alcohol, too much sugar, and every other flaw you could think of. Then the tenth wine was poured and it remains in my memory to this day.

“It was balanced, in harmony and flavorful. The experience was an eye opener for me and led to a greater understanding of wine,” recalls Mitchell.

Going independent
So how did his career as the proprietor of a fine food and drink shop unfold? After twenty years in the photography business, including time at Eastman Kodak, he found himself unemployed. “Our division at Kodak saw that film was dead and digital would prevail but nothing in the corporate strategy was going to change. Our entire division was let go.

“I realized there is no future but your own. I worked as a newspaper writer, at Foti’s restaurant and then at the Frenchman’s Corner where I began learning more about cheeses. Seven years ago I opened my own shop called the Frenchman’s Cellar and renamed it the Culpeper Cheese Company two years ago.

IMG_8321_1“Today wine and cheese hold equal attractions for me with cheese sneaking ahead. I’m especially excited about Virginia cheese production. There are some astonishing producers here. Virginia is just a spark in the dark right now with about a dozen high quality producers. By comparison, Wisconsin has hundreds of cheesemakers,” says Mitchell.

His cheese inventory centers on what he calls “natural cheese”; products that contain only salt, rennet, and curds. Like wine, cheese has terroir characteristics based on the breed of cows, sheep and goats’ milk used and the grasses they feed on.

So what can a customer expect when they visit the Culpeper Cheese Company? “First, I hope you are greeted with a friendly welcome and that it smells good when you come in. We make homemade soups and Panini sandwiches daily.

“I am fortunate to have an experienced staff that can help in selecting products based on individual tastes. This is not a one person show. I am blessed to have knowledgeable personnel that make my success possible.

“Our shop carries over sixty selections of cheeses from around the world and about 400 different wines. We have a wine station where you can taste featured wines before buying a bottle or ordering a glass with a cheese plate or sandwich. One popular offering is our 6 for $60 program—a 22% discount over individual purchases. We call it ‘wines that are right for tonight’,” he says.

For beer lovers there are 300 bottlings of craft brews and eight draft lines to choose from. One popular offering is the “trio of taste” that lets a buyer sample three different four-ounce pours for $6. Recently the shop held a beer dinner with more to follow.

IMG_8313_1Asked why Culpeper is a good location for a gourmet shop Mitchell replies, “Davis Street is a pretty special place. A lot of ‘Main Streets’ are gone. If you drive elsewhere, there are beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings that are vacant.

“In Culpeper there is a sense of the old and the new and the camaraderie among shop owners is great. Hourly we refer people to other businesses and they do the same for us,” says Mitchell.

The Culpeper Cheese Company is opened six days a week, closed Mondays. Visit for hours of operation or call 540.827.4757.  

John’s pick of the month  

Shropshire Blue Cheese 


Rather than go with a wine recommendation this month, let’s celebrate the bounty of cheeses available at the Culpeper Cheese Company.IMG_8329

One of our favorites is the delicious Shropshire Blue Cheese. This cow cheese hails from the United Kingdom & Ireland and was first created in the 1970s at Castle Stuart Dairy in Scotland. The cheese is semisoft with a sharp, strong flavor and a slightly tangy aroma. Pair with a Pinot Noir wine or a porter or stout beer. Cheers. 


Published in the December 19, 2013 edition of the Culpeper Times.


End of Harvest
Categories : WINE ARTICLES