Estrella Family Creamery, from Montesano, Washington, not only makes some of the finest cheeses in our state, they make some of the finest in the world. Indeed, at the 2008 World Cheese Awards in Dublin, Ireland, Estrella won three gold medals and two silver. In fact, Estrella has won 14 national or international awards in just the past three years.
Kelli Estrella has been making cheese for the better part of 25 years, but it wasn't until 2001 when she and her husband Anthony Estrella decided to leave the business world and take over an abandoned dairy farm in Grays Harbor County in Southwest Washington that she decided to make a career of it. There, Kelli makes the cheese while Anthony tends to the goats and the cows and the rest of the farm.
Kelli is like a mad scientist of cheese making of sorts. The Estrella website lists 18 different varieties of cheese, many more than most cheese makers make, though any of Kelli's cheese-loving fans at Ballard Farmers Market will tell you she makes many more. She may have these other varieties in limited production or various forms of develop, not ready to declare them as having reached perfection. And a perfectionists she is, having told me she continues to experiment and put ideas through trials with the constant quest of developing the world's best cheeses.
While she may not be comfortable offering these test-cheeses to many cheese mongers and chefs who demand absolute consistency, Kelli revels in unleashing them upon the farmers market public, where she embraces her fans and friends alike with the knowledge that they are open to trying whatever she brings, happy to participate in the grand experiment while invariably thrilled to sample whatever the Estrellas have to offer. And Kelli gets immediate feedback from them, meaning market shoppers are helping her craft her increasingly world renowned cheeses.