Colorado man to open cheese business in wine country

Walla Walla Union-BulletinMarch 26, 2013 

— When Joseph Coniglio moved to Walla Walla from Colorado, he decided he’d had enough of herding goats.

Now, he’s planning to set up shop in Dayton’s artisan food-processing park, Blue Mountain Station, as the proprietor of Roubideau Artisan Cheese.

With nine years of experience making cheese, he’ll spend the time he once devoted to raising livestock to expanding his business.

“I’m excited about the professional approach to artisan food in the region,” he said.

Coniglio moved to town last year, drawn by the desire for a change of scenery and “unsubstantiated rumors” of a thriving wine industry located in the breadbasket of southeastern Washington.

“I thought the business would fit very well as an adjunct to the wine-producing region here,” he said.

He plans to craft everything from brie to farmhouse cheddar, though the focus will be on French cheeses that pair well with wine.

Initially, sales will occur at the Blue Mountain Station, as well as throughout the Walla Walla area.

Eventually, he hopes to expand by selling to cheese wholesalers throughout the Northwest.

Port of Columbia Manager Jennie Dickinson said the goal of Blue Mountain Station is to provide a location for value-added agricultural products to be manufactured and showcased. The site will be marketed as an agrotourism destination and will feature a small retail space for producers.

Robideau Artisan Cheese is one of five businesses committed to leasing space in the first building at Blue Mountain Station, due to be constructed by October. The others are Grass Roots Goats (cheese and yogurt), Gypsy Girl Granola, Big Kahuna Ltd. (hot sauce) and Mace Mead Works. Numi Gardens has also leased the garden space outside the building.

Dickinson said she’s been amazed by the number of community members creating natural foods.

“Before I started this project, I didn’t even think about this aspect of the community,” she said.

In addition to food processing space, the building will feature an 1,100-square-foot commercial kitchen, which will be available for members of the public to rent.

Dickinson is working on a grant application to the Community Economic Revitalization Board that will allow the station to connect to a sewer system. Next on her plate is writing lease agreements.

“It’s all coming together,” she said. “It feels satisfying.”

For Coniglio, the opening of Blue Mountain Station will be an opportunity to get to know the region better while creating jobs.

“I am very happy to be in Walla Walla and look forward to my bucolic commute to Dayton. I look forward to hiring people here,” he said.

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