Diana Brier has done the farming, pasteurizing and pairing when it comes to cheese. Now, she shares her story and some tips for holiday entertaining
“I did become kind of the female ‘Rain Men’ of cheese,” says Diana Brier. “It’s a little awkward sometimes.”
The Texas native and cheese connoisseur is far from awkward in the cozy corner she has created in Vegas. But in just about every other slice of her life, Diana is about as far from where she started.
Off The Strip sat down with the local business owner of Valley Cheese and Wine to pour over her story.
“I went to college for like seven years. I changed my major all the time because my left brain and my right brain are constantly fighting,” she says of her early 20s. Starting her college career first in musical theater and ending in financial analytics, Diana would echo her opposite interests in her professional life. “I found myself in Salt Lake City in my 20s working for Discover Financial Analytics and teaching pole dancing on the side.” Diana is the first ever plus size pole dancing instructor in the country.
A series of accidents and illnesses would be responsible for Diana’s complete life change. Spoiler alert, her upcoming road was not gouda at all.
It all came to a head when she was told she needed a significant surgery in her late 20s. She recalls the conversation her doctors had with her, “You do have this weird tumor on your heart and it’s nestled in your aorta. We can’t reach it so we can’t test it. So we just have to do open heart surgery,” she says. “We are going to give you a 50/50 shot. So, go get your affairs in order,” Diana says very matter of factly.
After surgery—a surgery in which she flatlined before being brought back to life—Diana’s body underwent sharp change. Her body was making different hormones, even her tastes changed. Diana says she came out of that recovery a different person with massive realization, “I’m not happy,” she says. “So, I applied at a Whole Foods and they put me in a cheese 101 class.” It was transformative. “I still remember that class. Every cylinder of my brain fired. Every part of me woke up and was excited. It was the perfect marriage of art and science.”
Diana is sitting at a table in an open area of her shop. Her passion is bubbling, expressed through her body language and rapid speech. “It was a narrative of our ingenuity and creativity as humans. And, in our need to survive and a desire to thrive. It’s a narrative of our relationship to animals, and the animals’ relationship to the Earth.”
Her respect and admiration for cheese makes her one hell of a cheese expert and she has the credentials to prove it. Diana is one of 45 people in the U.S. to hold a Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator (CCSE) certificate from the American Cheese Society (ACS) and has also earned the Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) certification from the ACS. Simply put, Diana can pair cheese with anything.
Bourbon and cheese? Yep, she’s done that.
Tequila and cheese? Oh yeah, that too.
Candy and cheese. C’mon, give her something hard will ya?
How about caviar and cheese? Yes and yes.
“I can pair cannabis strains and cheese,” she says.”Any pairing is a cheese pairing if you try hard and believe in yourself.”
Her confident combinations come from the fact that, when it comes to cheese, she has done it all. She’s done the farming, she’s milked the cows, she’s pasteurized the milk. “There is no one that is going to know cheese the way that I know cheese,” Diana says adamantly. “I am honored that cheese chose me.”
In early 2020, Diana along with her parents, bought Valley Cheese and Wine. Then the world shut down. The business had to wait until the pandemic passed, well mostly passed.
Today, she is more focused than ever and only sees the similarities. “What we’ve been through these past two years is a huge right of passage for the human experience. Cheese has gone through just as much heartache as we have. It’s doing the same thing that we are doing, it’s just trying to recover.”
Originally, the plan was for her father to handle the wine half of the business and Diana would take care of the cheese portion. That didn’t stick.
Soon Diana would bathe herself in all things wine. Now, she is almost as knowledgeable about wine as she is cheese, almost.
Tips on Wine and Cheese For holiday Entertaining
- Shop now. The supply chain is so unpredictable and as inventory levels drop, prices will increase.
- Look for case discounts on great wines—if you get them by the case, they’ll last through the holidays and will hold just fine in the wine cellar or pantry.
- Holiday pairings always include Port. Whether it’s white, rose, or a tawny dessert wine, there are options for every palate.
- For your cheese charcuterie boards start with the cheese and build around it. The idea being what is immediately closest to the cheese should compliment it.
- Must haves include: Fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, olives and cornichons.
Still feel overwhelmed? Diana Brier and the crew are more than happy to help curate a customized board and/or pairing for you.
In fact, Valley Cheese and Wine is more than just a storefront. There are informational classes, happy hours and special themed events. It does not matter if you go in for a sip or a case, a taste or a tray, Diana is sure she can take care of you because you better brie-lieve cheese has taken care of her.
What: Valley Cheese and Wine
Where: 1570 West Horizon Ridge Parkway, Suite 140, Henderson, Nevada 89012
Phone Number: (702) 341-8191
Interested in more places to wine and dine? Explore Wally’s Wine and Spirits elevates Las Vegas wine scene.