Thursday, March 08, 2007

Father & Son: WI Cheesemakers

Sixteen years after closing down the family cheese plant, a father and son are preparing to once again enter the make room - this time handcrafting artisan cheeses in micro batches.

Dave Roelli, 61 and son Chris, 37 have nearly finished remodeling the plant they closed in 1991 after razor thin commodity cheese margins forced them out of business. Since then, they've operated a thriving retail cheese store near Shullsburg, and even spent part of last year successfully making cheese onsite in Darlington Dairy Supply's modular dairy unit, "Cheese on Wheels."

But a few months ago, Chris got the itch to make cheese again - this time in his family's historic cheese plant. So he & dad started remodeling the 90-year-old family business. The pair are nearly finished and expect to be up and running later this summer, starting out making flavored cheddars but then graduating into original artisan cheeses.

"We're looking at new recipes," Dave told me today on the phone. "We've done mass-produced cheeses in the past - where we want to go now is to make a cheese that's unique to us or to the area. We want to be a unique visitor-friendly experience."

With four generations of cheesemakers in their blood, I have no doubts father & son will come up with an award-winning cheese. Yet another reason to visit southwest Wisconsin - the cheese mecca of the Midwest - again this summer.

3 comments:

k said...

Do you know the name of the company that the father/son team are forming?

cheese underground lady said...

I know the Roellis are currently working to come up with a company/brand name that reflects their family's cheesemaking heritage -- when I find out what they decide, I'll let you know. I did hear yesterday that they should start making cheese in about 10 weeks and are planning a grand opening the first week in October.

Jeanne

Anonymous said...

The cheese curds taste like plastic. The swiss cheese pales in comparison to wal-marts deli president brand and costs is much more