The streets of Seattle are singing the praises of Wisconsin cheesemakers tonight, as America's Dairyland swept the 2010 American Cheese Society competition, winning nearly one-third of all awards, including the prestigious Best of Show prize.
Out of 1,462 total entries, Wisconsin cheesemakers scored 98 awards, including 29 firsts, 36 seconds and 33 third places. Cheesemakers from 225 companies in 34 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico were represented.
Taking the top prize of the night was Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made by Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wis.. It is the third time Pleasant Ridge Reserve has won Best of Show at the American Cheese Society, winning previously in 2001 and 2005, and is the only cheese in the history of the competition to win the top prize three times.
The win is especially sweet for the company, as the winning cheese was made by Andy Hatch, who has acted as Uplands' primary cheesemaker since 2007. The previous-winning Pleasant Ridges were crafted by company owner Mike Gingrich. Both Mike, his wife, Carol, and Andy were on hand tonight to accept the prize.
"It sure helps to hire a good cheesemaker," joked Mike, putting his arm around Andy's shoulders and giving him a squeeze. "This is an especially meaningful award - to have won this competition three times in 10 years is just amazing. I don't know what to say."
Andy Hatch was equally speechless. "Can you just make up something for me that sounds good? I'm not thinking straight," he said, smiling. "Wow, what a night. It's going to be a good night."
The cheese that won the top prize was aged longer than most Pleasant Ridge Reserves on the market. Retailers were putting their order in tonight, as Mike says he's got about 1,000 wheels of this particular cheese, and once they're gone, they're gone.
In addition to the Uplands crew, a host of Wisconsin cheesemakers swept the competition, including perennial favorite Sid Cook at Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle. Cook left the auditorium with a basket full of 18 ribbons. BelGioioso Cheese in Denmark, captured the second most ribbons for Wisconsin, with a total of 7 awards, and Sartori Foods in Plymouth took home six ribbons.
First place ribbons for Wisconsin cheesemakers went to:
• Arthur Schuman, Inc, Montfort: Montforte Gorgonzola Cheese
• BelGioioso Cheese, Denmark: Sharp Provolone Mandarino
• Bleu Mont Dairy, Blue Mounds: Lil Wils BIG Cheese
• Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle: Smoked Billy Blue, Fresh Marisa, Native Sheep
• Cesar's Cheese, Random Lake: Oaxaca String Cheese
• DreamFarm, Cross Plains: Fresh Goat Cheese with Pesto
• Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello: Cellar Aged Grass Based Gouda, Grass Based Emmentaler
• Emmi-Roth Käse USA, Monroe: GranQueso
• Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby: Driftless Honey Lavender
• Holland's Family Cheese, Thorp: Marieke Gouda Onion Garlic, Marieke Gouda Smoked
• Klondike Cheese, Monroe: Brick, Reduced Fat Feta
• Lactalis American Group, Belmont: 1 kg Brie
• Montchevre-Betin, Belmont: Chevre in Blue - Goat Milk Blue Cheese
• North Hendren Cooperative Dairy, Willard: Black River Caraway Blue
• Pine River Pre-Pack, Newton: Extra Sharp Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese Food
• Sartori Foods, Plymouth: Sartori Reserve BellaVitano Gold, Sartori Reserve Pastorale Blend, Sartori Asiago, Sartori Reserve Balsamic BellaVitano
• Saxon Homestead Creamery, Cleveland: Green Fields
• Uplands Cheese, Dodgeville: Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Ridge Reserve
• Widmer's Cheese Cellars, Theresa: Traditional Colby, 8 Year Cheddar
In addition to landing the most first place awards, Wisconsin cheesemakers swept 11 categories, including: American Originals Brick Cheese; American Originals Colby; American Originals Made from Sheep’s Milk or Mixed Milk; Blue Mold Cheese Made from Cow’s Milk; Blue Mold Cheese Made from Goat’s Milk; Italian Type Cheeses Grating Types; Italian Type Cheeses Pasta Filata; Smoked Cheeses Made from Cow’s Milk; Fresh Sheep’s Milk Cheeses Flavor Added; Cheese Spreads Made from Cow’s Milk; and Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheeses.
Winning Second Place, Runner-Up Best in Show was Vermont Butter & Creamery for its Bonne Bouche. Taking Third Place, or Second Runner-Up Best in Show was Farms for City Kids Foundation in Vermont, for its Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise.
All in all, it was a very good night for Wisconsin. I'm off to celebrate. :)