Roelli Cheese Company, Inc. of Shullsburg, Wisconsin, took top honors at the 2016 American Cheese Society (ACS) Competition in Des Moines, Iowa, this past weekend. The company’s Little Mountain cheese was named Best of Show at the annual awards ceremony, often called “The Oscars of Cheese.” It was one of 107 ribbons for America’s Dairyland, which captured more awards than any other state for the twelfth consecutive year.
Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Chris Roelli accepted the Best of Show award—the culmination of a decade-long commitment to artisan cheesemaking. Created in partnership with the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin, Little Mountain is a washed rind alpine cheese made with raw cow’s milk in the appenzeller style. It is aged six months and has a smooth, nutty flavor. Roelli also produces award-winning Dunbarton Blue and Red Rock cheeses.
Also taking home a big ACS win was Jeffs’ Select Gouda, which tied for third place Best of Show. The cheese is the result of a unique partnership between two Jeffs. It’s made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Jeff Wideman of Maple Leaf Cheesemakers, Inc. in Monroe, Wisconsin, and aged by Jeff Jirik in Minnesota’s Caves of Faribault.
In all, Wisconsin cheesemakers, along with the state’s butter and yogurt makers, claimed 28 percent of all awards bestowed at this year’s ACS competition, including 29 first-place ribbons, 32 second place, and 44 third place. With these wins, Wisconsin cheesemakers swept five categories: Brick Cheese—Cow’s Milk; Cheese Curds—All Milk; Colby Cheese—All Milk; Flavored Cheeses—International-Style with Flavor Added; and Flavored Cheeses—Feta Cheese with Flavor Added. Wisconsin cheesemakers also dominated the awards for cow's milk cheeses, winning 36 percent of all awards with 86 total ribbons.
Twenty-eight Wisconsin companies received one or more awards at the competition, and several Wisconsin cheesemakers had outstanding performances, including Klondike Cheese Co. winning 10 ribbons, Maple Leaf Cheesemakers, Inc. with nine ribbons, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Emmi Roth USA, Lactalis American Group and Montchevre-Betin, each winning six ribbons, and Saxon Cheese and Saputo Specialty Cheese each winning five ribbons.
The 2016 competition included 1,843 entries from over 250 companies.