Last night was a record breaker for Wisconsin, as 20 of my favorite cheesemakers took home 74 total awards, including Third Place Best of Show here at the 24th annual American Cheese Society annual competition in Burlington, Vermont.

One of the best moments of the awards ceremony was watching two farmstead cheesemakers win coveted first-place blue ribbons in their first-ever showing.

Farmstead goat cheesemaker Diana Murphy, of Dreamfarm near Cross Plains, captured first place for her Fresh Goat’s Milk Feta. She also took third for her goat’s milk cheese marinated in olive and safflower oil.

Meanwhile, farmstead sheep’s milk cheesemaker Brenda Jensen, of Hidden Springs Creamery near Westby, scored a blue ribbon for her Driftless Natural, a fresh sheep’s milk cheese. She also took two third places for Driftless Basil and Driftless Honey Lavender.

Brenda looked completely overwhelmed and said as much just moments after accepting her ribbons. She told me that to take home three awards in her first year was really gratifying. In exciting news, she is planning to launch at least two new flavors of fresh sheep’s milk cheese, as well as entering an aged sheep’s milk cheese next year – she just placed her first wheels in her farmstead cave 2-1/2 weeks ago.

Out of a record 1,208 total entries, Wisconsin farmstead and specialty cheesemakers took home 74 awards – for everything from aged cheddars to American Originals.

Of the top three Best of Show awards, Roth Kase USA of Monroe, Wis., captured Third Runner Up Best of Show for its Roth’s Private Reserve. Second Runner Up Best of Class was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese of Seattle for their Flagship Reserve.

Best of Class went to Leelanau Cheese, of Suttons Bay, Michigan, for their Aged Raclette (samples were gone by 6 p.m. at tonight’s Festival of Cheese – I sampled it early and it was to die for).

One of the most decorated Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers at the competition was (as usual) Sid Cook, of Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle, Wis. Sid received 28 awards, including eight first-place ribbons for his cheeses. This is the fourth consecutive year Carr Valley has taken a record-breaking amount of awards at the competition. Go Sid!

And congratulations to all the cheesemakers who are celebrating their well-deserved awards tonight!