Every once in awhile, one stumbles into a room full of treasure without even looking. Good news, artisan cheese fans: today was one of those days, and you’re going to be the benefactor in a few months.
After taking a road trip to Meister Cheese
in Muscoda to talk with co-owners and siblings Scott Meister and Vicki Thingvold about doing a story on their new labels (more on that in a later post), Scott asked if I wanted to take a walk into their new aging cooler to see something new they were working on.
Without much thought and still talking about the new labels, I of course said yes. Before I knew it, we were walking through a huge walk-in cooler door into a sight that would have stopped Ali Baba in his tracks (and we didn’t even have to say “Open Sesame”). What appeared (cue the archangels chorus here) was amazing: a long row of bandaged Cheddars, in several different states of aging, lining a 40-foot long aging cellar. Yes, folks, 40 feet of bandaged Cheddars that until today, no knew existed except the Meisters.
These little beauties are called Eagle Cave Reserve and are 6.5-pound cloth-bound cheddar truckles. They are made from the company’s “A Triple F” milk, which means the milk was produced on animal-friendly, family farms, where farmers are audited on how they humanely treat their animals in order to receive a premium payment from Meister Cheese. The result is superior milk, and in this case, the end result is amazing cheese.
Not only does Eagle Cave Reserve look absolutely stunning, it tastes fabulous. We tried a truckle that was made in February, and it rivaled some of the best cloth-bound Cheddars I’ve ever tasted. Then we tried one made in January and it topped it. This cheese is one to watch, folks, and it’s only seven months old.
Meister Cheese plans to release the Eagle Cave Reserve this fall, when it’s closer to 1-year-old, but I’d argue that it’s ready now. Not being a company that sells cheese retail (they make extremely high-quality, specialty cheeses for private label customers), Scott says he’s not sure how to market it. I told him it’s easy: get this cheese in the mouth of a few specialty cheese shop owners and you’ll be sold out.
After I had recovered from the shock of seeing so many beautiful cheeses in such an unexpected place, Scott told me he had another surprise. We went to a different aging cooler and poof: a rack of 42-pound Cheddar top hats appeared. I felt like I was on a pirate ship getting a tour of all the hidden booty.
The Meisters are calling this new cheese Scottsdale Reserve, named after Scott and the river dale they live in (I had to look it up – a dale is a valley). Scott didn’t have any of theses cheeses cut up for sale yet, and I wasn’t about to ask him to cut into a giant 42-pound top hat for a mere cheese blogger to try, so the jury’s still out on this one. But, based on Meister’s track record for high-quality gourmet cheeses, this one will be a winner as well.
So, take note, specialty cheese shops. There’s a couple of new cheeses in Wisconsin worth checking out, and they’re hidden in a river dale in southwest Wisconsin. Give Scott a call and ask to check out his treasure trove.