It’s official: Rogue River Blue is the big cheese.

After a heart-warming and tear-jerking speech earlier in the day about his mentor and former Rogue Creamery owner Ig Vella (who sold the plant on a handshake), Rogue co-owner David Gremmels made the long walk to the podium tonight after the big bold blue that’s made the company famous was once again named Best in Show at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition. This is the second time Rogue River Blue has taken the honor, last winning in 2009.

Of 1,676 cheeses entered by 258 different companies across North America, three more cheeses took top honors. Earning Runner Up Best in Show were two cheeses that tied: Wisconsin’s very own Carr Valley Cheese, which won for Cave Aged Marisa, and Ontario’s Finica Food Specialties for its Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar. Fromergerie du Presbytere of Quebec took Second Runner Up Best in Show with its Louis d’Or.

The awards ceremony this year was particular festive, as a giant screen showing a live cam of winning cheesemakers receiving their ribbons was displayed at the front of the room. Several cheesemakers took the opportunity to smile and wave at the camera, including Wisconsin cheesemaker Marieke Penterman of Holland’s Family Cheese, (that’s her, pictured at right), who showed off her disco dance moves after sweeping the Flavor Added-Dutch Style category with First place Marieke Gouda Cumin, Second place Marieke Gouda Black Mustard and Third place Marieke Gouda Mustard Melange. (Of course, Marieke is still on a high after being named yesterday as the first woman Grand Master Cheesemaker at the 2011 Wisconsin State Fair. It’s days like this where she wishes she could be in two places at once)!

Another Wisconsin cheesemaker doing her own happy dance was Katie Hedrich of LaClare Farms Specialties (pictured at left). Of the three cheeses she entered, two won their classes. Earning Blue Ribbons were Evalon (also the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheese), and Evalon with Fenugreek. You go, girl.

And then of course there were the perennial favorites – Sid Cook of Carr Valley captured 11 awards in addition to his Runner Up Best in Show, BelGioioso Cheese wore a path in the carpet on their way to the stage to get all of their ribbons, and Sartori won so many awards that cheesemaker Mike Matucheski had to roll up his shirt to carry them all.

Here’s a look at all the 2011 ACS Blue Ribbon winners from Wisconsin:

  • Mascarpone, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo
  • Brick, Klondike Cheese, Monroe
  • Tomato & Basil Feta, Klondike Cheese, Monroe
  • Monterey Jack, Burnett Dairy Co-op, Grantsburg
  • Cocoa Cardona, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle
  • Cave Aged Marisa, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle 
  • Cave Aged Mellage, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle 
  • Casa Bolo Mellage, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle 
  • Marieke Gouda Cumin, Holland’s Family Cheese, Thorp
  • Marieke Gouda Smoked Cumin, Holland’s Family Cheese, Thorp
  • Little Boy Blue, Hook’s Cheese, Mineral Point
  • Gran Queso Reserve, Emmi Roth USA, Monroe
  • Sartori Parmesan, Sartori, Plymouth
  • Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano, Sartoi, Plymouth
  • Fresh Mozzarella Thermoform, BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay
  • Burrata, BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay
  • Evalon, LaClare Farms Specialties, Chilton
  • Evalon with Fenugreek, LaClare Farms Specialties, Chilton
  • Driftless-Cranberry, Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby
  • Farmstead Feta, Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby
  • Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands Cheese, Dodgeville

In addition to our many awards, Wisconsin was also honored earlier in the day, as the ACS inducted a class of pioneer goat cheesemakers into its Academy of Cheese. Taking home a giant crystal statue of cheese was Anne Topham of Fantome Farm (pictured third from left). Anne’s been selling her goat cheeses at the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison for more than 20 years and it was nice to see her in Montreal getting the recognition she deserves.

Congratulations to all the ACS winning cheesemakers! I’m looking to celebrating with you all tomorrow night and eating your cheeses at the Festival of Cheese.

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