Vermont Wins Second Consecutive ACS Best in Show

Tarentaise Reserve. Photo by Cheese Chick Productions

California may have its cheesy flags and Wisconsin its stoic cheesemaking heritage, but Vermont proved this week at the American Cheese Society annual competition it indeed has the real deal artisan cheesemaking goods, backing up its perennial claim of being “the premium artisanal cheese state with the highest number of cheesemakers per capita.”

For the second year in a row, an artisan Vermont cheesemaker took Best in Show at the annual ACS conference, held this year in Sacramento, California. Tarentaise Reserve by Farms for City Kids  Foundation in Vermont, claimed the top prize, succeeding last year’s fabulous Best in Show, Winnimere, from the Cellars of Jasper Hill, Vermont.

Jeremy Stephenson, Cheese Program Director of Farms for City Kids Foundation, said of the Best of Show win: “The more I’m involved in this work, the more it becomes clear to me that what we’re doing is so much a part of agriculture and working to develop a new sustainable food system. We’re a small part of that.”

He continued: “When we do this work we have to remember we’re part of something much bigger than an individual or individual farm, we’re a part of a community. The people that buy our cheese are supporting something very important for the future.”

The future of American cheese is indeed very strong, based on the quality and quantity of winning cheeses. At the ceremony, Wisconsin, as expected, cleaned house with the sheer number of winning cheeses, earning 97 first, second and third place ribbons, more than twice the number of California and three times that of Vermont.

Bob Wills of Cedar Grove Cheese and
Clock Shadow Creamery in Wisconsin.

In fact, several Wisconsin cheesemakers became weighted down with multiple awards by the end of the night – including Brenda Jensen of Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby. Brenda, a farmstead sheep’s milk cheesemaker, claimed nine awards – one for virtually every cheese entered. She was topped only by Carr Valley Cheese of LaValle, which won 10 awards.

And Wisconsin icons BelGioioso and Klondike Cheese both earned seven awards apiece, while Clock Shadow Creamery and Cedar Grove Cheese, both owned by Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills, earned 6 ribbons total, including a first-place award for Quark. Holland’s Family Farm earned five awards, as did my hometown cheese plants: Montchevre-Betin and Lactalis, both in tiny Belmont, Wisconsin, population 986. Woot-woot – go Braves!

Unlike last year, however, Wisconsin was shut out of the top three. While Vermont won the whole deal, runner-up Best in Show went to Pt Reyes Farmstead Creamery for their new Bay Blue. The entire Giacomini clan was on hand, most of them in tears, and led by patriarch Bob Giacomini to accept the award. Tying for third place runner-up Best in Show were Aged Gouda from Oakdale Cheese & Specialties in California and a cheese called Eden from Sprout Creek Farm in New York.

Overall, cow’s milk cheeses dominated the contest with 194 winners. A total of 67 goat’s milk cheeses won ribbons, 40 sheep’s milk cheeses claimed awards, and 21 mixed-milk cheeses were in the winner’s circle.

The 2014 ACS Judging & Competition saw 1,685 entries of cheeses and cultured dairy products from 248 companies. Entering companies represented 39 U.S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, and even the country of Colombia – with Annabella Creamery, Inc. taking a blue ribbon. In all, 325 ribbons were awarded: 89 first place ribbons, 109 second place ribbons, and 127 third place ribbons.

For a printable list of this year’s winners, click here and then navigate to the link that downloads an Excel spreadsheet with all the info. Congratulations to all the winners!