Last week, a farmstead cheese from southern Wisconsin won the top prize--best of over 1,400 cheeses--at the American Cheese Society annual competition. And look what just arrived at the Goose: the best cheese in America!
The biggest blue ribbon went to Uplands Cheese Company for their Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a 15 month old cheese made from the raw milk of grass fed cows that graze right next to the creamery.
To take the top prize, this cheese started with grass. Last Spring, the cows grazed atop Pleasant Ridge, where lots of rain helps promote several different types of grasses, wildflowers, herbs, and pod plants. Two families tended the cows up on that ridge. Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude farmed separately but as neighbors until 1994 when their business and farming collaboration began. Decades ago, Dan and Jeanne were ahead of the curb in keeping their herd on pasture and a grass fed diet. (Jeanne's brother researched and wrote the book that helped restart the grass fed tradition in the States.)
So from grass to cow to milk to...Andy. From the creamery right on the farm, Andy Hatch turns out a vat of cheese each day when the grass is prime and the cows are warm. After earning his Dairy Science degree in Wisconsin, Andy worked with cheesemakers in Europe for two years. He came back to Wisconsin and took over cheesemaking at Uplands in 2008. (He makes great cheese and doesn't break the lens, either. Andy happens to be on the cover of the 2011 Wisconsin cheesemakers pin up calendar.)
The extra age that Andy put on Uplands regular Pleasant Ridge Reserve may have been the winch the pulled this cheese high above the competition. In the ripening rooms, less than 1,000 wheels of the cheese spent 15 months under careful attention. On the outside, Andy was washing the wheels with a brine solution while on the inside the natural microflora were working their magic. The result is an intensely complex flavor that's sharp, floral, rich, and--we'd agree--the best cheese in America.
Come by the Goose soon for a slice from the wheel that won: Uplands Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve.