Wisconsin cheesemaker takes numerous ribbons, best of show at ACS conference

MILWAUKEE - Sid Cook, had plenty to celebrate following the 21st annual American Cheese Society Competition in Milwaukee. The master cheesemaker from Carr Valley Cheese, La Valle, Wis., walked away with several blue ribbons and also nailed the best of show for his artisanal Gran Canaria.

This cheese, entered into the Marinated Cheeses category, is a robust, pungent sheeps milk cheese aged three years in olive oil. Its name pays homage to the artisanal cheeses Cook encountered on a visit to the Canary Islands. The best of show is the collective opinion of 20 expert judges representing the retail and distribution segments as well as food writers and technical judges from cheese trade businesses and prestigious academic programs.

Carr Valley also dominated the American Originals category taking first place in the Cows Milk, Goats Milk, Sheeps Milk and/or Mixed Milks categories. Overall, Wisconsin cheesemakers fared well in the competition, taking home 15 blue ribbons.

One of the competition's newest categories is also the fastest growing. Added just last year, the Washed Rind Cheese category had close to 30 entries this year.

The Farmstead Cheese category winners spanned the country. A relative newcomer, Thistle Hill Farms of Vermont, won in the All Milks (aged longer than 90 days category.)

Winners in this year's competition came from as far away as Hawaii. Maui-based Surfing Goat Dairy took top honors in the Flavor-Added Marinated Cheeses category for their Napa Wrap.

Considered one of the world's most influential and prestigious competitions in recognizing the art of artisanal and specialty cheesemaking, the American Cheese Society's annual judging competition has grown significantly over the past few years. This year, 116 North American producers submitted a record 726 cheeses for judging.

For a complete list of competition winners, visit www.cheesesociety.org.