2017 Cheese Champions
The World Championship Cheese Contest and United States Championship Cheese Contest are held in alternating years in Wisconsin. Here are the national award-winning cheeses for 2017.
Cheese lovers who demand nothing but the best at their table now know where to look.
The 2017 United States Championship Cheese Contest was held this spring in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the results are in. Hosted every other year by Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, it is the nation’s largest cheese competition. (WCMA hosts the World Championship Cheese Contest in even-numbered years.)
Record-Setting Cheese Championship
The judges again had no shortage of entries from which to choose, as the 2017 contest drew a record 2,303 entries from 33 states.
It’s certainly not a job for the lactose-intolerant. Veteran judge Tammy Miller, expert cheese grader at Colony Brands in Monroe, Wisconsin, said that most judges are trained to look at high volumes of cheese.
“When I graded cheese early in my career, I could easily do 100 samples in a day. We worked long days during the judging, and had to keep on task to get through that many samples in a day,” she said. “We basically had to look at a new entry every five minutes.” Miller started grading cheese in 1990, and got her license in 1993. So does she ever get cheese fatigue?
“I never get tired of cheese,” said Miller. “I eat cheese on everything.”
Judges work in teams of two to score the cheeses, recording their input on iPads in a quick, efficient online scoring system that allows immediate feedback to the entrants—usually just minutes after a contest class is complete. The judges award a Best in Class gold medal in each product class, as well as second and third place awards.
The main judging took place March 7–8 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The final results were revealed Thursday, March 9, at Cheese Champion, the contest’s signature reception, at the KI Convention Center.
So who were the big winners this year?
There are far too many award-winners to list, but here are some Best of Show winners and some other notables in some major categories. The full results can be viewed at uschampioncheese.org.
There are seven categories of Cheddar cheese.
The top Cheddar score overall was 99.45, for a Cheddar aged 2+ Years, by Daniel Stearns of Agropur, Weyauwega, WI. His colleague at Agropur, Terry Lensmire, reprised his Best of Class performance from two years ago for his Cheddar aged 1–2 Years.
The top Mild Cheddar (0–3 months) was made by Shawn Sadler of AMPI, Jim Falls, WI, with a score of 99.40.
Colby Longhorn: LaGrander’s Cheese Team #2, LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy, Stanley, WI (98.75)
200-lb. Aged Emmental Block: Team Guggisberg Sugarcreek, Guggisberg Cheese, Millersburg, OH (99.75)
BelGioioso Parmesan: Dan Szczepanski, BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, WI (99.75)
Stella Aged Asiago: Team Almena, Saputo Specialty Cheese, Richfield, WI (99.30)
Baby Swiss Style
Baby Swiss, Casey Petak, Rothenbuhler Cheesemakers, Middlefield, OH (99.40)
Whole Milk Havarti, Emmi Roth USA, Fitchburg, WI (99.15)
Mediterranean Herb Havarti, Decatur Cheesemakers, Decatur Dairy, Brodhead, WI (99.25)
Brick & Muenster
Brick: Luke Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, WI (99.70)
(Klondike won the top four awards in this class, for three Bricks and a Muenster, in that order.)
Edam & Gouda
Marieke Gouda Belegen: Marieke Gouda Team, Marieke Gouda, Thorp, WI (99.55)
Hard Mixed Milk Cheeses
Sartori Tre Donnes: Mike Matucheski, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI (99.80)
Matucheski’s Sartori Limited Edition Pastorale Blend, Best of Class winner two years ago, took second this year with a 99.60.
After narrowing down the Best of Class winners to a top 20, the judges announced the following as the top three cheeses of the year:
2017 U.S. Champion (Best of Show)
Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano: Mike Matucheski, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI
2017 First Runner-Up
Aged Cheddar: Terry Lensmire, Agropur, Weyauwega, WI
2017 Second Runner-Up
Marieke Gouda Belegen: Marieke Gouda Team, Marieke Gouda, Thorp, WI
Congratulations to the winners…and remember to support the fine Master Cheesemakers who work so hard to produce an exceptional product for you to enjoy with family and friends.
Stay tuned for next year and the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest!