There were record numbers of entries and classes but one thing stayed the same at this year’s U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay.
Wisconsin cheesemakers again dominated what is considered the largest technical cheese, yogurt, butter and powdered dairy products competition in the country.
Of the top 20 finalists, 10 were from Wisconsin, including two entries each from Marieke Gouda in Thorp and Maple Leaf Cheesemakers in Monroe. The winner will be announced Thursday night at a ticketed gala at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
Other Wisconsin cheese companies to make the finals were Door Artisan Cheese Co. in Egg Harbor, Decatur Dairy in Brodhead, Great Lakes Cheese in Seymour, Emmi Roth in Platteville and Emmi Roth in Monroe, and Sartori Co. in Plymouth. Three entries each from California and Vermont made the top 20 along with two from Connecticut and one each from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The 2,555 entries in 116 classes from 35 states were judged in the atrium of Lambeau Field on Monday and Tuesday on technical merits, including a product’s flavor, body, texture, salt, color, finish and packaging, with a single gold, silver and bronze medal awarded to top products in each class. In 2017, the contest, held every two years, was won by a Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano made by Mike Matucheski in Antigo. A cheddar from Agropur in Weyauwega was named first runner-up and a Gouda from Marieke Gouda in Thorp was second runner-up. In addition, Wisconsin cheesemakers placed first in 58 of the 105 categories and had 14 of the 20 spots in the finals.
This year’s contest, presented by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, found similar success for state cheesemakers who took gold medals in 58 of the 116 classes and swept the top three spots in 23 categories.
The big winners included Mill Creek Cheese in Arena, which took the top three spots in pepper-flavored high-heat cheese, while Klondike Cheese Co. in Monroe took the top four spots in high-protein flavored yogurt made with cow’s milk. Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle swept the top three positions in both soft and semi-soft sheep cheese and flavored soft and semi-soft mixed milk cheese.
Lactalis USA in Belmont swept the Brie and Camembert category, while Wisconsin cheesemakers took the top five spots in cold pack cheese and the top seven spots in semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese.
The contest, held in opposite years of the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, was founded in 1981.