Award-Winning Cheeses to Try From Wisconsin

It never fails that Wisconsin swoops the top spots at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and World Championship Cheese Contest—both held annually and in Wisconsin—proving that the state’s cheese economy is going strong. Wisconsin’s strength is in making artisan cheeses, which means visiting the state is very important if you’re a cheese fanatic. By booking tables at the right restaurants or shopping at the right restaurants, you can try many in the span of two hours. But, really, any major grocery-chain retailer will no doubt carry a fine selection. Reading this from afar? Don’t fret. Almost all of Wisconsin’s artisan-cheese producers retail their products online through their websites — here are a few of the best to try. 

01 of 07

Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano


What: Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano

Cheesemaker: Sartori

Most Recent Award: Best Cheese in 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

Similar to Parmesan or other hard cheeses, the Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano carries a little bit of spice—but not too much—thanks to the cracked black peppercorns. A subtle nuttiness to this cheese is very pleasant. Consider grating over a salad or stacking slices on water crackers (unseasoned, these crackers won’t compete with the cheese’s inherent flavor).


02 of 07

Holland’s Family Cheese Marieke Gouda Belegen

Holland's Family Cheese

What: Marieke Gouda Belegen

Cheesemaker: Holland’s Family Cheese

Most Recent Award: Third Place in 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

Cheesemaker Marieke Penterman got her start at her family’s dairy farm in the Netherlands but only debuted her Wisconsin business in 2006, and to huge acclaim, winning awards left and right. Along with her husband, they started running a dairy farm in 2002, in Thorp, expanding into cheese three years later. Among her best-selling cheeses is the Marieke Gouda Belegen — crafted from cow’s milk —although others are worth a taste, too, including a Gouda soaked in red wine and another flavored with mustard. Marieke recommends pairing the Gouda Belegen with a glass of Pinot Grigio or bock beer.


03 of 07

Hook's Cheese Company's Traditional Blue

Hook's Cheese Company

What: Hook’s Cheese Company’s Traditional Blue

Cheesemaker: Hook’s Cheese Company

Most Recent Award: Third Place in American Cheese Society 2017 Competition

Simply called Hook’s Blue, this Danish-style blue cheese first went into production in 1997 and has been a winner among discerning palates ever since. Aged for a minimum of one year, Hook’s describes its flavor profile as “a strong tangy blue flavor and a somewhat sweet finish.” Got a bottle of Port or dessert wine lying around? Either would make a great pairing with this intense cheese.


04 of 07

Carr Valley Cheese Cocoa Cardona

Carr Valley Cheese

What: Carr Valley Cheese Cocoa Cardona

Cheesemaker: Carr Valley Cheese

Most Recent Award: Second Place in 2017 U.S Championship Cheese Contest

Among Wisconsin’s most diverse cheesemakers, the selections from this LaValle producer include cheddar and gouda. For the Cocoa Cardona, Goat’s-milk cheese is rubbed with cocoa powder, offering just a sweet hint of chocolate.

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05 of 07

Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Fresh Mozzarella

Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Fresh Mozzarella

What: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Fresh Mozzarella

Cheesemaker: Crave Brothers

Most Recent Award: Best of Class in 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

Italian-style cheeses made by Crave Brothers include mascarpone and mozzarella. For an every-day mozzarella that’s easy (and tasty!) to cook with, the farmstand cheese fresh mozzarella can’t be beat. Choose from a log, ball or newer options such as ciliegine (cherry-sized), bocconcini (small balls) or ovoline (egg-sized). Those last three are perfect for putting on a pizza or incorporating into a tomato and basil salad. Prosciutto sandwiches featuring Crave Brothers’ mozzarella are another crowd-pleaser.


06 of 07

Saxon Creamery Old English Style Cheddar Aged 5 Months

Saxon Creamery

What: Saxon Creamery Old English Style Cheddar Aged 5 Months

Cheesemaker: Saxon Creamery

Most Recent Award: Best of Class in 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

Making cheddar in Wisconsin is a competitive business but Saxon Creamery’s “Pastures” cheddar is made in an Old English style. And while there are degrees of aging, anywhere from a few months to 12 years, this one hits the sweet spot at a minimum of five months. Saxon says you can fold this into a grilled-cheese sandwich or present on a cheese plate, paired with nuts and dried fruits. If you like to sip IPA beer, then this is your cheese because both offer excellent mouth-feel and full-on flavor.


07 of 07

Roth USA Roth Grand Cru Surchoix


What: Roth USA Roth Grand Cru Surchoix

Cheesemaker: Roth USA

Most Recent Award: World Champion in the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest

Surchoix is at the top, in terms of quality, of Roth’s three Grand Cru cheeses, all made in an alpine style that’s rare to find in the United States. Expect subtle fruitiness and floral notes along with a pleasant nuttiness. Try this recipe on the company’s website for sliders topped with melted Grand Cru Surchoix, plus slices of bacon and roasted red peppers.