American Cheese Salute
By Janet Fletcher
As an occasional judge at the American Cheese Society’s annual competition, I would argue that the blue-ribbon winners are as good as cheese gets. Last year, America’s cheesemakers entered roughly 1,700 different cheeses. They weren’t all dreamy, of course, but the ones chosen for top honors were.
Still, many Americans remain convinced that our cheeses pale in comparison to Europe’s. As a cheese educator, I encounter this prejudice often. One woman recently asked me why she could eat any French cheese with abandon, but American cheeses made her unwell. I didn’t want to tell her that it’s all in her head, but it’s all in her head.
If you’re opening a fine American wine like Rutherford Hill Winemaker’s Blend, why not pair it with American cheeses of comparable stature? Help me make the case that America’s best cheeses deserve to be at the table alongside its best wines. To assist you, here is one recommendation for an All-American cheese course. All three selections are recent ACS blue-ribbon winners, fitting companions for an elegant red like the Winemaker’s Blend.
Vermont Creamery Bijou
This little two-ounce nugget of goat cheese, modeled on the French Crottin di Chavignol, has a mushroom scent when ripe and a lemony finish.
Roth Grand Cru Reserve
From Wisconsin, this aged cow’s milk wheel has a smooth, silky texture and aromas of roasted nuts and brown butter, reminiscent of Swiss Gruyère.
Bellwether Farms Pepato
A pioneering producer of sheep’s milk cheese in the U.S., this California creamery makes an aged peppercorn-studded wheel that loves red wine. I don’t eat the peppercorns—I pull them aside—but I love the floral fragrance they impart to this firm, tangy cheese.
Janet Fletcher is the publisher of Planet Cheese, a complimentary e-mail newsletter, and the author of Cheese & Wine and The Cheese Course.