GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano has been named the best cheese in United States of America, leading a pack of Wisconsin cheeses that dominated the top places in the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
With an impressive score of 99.02 out of 100, Sartori's winning flavored hard cheese was crafted by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Mike Matucheski in Antigo. Sartori Company has won the USCCC once before in the biennial contest's 36-year history, with its SarVecchio Parmesan in 2009.
First runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, with a score of 98.81, is a Cheddar, aged between one and two years, made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Terry Lensmire of Agropur in Weyauwega. Second runner-up is Marieke Gouda Belegen, with a score of 98.59, made by the Marieke Gouda Team in Thorp, Wisconsin; Marieke Penterman of Marieke Gouda was the Grand Champion in the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
"Location aside, what these winning cheesemakers have in common is experience and passion," said John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the contest host organization. "As we recognize the efforts of these fine craftsmen and women, we support continuous improvement in the cheesemaking industry, and in the products we all enjoy with our family and friends."
A record-setting 2,303 cheese entries from 33 states were evaluated during the two-day competition in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A team of 50 nationally-renowned judges hailing from 18 states considered each entry's flavor, body and texture, salt, color, finish, and packaging, and via an independent scoring system, determined the top three cheeses at the contest.
Overall, Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the competition, earning gold medals in 58 of the 101 classes judged. Vermont cheesemakers came in second with seven golds, while New York cheesemakers placed third in the gold medal count with six.
The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition in the country. For more information on the contest, as well as complete results for all entry classes and contest photos, visit www.uschampioncheese.org.
Source: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association