Tag Archives: uplands cheese

Wisconsin Day Three: Bleu Mont Cheddar

After hanging out at Uplands Cheese I got back in the car and in less than an hour was at one of the most impressive human-made cheese caves I’ve ever been to. What an embarrassment of riches Wisconsin has! I said this at both my readings and it’s true: The Dunbarton Blue, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Blue Mont Cheddar are not just good Wisconsin Cheeses, not just good American-made Cheeses, but stand up with any cheese in the world. And you can visit them all before lunch if you leave early enough in the day!

Willi Lehner makes a great traditional Cheddar even though he doesn’t even have a cheesemaking facility on premises. Heck, there’s plenty of places to make Cheddar in Wisconsin, but there’s only one cheese cave built into the hill of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.

I just wish I had moved the shelf out of the way before I took the picture.
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And check out the inside! It’s beautiful!
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Longtime readers have seen me mock the use of “cave” (or “caaaaaaaav”) many times. It’s hard to resist when “cave-aged” often means “aged in a modern, strip-mall, temperature-controlled warehouse where the cheese may be cryovac’d anyways.” But caves — even ones built, not found, by cheese-agers — do have a lot of value. They prevent excess airflow, thus maintaining the environment of beneficial microbes that help the cheese develop flavor, and they control the temperature and humidity efficiently.

Willi just makes and ages amazing cheese. His Cheddar is grassy, bright, earthy, sharp, shardy, and milky sweet… one of my absolute favorites. There’s not a lot available – it’s hard to find even in Wisconsin – but if you see it, grab it.

Plus it’s the only cheese aging facility I’ve ever been to where Crocs are mandatory footwear.
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Wisconsin Day Three: Uplands Cheese

The amazing thing about Wisconsin Cheesemakers is that there are so many great ones close together. The morning after the Gathering of the Cheddar Makers, I headed a half hour down the road to visit Uplands Cheese. Uplands is famous for being the only company to win the American Cheese Society Competition Best of Show more than once for the same cheese. Pleasant Ridge reserve has won three times, most recently last year.

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Long time cheesemaker/owner Mike Gingrich is in the process of turning over the operation to Andy Hatch but the cheese is as good as ever. Last year Uplands introduced their second cheese: the seasonal Rush Creek, a Vacherin Mont D’or-like, bark-wrapped, oozy bit of amazing.

Here’s Andy with some aging Pleasant Ridge Reserve:
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Unrelated to cheesemaking, Andy used to live directly below the infinity room* at House on the Rock. No one seemed happy when I brought up the proximity of Uplands and HOTR. C’mon dudes, embrace your culture!** Even if they are unwilling to acknowledge the camp-terroir of their region, the Uplands folks make great cheese. The Pleasant Ridge is Alpine style, nutty and grassy, more like a well-aged Comte than a Gruyere. Like Comte, it’s dry-salted instead of brined and it’s one of this country’s best full-flavored big cheeses. Being a grass-based operation, Uplands does not make cheese year-round and they sell all the cheese they make so, while not rare, you won’t find it everywhere.

This looks like a lot, but it’s not enough to meet demand from all the cheese buyers who want it. I could move in here, for sure:
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Every batch of Pleasant Ridge has a test wheel so the Uplands folks can see how the cheese is aging. You can see the core holes on this one:
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Lastly, Uplands Cheese is farmstead, meaning that all the milk comes from their own grass-based cows. Aren’t they cute?
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*The Infinity Room really is awesome.

As is the carousel:
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**Though this lack of interest in the local art forms perhaps explains the crappy “monument” to Cheddar that I wrote about in the “Ruminations” section the current issue of Culture Magazine