The American Cheese Society’s (ACS) 36th Annual Competition has officially concluded, with plenty of expert cheesemakers making their way home with heavier luggage, if you catch my drift. While many companies walked away with first, second, and third place prizes galore, a few of the biggest names in cheese had the honor of grabbing the coveted “Best of Show” award and standing out among over 1,742 entries.
This year, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Stockinghall Cheddar won first place in “Best of Show;” Wegmans Food Markets’ Professor’s Brie won second place; and Shooting Star Creamery’s Aries won third.
“To receive the ‘Best of Show’ award is the highest honor. It is testament to the many minds, hearts, and hands that went into the creation of this excellent cheese,” said Steve Millard, SVP of Merchandising and Operations at Murray’s Cheese. “Murray's affinage team (Peter Jenkelunas, Krista Jacobsen, and Josh Windsor) exuded diligence, passion, and dedication in the aging of Stockinghall.”
Wrapped in cloth/linen and aged 12 months, Stockinghall Cheddar is made with cow’s milk, cheesecloth, and lard and is the result of a year of experimentation with Old Chatham Creamery and Cornell University.
“As much as the ‘Best of Show’ award recognizes the hard work of Murray’s team, it also sheds light on the importance of collaboration,” Millard continued. “Without Old Chatham Creamery and Cornell University’s partnership, this cheese would not be possible. Old Chatham Creamery’s Dave Galton and Matt Ranieri spent countless hours helping in the development and R&D of this cheese and Cornell University provided their dairy lab an invaluable resource and space. Both parties made it possible for us to create this cheese, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
The Stockinghall Cheddar’s win was also the perfect start to Murray’s week, as the company is releasing two additional iterations of Stockinghall this week, including Butterhall, a butter rubbed version of Stockinghall and Extra Aged Stockinghall (aged 16 months).
Josh Windsor, affineur for Murray’s Cheese, added, “We worked with Old Chatham Creamery for several years to make ‘Stockinghall,’ which is their only cheddar. Aged cheddars are finicky and hard to produce—this cheese was truly a labor of love.”
In addition to the "Best of Show" award, Murray’s Cheese was also recognized in the Sheep Cheese with Flavor Added category, winning first place for its Hudson Flower cheese, as well as second place for its 80:10:10 cheese in the Washed Rind Cheeses Aged more than 60 days.
Wegmans, the “Best of Show” second place winner, also partnered with Old Chatham Cheese.
“It has been a wonderful experience to work with our team to create our cheese caves in Rochester and work with cheesemakers on unique cheeses for Wegmans,” said Cathy Gaffney, Vice President at Wegmans Food Markets and ACS Board President. "'Professor’s Brie was named in honor of Dave Galton, owner of Old Chatham, and my former professor at Cornell University. This award is proof that this model of production can create phenomenal American artisan cheese.”
David Galton, Owner of Old Chatham Creamery, added: “We’re so proud of the Old Chatham team and our partners. We strive to make cheeses that meet the high standards of our partners, who are truly the best creameries in the American artisan cheese industry.”
In fact, this year’s “Best of Show” cheeses indicated that the traditional European practice of producers working in collaboration with “affineurs”—affinage being the practice of aging cheese in caves carefully regulated by temperature and humidity—is growing in the U.S., according to a press release. Old Chatham Creamery produced both the Stockinghall Cheddar and the Professor’s Brie, while Murray’s aged its cheese in its Long Island Caves and Wegmans in its Rochester, New York, caves.
“To share Best in Show and Second Best in Show with our partners and win this handful of other Gold and Silver Medals all at once—what an honor,” said Old Chatham Creamery’s General Manager Trystan Sandvoss. “We started as a pioneer of the American artisanal cheese movement, and in Year 26, we’re joining the ranks of the most celebrated and awarded producers in our industry. These accolades will bolster our energy just when we’ll need it the most. Huge thank you to our distributors, affinage partners, owners, staff, and mostly, our die-hard fans out there.”
Third place winner, “Aries,” was created by cheese industry newcomer: 15-year-old Avery Jones. As the daughter of Reggie Jones of Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, California, Avery is part of a new generation driving excellence and innovation in the American artisan cheese industry, as stated in a press release.
“Watching Avery become the cheesemaker she is today has been amazing,” said Lindsey Mendes, Production Manager of Central Coast Creamery. “Cheesemaking takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s heartening to see that the younger generation is so passionate about the industry. This win couldn’t have happened without the entire Central Coast Creamery team.”
In the past 35 years, the ACS Judging & Competition has grown from 89 entries total to submissions from 257 companies, representing the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. This year, ACS awarded a total of 433 awards, including 139 gold medals, 142 silver medals, and 151 bronze medals.
“It’s an exciting year for American cheese,” said Nora Weiser, ACS Executive Director. “We have new producers, new production models, and fresh new faces that are pushing the envelope and expanding creativity and collaboration within American artisan cheese.”
For a complete list of this year’s winners and judges, click here. Congratulations to this year’s winners!