The American Cheese Society award winners were announced last night at the 26th annual conference and competition in Austin, Texas. This year saw a record-setting 197 producers from 32 states, Canada and Mexico, and the judging committee had the enviable task of tasting 1,327 cheeses and dairy products to determine this year’s winners.  The “Best in Show” award went to…. Oregon’s Rogue Creamery* for Rogue River Blue!  In second place is Cowgirl Creamery‘s Red Hawk (CA). Third place is a tie between Consider Bardwell‘s Rupert (VT) and Carr Valley‘s Cave Aged Mellage (WI). You can view the complete results here (link is a pdf file). Unfortunately Rogue River Blue is a seasonal cheese; we tasted the last of the 2008 batch at the Fancy Food Show in June, you’ll have to wait till the new batch is released in October and make due with another of Rogue’s wonderful blues in the meantime.

A few highlights:

In the “American Originals” category:

  • 1st place, cow, Roth Kase USA (WI), Valfino (in a tie for 3rd, Vermont Ayr by Crawford Family Farm/Cellars at Jasper Hill)
  • 1st place, goat, Carr Valley Cheese Co. (WI), Cocoa Cardona
  • 1st place, sheep or mixed, Carr Valley Cheese Co. (WI), Cave-Aged Mellage. (Carr Valley nearly swept this category with 2nd place for Marisa and 3rd place (tie) for Shepherd’s Blend.)

Some surprises, notably:

  • Cellars at Jasper Hill/Cabot Clothbound Cheddar was knocked out of first place in clothbound cheddars (aged less than 12 months) by Vermont upstart West River Creamery’s Cambridge Classic Reserve.
  • Beehive Cheese Company’s (UT) Barely Buzzed won the best flavored-with-things-that-aren’t-peppers cheddar category. (Okay, maybe not a surprise to the 99% of the cheese community who loves this cheese, but a surprise to me.) 

A couple local cheesemakers placed in their categories, though the Mid-Atlantic appears to have been denied any first place ribbons this year:

  • Meadow Creek (VA) Grayson, 2nd place in Washed-Rind, cow
  • Firefly Farms (MD) Bella Vita, 2nd place in International-Style, goat
  • Sweet Grass Dairy (GA) Kelle’s Blue, 2nd place in Blue-Veined, goat

Jill can claim a large number of winning Wisconsin cheeses as local to her, but we’ll also note that Hidden Springs Creamery (WI) Farmstead Feta took 1st place in Feta, sheep — not something you typically associate with Wisconsin cheese. Surfing Goat Dairy of Maui, which Jill wrote about earlier this year, placed 3rd in the flavor-added marinated category for their Maui Secret Sicily. And Minnesota’s PastureLand Cooperative took home ribbons for its butter (2nd place salted, 3rd place unsalted).

By the numbers:

  1. Wisconsin, 25 first place, 92 total
  2. California, 14 first place, 47 total
  3. Vermont, 14 first place, 33 total
  4. Oregon, 6 first place, 22 total
  5. New York, 4 first place, 19 total

Technically Quebec beats out New York with 8 first place, 20 total — but last I checked Quebec was not actually a state.

*Rogue’s Tom Van Voorhees and Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese in Portland made up the winning team in the ACS’s first ever Merchandising Competition — congrats to Team Oregon! (and a thank you to Tami Parr for identifying the team members)