California cheese earns national honors

Credit the cows (and some sheep and goats, too). California cheese producers are still basking in the afterglow of the American Cheese Society’s 31st annual competition and conference, held recently in Sacramento. Cheese made with California cow’s milk won two dozen awards.

Two California cheesemakers — Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese and Oakdale Cheese & Specialties — placed second and third respectively in the Best of Show contest, won by Vermont’s Farms for City Kids Foundation and its Tarentaise Reserve. For the competition’s top honors, Point Reyes placed with its Bay Blue and Oakdale tied for third (with New York’s Sprout Creek Farm Eden) for its aged Gouda.

In all, California cow’s milk cheeses that are part of the “Real California” cheese program brought home five first-place, nine second-place and 10 third-place awards. Besides the first-place divisional wins by Point Reyes’ Bay Blue and Oakdale’s aged Gouda, the other first-place winners were:

California cheesemakers who use sheep’s or goat’s milk also fared well with the ACS judges. Bleating Heart’s Fat Bottom Girl — recently featured in The Bee’s Feast section and the top cheese at the 2014 California State Fair — won first place for “American Originals: Original Recipe” in the sheep’s milk division. Bleating Heart’s Ewelicious Blue placed first among blue-veined sheep’s milk cheeses.

In the goat’s milk soft-ripened cheese category, Cypress Grove Chevre’s “Bermuda Triangle” won first place for the Arcata cheesemaker.

Overall, the judges critiqued 1,685 entries from 248 producers representing 39 states and Canada. Find all the award winners here.