Bandaged Cheddar, Big Sky Grana and Alpine Renegade, Bleu Mont Dairy {Blue Ribbon Week}

by mncheese on August 7, 2013

in American Cheese Society,American-Midwest,cheese awards,Cheese!,Cow,Milk,Raw

Though the Cellars at Jasper Hill won the biggest prize of the night last week at the American Cheese Society awards ceremony, it was Willi Lehner of Wisconsin’s Bleu Mont Dairy who took home the most Best of Show ribbons. For the first time, a cheesemaker tied himself! Lehner’s Bandaged Cheddar and Big Sky Grana, both of which topped their respective categories, were awarded third place, Best of Show.

We’re no strangers to Lehner’s raw-milk Bandaged Cheddar (pictured at top) – we first wrote about it in 2009, delighting in its candy-like sweetness and gentle nutty undertones. We also were lucky enough to visit the Bleu Mont Dairy cave during our Wisconsin cheese weekend in 2011, where we got to see large wheels of cheddar aging and learned about cheese mites (yes, the same ones getting all the attention for Mimolette these days).

The Big Sky Grana was a newbie to me, however, and by the time I arrived at Lehner’s stand at the Dane County Farmers Market the next morning, I had to settle for some shards since he was sold out. (Not sure why the sign says Bleu Mont Grana, but it’s the same cheese.) It’s a nutty cheese aged in Lehner’s cave that competed against other grating cheeses like domestic parmesans, sardos and asiagos. I’ve never seen it sold in the Twin Cities, and we often get Lehner’s cheddar, so I’m guessing it doesn’t get out of Wisconsin very much, so be sure to snatch a wedge if you find it.

My favorite Bleu Mont Dairy cheese didn’t win a Best of Show ribbon but still topped its category. Alpine Renegade won the coveted American originals open cow’s-milk division, and though it also was sold out at the farmers market, I picked up a slab at Fromagination one block away. I brought it to work for lunch yesterday, and none made it home with me at the end of the day. So creamy, so custardy and slightly fruity, Alpine Renegade is made from raw milk from Uplands Cheese Company and the rind is washed daily with a slurry for three months before aging for another nine. It’s hard to stop once you start eating it, as evidenced by my lunchtime binge yesterday and the numerous chunks I grabbed at the pre-ACS party at Uplands last week. Fingers crossed that Alpine Renegade will make it across state lines soon for a victory lap around the Upper Midwest.

If you missed it before, you can catch Willi yodeling his acceptance speech here.

BLUE RIBBON GIVEAWAY: We’ve teamed up with the cheese-loving crew at Murray’s Cheese to offer one lucky reader a “Blue Ribbon Beauties” box of winning cheeses. Leave a comment on each post this week for the best chance of winning a shipment straight from Murray’s to you. Have you ever tried Willi’s cheeses?

Disclosure: Murray’s is generously providing the giveaway prize, but no other compensation was received.


Bianca August 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

I fell in love with the Bleu Mont cheeses this ACS and I hope that we can work some magic and get some in Florida. Especially the Alpine Renegade – it sounds divine and I’ve never had it.

Todd August 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

This is me adding Alpine Renegade to my “must find” list.

Robin Chesser August 9, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Alpine Renegade must be found!

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