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Roelli earns Best of Show at national cheese contest
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DES MOINES - Roelli Cheese Company of Shullsburg took top honors at the 2016 American Cheese Society Competition in Des Moines, Iowa, over the weekend. The company's Little Mountain cheese was named Best of Show at the annual awards ceremony, often called "The Oscars of Cheese." It was one of 107 ribbons for Wisconsin, which captured more awards than any other state for the 12th consecutive year.

Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Chris Roelli accepted the Best of Show award. In 2006, Chris Roelli, a fourth-generation cheesemaker, re-opened his family's cheese factory and redesigned it to shift its focus to handcrafting small batches of artisan cheese.

Roelli is among a growing group of Wisconsin cheesemakers making strides in modern affinage, or cheese aging. In 2012, he built his own affinage center, Roelli Aging Cellars, designing each of the three curing rooms specifically for a particular cheese: Award-winning Dunbarton Blue, Red Rock and Little Mountain.

Created in partnership with the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Little Mountain is a washed rind alpine cheese made with raw cow's milk in the appenzeller style. It is aged six months and has a smooth, nutty flavor.

Also taking home an ACS win was Jeffs' Select Gouda, which tied for third-place Best of Show. It is made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Jeff Wideman of Maple Leaf Cheesemakers in Monroe and aged by Jeff Jirik in Minnesota's Caves of Faribault.

Wisconsin cheesemakers, along with the state's butter and yogurt makers, claimed 28 percent of all awards at this year's ACS competition, including 29 first-place ribbons, 32 second places and 44 third places. With these wins, Wisconsin cheesemakers swept five categories: Brick Cheese-Cow's Milk; Cheese Curds-All Milk; Colby Cheese-All Milk; Flavored Cheeses-International-Style with Flavor Added; and Flavored Cheeses-Feta Cheese with Flavor Added. Wisconsin cheesemakers also dominated the awards for cow's milk cheeses, winning 36 percent of all awards with 86 total ribbons.

Twenty-eight Wisconsin companies received one or more awards at the competition, and several Wisconsin cheesemakers had outstanding performances, including Klondike Cheese Co. winning 10 ribbons; Maple Leaf Cheesemakers Inc. with nine ribbons; Emmi Roth USA winning six ribbons; and Saputo Specialty Cheese winning five ribbons.

The 2016 competition included 1,843 entries from more than 250 companies. To view the full list of Wisconsin awards, visit