Wisconsin Cheeseathon: Hobbit Caves & Rush Creek

Bleu Mont Chese Cave

Bleu Mont Chese Cave

After eating a meal richer than David Lebovitz’s Roquefort honey ice cream recipe, the Wisconsin dairy tourists tucked into bed to rest for the the big day ahead: Bleu Mont, Uplands and Roth-Kase. The plan was something like this: cheese, cheese, then fondue and cheese plates.

If hearing about the Crave Brothers Poo Power wasn’t enough to convince us that Wisconsin is ahead of the dairy curve, then the underground cheese hobbit caves built under a hill on Bleu Mont property was enough to do it.

HobbitatCave

Bleu Mont's under hill cheese cave, shown with hobbit to demonstrate actual size.

Modeled similar to Vermont’s Jasper Hill’s underground cave, which was inspired by Fort Antoine in the Franche-Comté Jura region, Bleu Mont has constructed a cellar that is the perfect mix of humidity, temperature, and Lord of the Rings cool factor to age cheese.

Bleu Mont Cloth-bound cheddar

Bleu Mont Cloth-bound cheddar

Trained by his father and by traditional cheesemakers in Switzerland, Owner Willi Lehner is a skilled artisan and ages his own beautiful bandage-wrapped Cheddar, his new cheese Alpine Renegade  (my favorite of the fantastic duo) and some other wheels for local cheesemakers in his cave. Put his, Japser Hill’s, and Fiscalini‘s cheddar on a board, and if you’re a fan of savory, buttery, sharp, beefy cheese, you’ll be amused for hours.

After Bleu Mont, we headed to Uplands Cheese. They have the most famous grass in the United States.
Upland's cheese prairie

Upland's cheese prairie

Cheesemaker Andy Hatch only makes the famed Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheeses with milk from his grass-fed cows from April to October. He rotationally grazes his cows on the pasture to make sure they’re getting the tastiest greens possible, rich with clover, wild grasses and the occasional yellow daisy. This makes better milk. Uplands’s mixed herd also promotes flavor complexity. Unlike many dairy farmers, Uplands breeds Holsteins, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Tarentaise, and Montbeliards of the French-Swiss regions. By using such a mixed herd, they have milk with varying fat content, protein, and flavor, and pretty cows of different colors prancing around the field.

One look in the cheesemaking vats shows an immediate pay-off – Upland’s milk is already the color of French Vanilla ice cream or freshly churned butter.

Read more about Hatch’s three-time award-winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve here, here and here.

Upland's winter Rush Creek

Upland's winter Rush Creek

During the cow’s resting season, Hatch has started to make a new raw-milk cheese crafted from the subtle winter milk not used for Pleasant Ridge, called Rush Creek Reserve.

jura Spruce at Uplands

jura Spruce at Uplands

Inspired by the oozing, creamy Vacherin Mont D’Or in the Swiss-French Alps, Rush Creek is aged 60 days and wrapped with spruce imported from the Jura region. Jasper Hill already makes a cheese in this realm that if you haven’t tried it before, well, lucky you- it’s almost Winnimere season too! But while Winnimere is washed with a local brew as it ages, Rush Creek is washed with a salt and water brine and should produce a cleaner, more milky taste.

We didn’t get to taste this cheese- it wasn’t ready. But I looked at it. A lot. And I shot some photos of it so you can dream about it too. They say it will hit the stores in November. Please save me one.

After dreaming about oozing wheels and hobbit caves, we went to Roth-Kase.

Roth Kase cheesemaking facilities

Roth Kase cheesemaking facilities

Roth's Private Reserve

Roth's Private Reserve

A large cheese plant packed with stainless steel, workers wearing matching white crocs, and more sanitizing stations than a new hospital, Roth Kase started out as a small family creamery who made America’s first “Gruyère.” The family had big dreams and now makes more than 15 styles of cheeses. Some are made to appease people who want low fat or low-flavor cheese. Others are full-fat and stunning. My favorite is their Gran Queso and Roth’s Private Reserve.

Fondue at Roth Kase

Fondue at Roth Kase

At Roth-Kase we were serenaded by a yodeler, ate a fondue lunch, and served cheese plates paired with Woodford Reserve (god bless them), a Riesling from Wisconsin, and kirsch.

Believe it or not, all of us made it back to the bus alive. I took a nap on the way home.

Next Wisconsin adventure on “It’s Not You, it’s Brie”: Otter Creek, Cedar Grove, and Carr Valley.

Dirty boards are kept separate.

Boards that cheese has already been aged on are kept separate at Uplands. Because they are very dirty.