ACS BEST IN SHOW TO WINNIMERE!
The team at Jasper Hill really pulled it all together to earn this coveted award. Winnimere is Jasper Hill’s only strictly farmstead cheese, made from the winter milk of their 40 Jersey cows. So to make Winnimere for ACS entry, the cheesemaking team had to do so “cold”, almost starting from scratch after not having made it in months. The farm crew pooled the milk of some of their top cows, enough to make two batches of 150 wheels. At four in the morning, the cheesemaking team huddled together and psyched themselves up to make a cheese worthy of representing them at the ACS judging. While it may seem like it should be second nature to a seasoned cheesemaking team like Jasper Hill’s, that is not the case. With a hand-made seasonal cheese like Winnimere, the cheesemakers are constantly making small adjustments depending on the milk and make process that have a huge effect on the final product. It was nerve-wracking for the team to make 2 batches of Winnimere destined for highly a competitive judging after being out of practice for so long.
After a long make, the cheesemakers had done their part. The Winnimere moved on to the Cellars at Jasper Hill for aging and regularly washing. It became immediately apparent that one batch was not setting right. The rinds were not forming properly, and with every washing the cheese came closer to falling apart. With a heavy heart, they fed the off-batch to their pigs. All their hopes and dreams relied entirely on that last batch of cheese. The affinage team watched over this batch like it was a small child, carefully nurturing it towards maturity.
The cheese selection team at Jasper Hill decided that they would indeed enter the batch of Winnimere into the ACS judging. For them, it was a rare opportunity to enter a winter milk cheese into a contest in the dead of summer. Not expecting to win, they figured their hard-core customers would get a kick out of trying it at the ACS Festival of Cheeses. So it shocked them more than anyone else in the audience when it was awarded a first-place ribbon. When it was awarded Best in Show on top of that, most of the audience probably thought it would take a park ranger with a tranquilizer gun to calm Mateo Kehler down and get him off the stage.
There was still one problem. Jasper Hill had only sent three wheels of Winnimere to the show. One was used in judging. That meant only two wheels would serve the throngs of people waiting to taste he cheese that one veteran at Zuerchers described as “the best Winnimere I’ve ever tasted.” As proof that CJH is one of the most motivated companies in the industry, Vince Razionale and Tim Whitney (who were following the awards on live Twitter feed back in Vermont) immediately jumped into a car with the rest of the batch and drove straight away to Madison, arriving just in time to get the cheese to an adoring crowd.
While the crowds in Madison may not realize the multitude of factors that had to come together to make this possible, it took incredible alignment and shared purpose from every member of their organization. We would like to thank our friends at The Cellars at Jasper Hill for their tireless enthusiasm and dedication to their craft. This was an award well-deserved!
As a caveat to this story, the CJH storytellers and Zuercher listener may not have gotten the details 100% right as they all were basking in the glow of a Best in Show ribbon and a steady serving of celebratory refreshments. However, the story is true as told to the best of our recollections. And as a side note, the pigs at Jasper Hill must be the most spoiled in the country. ©