Cheddar (Bleu Mont)
Owned by Willi Lehner and his partner Qu'itas, Bleu Mont Dairy is located just west of Madison, Wisconsin.
Bleu Mont Dairy is part of a farm committed to sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. Much of the farm's energy is drawn from a 10kw wind generator, and there are also solar panels in use.
Willi comes from a family of Swiss cheesemakers, and after spending 10 years honing his craft in Europe, he returned to make cheese in Wisconsin – with no on-site cows or production facility. But he did build a cave – a real one carved into a hillside. He also built a straw-lined, above-ground aging facility. The only milk he uses is organic and pasture-raised. Willi makes his cheeses either at the Cedar Grove cheese plant or at the nearby Uplands Dairy, makers of Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Willi's production of a traditional cloth-wrapped, English style cheddar was inspired by the chance to visit England under a scholarship from the University of Wisconsin's Center for Dairy Research. There he was able to learn from several cheddar producers - especially Montgomery's - and put some of their techniques into practice .
After production of his cloth-wrapped cheddar, and to give the cheeses a head start with the aging process, Willi spritzes them with a solution of spring water and old cheddar rinds.
Cheeses are matured for between one and two years before release. While the majority are sold locally and at the Madison Farmers' Market, Willi has recently started to release some of his cheddars for sale elsewhere in the United States.
The texture is smooth, dense and extremely rich, scattered with crystalline "crunchies." The interior paste is the color of very pale caramel-cream with no holes.
Flavors - especially for the two year cheddar - are incredibly complex and deep. Notes of wood, toast and nuts are present, together with a delicious underlying sweet caramel flavor and a long earthy finish.
Lehner suggests washing down his Bandaged Cheddar with Belgian beer, IPA, lager, Pilsners, red wines (Merlot or Pinot Noir) without a lot of tannins, or American cider.