Carr Valley Marisa ties for second at ACS in Montreal
Carr Valley Cheese Co., Inc., Wisconsin
Cave Aged Marisa
Some men have man caves; Sid Cook has a cheese cave. As owner and master cheesemaker of Wisconsin’s Carr Valley Cheese Company, Cook sought a combination of local natural microflora and aging conditions for particular cheeses. Initially, he adapted an actual cave in northern Wisconsin to create this environment. Now his company has created a large open-air cave on-site at its Sauk City location, where Carr Valley cheeses develop distinct characteristics through careful maturing conditions.
Carr Valley currently produces more than 100 original selections; Cook’s cheeses have amassed more than 450 honors in the last ten years of cheese competitions, earning the company more national and international awards than any other cheesemaker in North America.
This time, the recipient is Carr Valley’s Cave Aged Marisa. The complex, nutty, slightly sweet sheep’s milk cheese has been a huge success for Carr Valley, a thriving, century-old, fourth-generation enterprise with three cheesemaking plants and seven retail stores in cheese-savvy Wisconsin.
Introduced 12 years ago and named after Cook’s daughter in honor of her personality, Marisa is “complex, sweet, and slightly rambunctious,” says Cook. The cheese took first in its class at the 2005 ACS competition and second in class at the World Cheese Awards the same year.
Marisa is always subject to mold variability, and Cook’s traditional artisan’s knowledge is fundamental. “We like 53 degrees and 92 percent humidity in the cave; we turn when the bottoms are wet, and pull after the red molds bloom,” he explains.
Considering the large number of entries, the current ACS win is truly special, even after 43 years of cheesemaking, Cook says. “We always look forward to any cheese competition as a measure of success and a measure of how to improve.”
Written by Christine Darragh
Photograph by Kate Arding