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Centerfold: Red Rock


Photographed by Nicole Wolf; Styled by Vanessa Seder

Red Rock looks unassuming from the outside—it could be a mild yellow cheddar, or maybe some kind of rectangular Stilton—but cracking it open reveals a tangerine-colored dream. The cheese certainly earns its name: Its achingly deep orange hue is a result of twice the usual amount of annatto used to color many cheddars and goudas.

After a decades-long break from cheesemaking following the closure of his family’s commercial cheddar business, Chris Roelli caught the artisanal bug and unveiled Roelli’s Cheese Haus in 2006. He now churns out over 220,000 pounds of cheese a year, proudly carrying the legacy his great grandfather Adolph established as a Swiss immigrant to Wisconsin’s Lafayette County in the 1920s. Chris represents the fourth generation of Roelli cheesemakers, and is a certified Master of cheddar, blue, and Alpine-style cheeses.

Red Rock is one of the cheeses that’s garnered Chris his gilded reputation, having won Best in Class at the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. It’s a compact thing—a rectangular cube roughly 3 square inches by 10—coated in a natural mold rind that merely hints at its eccentric interior.

The brilliant paste is pierced sporadically by dark blue veins, reminiscent of tigerskin.

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Relatively mild as cheddars go, the occasional blueing adds punches of green peppercorn, pistachio biscotti, and rain-wet soil.

Margaret Leahy

Margaret Leahy is a Contributing Editor at culture.

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