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Best Cheeses 2022: Cow’s Milk

Photo by Nina Gallant | Styled by Kendra Smith

WHITNEY (pictured above)
Jasper Hill Farm | Greensboro, Vt.

Made with the raw milk of Jasper Hill’s grass-fed herd, ACS First Place Best of Show winner Whitney leverages Jura-mountain inspiration into something uniquely Vermont. Its tacky pink exterior contains a pliant, milky white paste redolent of juicy fruit and gummy candy. She’s a stinker, perhaps best enjoyed molten-lava hot at your next winter soirée.

Grafton Village Cheese Company
| Brattleboro, Vt.

There’s stiff competition in ACS’s clothbound cheddar category, so Grafton’s first-place win is nothing to sneeze at. Seven months of aging in cheesecloth give these wheels their mottled gray rind, grassy golden paste, and deep flavors of forest floor and salted nuts. Crumbly, faintly citric, and exquisitely balanced, this might just be the perfect table cheese.

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company | Nicasio, Calif.

The Lafranchi family built Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in California in 2010 with the goal of honoring their hometown of Maggia, Switzerland. In ACS First Place winner Formagella, they’ve brought their two worlds together beautifully—pudgy at the center and silken at the rind, this cheese spills forth with notes of hay and malt, needing little more than a piece of sourdough to catch it.

Jasper Hill Farm | Greensboro, Vt.

Can the written word evoke the ethereal experience of sitting before a wheel of this multi-award-winner? You cut back a lid of rind, taking care not to disturb the dusty bark wrap, revealing a vanilla-pudding interior to impressed friends. You tell them cows graze at the feet of the spruce trees from which the bark is harvested, but no one is listening—thick richness is coating their mouths, flavors of pine and earth have transported them. They are lying on the Greensboro forest floor, carried away by the portal that is Harbison.

Hofkäserei Kraus | Bavaria, Germany

The narrative is half the pleasure in consuming an Alpine cheese: Cows leave their valley homes in spring in search of vibrant meadows and neon patches of wildflower, then are welcomed back with flower crowns and harvest parades. In NYICC Double Gold winner Alp Blossom, cheesemaker Albert Kraus has created a true embodiment of these origins. Flower petals coat the washed rind of this raw-milk, cooked-curd cheese, imbued inside and out with taste of place.

Rogue Creamery | Central Point, Ore.

Aged an average of two years, Rogue’s Good Food Award-winning Jefferson provides the best of both cheddar worlds: crunchy and crumbly in your hand, buttercream in your mouth. Once there, this Northwest-style block cheddar hits you with salted peanuts, pineapple, and lawnmower on the palate, making it a suitable partner for whatever you’ve got on your board. 

Uplands Cheese Company | Dodgeville, Wis.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve is one of the most awarded cheeses in American artisan history—an impressive feat the first time that phrase was uttered over a decade ago, made all the more impressive by how long Andy Hatch’s team has managed to keep it up. Still made with raw milk only during summer months when cows are on fresh pasture, Pleasant Ridge Reserve’s brine-washed rind is a welcome sight for sore eyes on any cheese plate. We hope it never changes.

Sweet Grass Dairy | Thomasville, Ga.

Winner of a Good Food Award and WCA Gold, Griffin is further proof of Sweet Grass Dairy’s ascendant cheesemaking prowess. To make it, they start with the blueprint of a French farmhouse cheese, then wash the raw-milk curds in Terminus Porter from neighboring Gate City Brewing Company. The resulting wheels have an earthy rind, rich yellow paste, and flavors of malt and hops, perfect for nibbling beside a beer or melting on burgers.

The Grey Barn and Farm | Chilmark, Mass.

If you long to be on Martha’s Vineyard but can’t quite figure out how a ferry works, this multi-award winner is the cheese for you. Crafted with the pasteurized milk of cows that munch the island’s saltwater-lashed grasses and washed in a briny bath, Prufrock exudes coastal glam. Technique from Normandy and Ireland collides with American ingenuity for a sticky orange block that tastes like tropical fruit and sour cream when young, and meaty jerky when ripe.

The boldness of Prufrock begs for something strong to stand beside it. Deepen its mystery with spicy chutney or onion relish and wash it all down with the yeasted peppery profile of a Belgian farmhouse ale.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company | Point Reyes Station, Calif.

Dubbed one of the World’s Top 20 cheeses at the WCCC, this flavored riff on Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s endlessly riff-able Toma is one of their best. Dried Umbrian black truffles create an earthy underbelly in this lactic cow’s milk cheese, which has surprisingly sweet notes of creamy cocoa and wild strawberries.

Trethowan’s Dairy Ltd. | Weston-super-Mare, UK

Maugan and Todd Trethowan learned the Caerphilly ropes from the last in a long line of Somerset makers, but that didn’t stop them from innovating on the theme. To coax flavors of lemon rind and wild mushroom out of their WCA and ICDA trophy-bearing wheels, they use raw organic cow’s milk and push the age weeks (sometimes even months) beyond standard. The resulting paste crumbles to a knife and melts on your tongue.

Beehive Cheese Company
| Uintah, Utah

Like all of Beehive’s cheeses, this WCA Super Gold winner begins with their Irish-style cheddar, Promontory, made with pasteurized Jersey cow’s milk. For Queen Bee Porcini, foraged fungi are ground to a powder and rubbed onto the wheels. After two to three months of age, the creamy base takes on an earthy umami finish that’s perfect for a winter grilled cheese.

Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese | Fish Creek, Australia

Master cheesemaker Barry Charlton crafts a number of blue cheeses at his down-under creamery. His large-format Oak Blue, named for the massive trees around Mossvale Park near the creamery entrance, earned him two WCA trophies and an ICDA Gold medal. Modeled after Italian Gorgonzola, the vegetarian-rennet wheels are aged three months and rippled through with extensive veining.

Savencia Fromage & Dairy Fromagerie Berthaut | Époisses, France

Robert and Simone Berthaut brought Epoisses back from the brink of near-extinction in 1975, so it’s only fitting that their take on this classic French washed rind won WCA Super Gold. They make Napoleon’s favorite cheese with milk from 30 Côte d’Or farmers who raise Brune, Simmental, and Montbéliarde cows, and wash their wheels in Marc de Bourgogne brandy to achieve the instantly recognizable wrinkled salmon rind and equally unmistakable aroma.

Long Clawson Dairy | Long Clawson, UK

A deep pumpkin orange is shot through with electric blue in this ICDA champion cheese from farming cooperative Long Clawson, founded in 1911. Combining the best of both cheddar and blue cheeses, we can’t think of anything better to have alongside a beer and the game.

Käserei Champignon
| Lauben, Germany

Even for a double cream blue, this WCCC Best of Class and ICDA Gold-winning cheese’s decadence takes you by surprise. What little veining is present evokes blue velvet, while the surrounding paste smacks of pure cream cheese.

When paired with sulfured dry apricots and buckwheat honey, a third taste is created that’s somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Savor it as long as you can, then slake your thirst with something sweet and lively like Amontillado sherry or Barolo Chinato (or Ethiopian Tej, if you want to branch out).

Roelli Cheese Haus
| Shullsburg, Wis.

A true American original, Red Rock combines annatto and blue veining with a natural, dank bloomy rind for a flavor experience evocative of its namesake caves. The result of a creamery accident, the Roelli family’s original recipe is now considered Best of Class and ranked in the Top 20 at the WCCC.

Klondike Cheese Company | Monroe, Wis.

Named for a hero’s journey, Klondike’s Odyssey feta traveled a long way to get to its current WCCC Best of Class and ACS First Place status. Its makers, the Buholzer family, emigrated from Switzerland to Wisconsin a century ago. Today, six Buholzer master cheesemakers craft a moist yet firm and faintly chewy cow’s milk feta with a tangy bite and malty finish.

Gourmino AG | Emmental, Switzerland

One bite of this consummate Alpine and WCCC World Champion’s fudgy paste and you’re carried away to a moody mountain hut, where the scent of simmering sweet cream and roasted nuts fills the air. To make it, area farmers deliver raw milk to a dairy first built in 1847. There, it’s transformed into wheels that are then aged on boards of wood from the Kander Valley Forest in bunkers at the foot of the Blüemlisalp massif, where glacier-fed springs provide ideal humidity.

Though this cheese needs no accompaniment, it never hurts to have a loaf of sourdough, some cornichons, and a whole-grain mustard nearby—bonus points if you can incorporate fried potato into the mix. Tired of the classics? We also love it with fruit snacks.

Linni Kral

Linni Kral is a writer, editor, activist, and friend living in Brooklyn, with past lives in Boston, L.A., and Chicago. Her writing has been featured in the Atlantic & Atlas Obscura, among others. She’s happiest in the company of cows, books, and groceries.

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