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American Cheesemakers Embrace Affinage

Murray’s Cheese and Wegmans are winners at annual American Cheese Society competition
Photograph: Shutterstock

U.S.-based cheesemakers are increasingly adopting the European practice of affinage—the process of aging cheeses in temperature- and humidity-regulated caves—finds the American Cheese Society.

Both the first- and second-place Best of Show winners at the recent 2019 American Cheese Society (ACS) Judging and Competition in Richmond, Va., represented partnerships between cheesemakers and affineurs.

First-place Best of Show went to Stockinghall from The Kroger Co.'s New York-based Murray’s Cheese subsidiary. Wegmans Food Markets nabbed the second spot with its Professor's Brie. The third-place Best of Show was awarded to Aries from Shooting Star Creamery in California. Winners were selected from among 1,742 entries.

Both Murray’s and Rochester, N.Y-based Wegmans’ cheeses were created through cheesemaker/affineur collaborations with New York’s Old Chatham Creamery. Stockinghall was produced by Old Chatham Creamery then given to Murray’s Cheese to age in its Long Island City caves, while Professor’s Brie was aged in Wegmans Food Markets’ caves in Rochester, N.Y.

“We worked with Old Chatham Creamery for several years to make Stockinghall, which is their only cheddar,” said Josh Windsor, affineur for Murray’s Cheese, said in a release. “Aged cheddars are finicky and hard to produce. This cheese was truly a labor of love.”

“It has been a wonderful experience to work with our team to create our cheese caves in Rochester and work with cheesemakers on unique cheeses for Wegmans,” said Cathy Gaffney, VP for Wegmans Food Markets and ACS board president. “Professor’s Brie was named in honor of Dave Galton, owner of Old Chatham, and my former professor at Cornell University. This award is proof that this model of production can create phenomenal American artisan cheese.”

Growing from just 89 entries 35 years ago, the ACS Judging and Competition this year welcomed cheeses and cultured dairy products from 257 companies. Competing entries represented 35 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces, Mexico and Brazil. ACS awarded a total of 433 awards, including 139 gold medals, 143 silver medals and 151 bronze medals.

“It’s an exciting year for American cheese,” said Nora Weiser, ACS executive director. “We have new producers, new production models and fresh new faces that are pushing the envelope and expanding creativity and collaboration within American artisan cheese.”

 Third-place winner Aries was created by 15-year-old cheese industry newcomer Avery Jones. “The daughter of Reggie Jones of Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, Calif., she is part of a new generation driving excellence and innovation in the American artisan cheese industry,” said the ACS. 

A list of this year’s winners and judges can be found here.

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