Contact: Jeanne Carpenter, 608-358-7837
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Cheese Originals today announces a stunning line-up of dairy farm and creamery tours for its annual festival, offering attendees the opportunity to tour some of the state’s finest artisan and farmstead creameries.
The Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival is set for Nov. 1 & 2 at the Monona Terrace in downtown Madison. The event draws 1,000 cheese lovers from around the country, all descending on Madison for a weekend of tours, seminars, dinners and the popular Meet the Cheesemaker Evening Gala.
Tickets for all events go on sale in September and sell out, so attendees should make plans now to attend. Each tour, set for Friday, Nov. 1, is limited to 20 people, allowing attendees to experience places most people never see, with time for personal conversations with cheesemakers at a casual pace. Tours return to Madison by 5 p.m. Tickets are $115.
• Classic Wisconsin Cheesemaker Tour
If this is your first trip to Wisconsin cheese country, this tour has your name written all over it. First stop: Roelli Cheese in Shullsburg, where fourth generation cheesemaker Chris Roelli crafts and ages a range of American Originals in his new aging cellars. After a tour and tasting, you’ll motor up the road to historic Hook’s Cheese in Mineral Point, where the husband and wife duo of Tony and Julie Hook have been crafting super-aged cheddars and original blues for decades. After lunch on historic Main Street, head to scenic Bleu Mont Dairy and visit Willi Lehner, Wisconsin’s off-the-grid rock star cheesemaker, and enjoy a personal tour of his one-of-a-kind, underground cheese aging cave.
• Exploring the Farmstead Goat and Sheep Dairies of Wisconsin
This tour highlights the best of Wisconsin’s famous Driftless region: a span of virgin land that glaciers never touched, leaving in tact Wisconsin’s wooded hills and lush deep valleys. You’ll start the day with a tour and tasting at charming Dreamfarm in Cross Plains, where cheesemaker Diana Murphy crafts fresh and aged goat’s milk cheeses using the milk of her pastured goats. After saying goodbye to Ollie the farm dog, motor west to Hidden Springs Creamery and visit cheesemaker Brenda Jensen’s farmstead creamery, home to a wide array of award-winning sheep’s milk cheeses. Enjoy lunch on the farm with a backdrop of Amish farm neighbors and wooden fences. Afterward, motor to nearby Nordic Creamery, nestled in the hills among Norwegian settled-farms in the heart of Vernon County for a tour and tasting of Al and Sarah Bekkum’s farmstead handcrafted butter, ice cream and artisan cheeses.
• From Oldest to Newest: The Best of Wisconsin Dairy
From one of the state’s oldest cheese plants to one of its newest, this tour showcases Wisconsin artisan dairy at its finest. Head east to the tiny hamlet of Theresa, where little has changed since Widmer’s Cheese Cellars set up shop in 1922. Meet Master Cheesemaker Joe Widmer for a personal tour of his family’s cheese plant and see the bricks he still uses to press the whey out of his award-winning Brick cheese. Then motor north to Wisconsin’s newest farmstead creamery: LaClare Farms, home to the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheese Evalon and cheesemaker Katie Hedrich. The Hedrichs have just finished building a new farmstead goat dairy and cheese factory in Pipe and can’t wait to show it off. Finally, cap the day with an ice cream cone and tour of farmstead Sassy Cow Creamery near Columbus, where the Baerwolf brothers bottle milk and make ice cream from the milk of their family herds.
Additional festival events include:
• Friday Evening Meet the Cheesemaker Gala: Shake hands and talk cheese with more than 40 cheesemakers and local food artisans, sample 200 original cheeses and artisan foods, enjoy butlered appetizers, and tap your toes to Point Five, an Americana acoustic band featuring Uplands Cheesemaker Andy Hatch. Afterward, purchase your favorites at the Metcalfe Marketplace booth and take home a piece of Wisconsin. Tickets: $34.
• Saturday Seminars: Author Laura Werlin will kick-off a day devoted to tasting and discussing “The Arrival of American Artisanal Cheese.” Attendees may purchase an all-day pass with admission to the morning keynote, luncheon with dessert cheese and chocolate pairing, afternoon tasting session discussing Wisconsin original cheeses vs. European traditional cheeses, and choice of afternoon cheese pairing seminars with beer or brandy. Tickets: $89. Seminars also available separately for purchase.
• Saturday Night Artisan Cheesemaker Dinners: Experience a culinary sensation at one of three original Madison restaurants: The Old Fashioned, Bunky’s and Delaney’s. Each chef partners with two Wisconsin cheesemakers and hosts a one-of-a-kind three-course dinner. You’ll join the featured cheesemakers in a private room for 30. Tickets: $65.
Tickets for all events go on sale to members of Wisconsin Cheese Originals on Sept. 9, with remaining tickets available to the public starting Sept. 16. Visit www.wicheesefest.com to learn more.
Wisconsin Cheese Originals wishes to thank all sponsors of the Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival, including marquee sponsor Emmi Roth USA; platinum sponsor Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; gold sponsors Sartori Foods and World Import Distributors; silver sponsors BelGioioso Cheese, Klondike Cheese and Organic Valley; bronze sponsors Arla Foods, Carr Valley Cheese, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Fromagination, Roelli Cheese, Saputo Specialty Cheese and Sugar Brook Farms; and supporting sponsors Hook’s Cheese Company and Widmer’s Cheese Cellars.
About Wisconsin Cheese Originals
Have Fun. Do Good. Eat Cheese. Wisconsin Cheese Originals shares information about Wisconsin artisan cheeses through a variety of educational and entertaining events, all in the spirit of celebrating Wisconsin cheesemakers. An annual $2,500 scholarship is available to a beginning cheesemaker to help launch new artisanal cheeses. www.wisconsincheeseoriginals.com