10 American Cheeses That Might Change Your Life

Crazy about brie and Parmigiano-Reggiano and gouda? Us, too. But, the age of European fromage hegemony is history. The Old World may have written the great Cheese Canon, but American cheesemakers are dreaming up and creating cheese masterpieces delicious enough to rival any dairy across the Atlantic.
"American cheesemakers are not bound to traditions, limited to recipes strictly defined by the AOC, etc.," says Max McCalman, who became America's first Maître Fromager when he started the renowned cheese program at Picholine Restaurant in New York and is now a cheese educator and author.
The Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), "controlled designation of origin," is the French certification that renders cheeses — and meats and wine — legit. Spain and Italy have similar name-protection protocols. So, for Roquefort to be Roquefort, it must be made with the milk of a specific breed of sheep and be aged in the Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. This is a wonderful tool to guarantee quality and consistency, but the price is innovation.
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Our lack of strict cheese regulations "frees the American cheese producers to develop new recipes and create new and unique cheeses," says Max. "This is where the excitement is occurring in the cheese world today, right here within our shores."
Here’s 10 cheesy wonders of the U.S.A. to get your hands on as fast as possible:
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Photo: Courtesy of Jasper Hill Farm.
Cellars at Jasper Hill Harbison, Greensboro, Vermont

This bundle of oozy, runny bliss is wrapped in spruce bark from the nearby forest and best enjoyed right out of the package with a spoon or poked at and scooped up with shards of cracker or crusty bread. Open it up, and you have an instant party. The flavor is floral, subtle, and tangy, and the spruce imparts magical notes of fall woods. Amazing with a dry rose or a fizzy cava.
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Photo: Courtesy of Uplands Cheese.
Uplands Cheese Company Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Dodgeville, Wisconsin

The talented cheesemaker Mike Gingrich makes this smooth, firm cheese from the raw milk of his 150-cow herd only during the summer months, when the cows can graze on the lush pastures and the cheese takes on a fruity, olive-y, addictive depth. It's aged four to six months or up to 15 months for the “extra aged” batches. It’s a full-flavored, utterly scrumptious award-winner, reminiscent of gruyere. Step up your mac n’ cheese, or serve this with crusty bread, fall apples, and cold cider.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rogue Valley Creamery.
Rogue Valley Creamery Smokey Blue, Central Point, Oregon

Smokey Blue is proof Americans can be cheese geniuses. From David Gremmels and his team of blue gurus in Oregon, this raw milk wheel is cold smoked for 16 hours over local hazelnut shells. I can't even start to tell you what a brilliant idea this is. The result: sweet and smokey nuttiness that balances a sharp, blue bite. A great cheese for burgers or salads (think arugula and prosciutto), or a snack with a voluptuous zinfandel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jasper Hill Farm.
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Gerrnsboro, Vermont

This cheddar is English-inspired but all-American. The 40-pound wheels are carefully bandaged in layers of cloth and aged for about a year in the Cellars at Jasper Hill to coax out a symphony of sharp, toasty, nutty, caramely sweet flavors. This is a cheddar to make other cheddars embarassed. It's firm and a bit crumbly. Makes a killer grilled cheese, especially with a few slivers of apple or slices of bacon.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cypress Grove Chèvre.
Cypress Grove Chèvre Humboldt Fog, California

This American beauty gets its name from Humboldt County's thick morning fog. Mary Keens has been making her goat cheeses since the 1980s, and helped launch the American artisanal cheesemaking revolution. A bite of clean, lemony, lactic goodness will reveal why; Humboldt Fog grows earthier and mustier with age. Its pillowy rind reveals bright white, smooth paste, bisected with a thin slash of black vegetable ash. In other words: It’s so pretty! It has the lusciousness of ice cream and is wildly addictive. Make a killer cheese plate with a drizzle of honey, some grainy bread, and a crisp white wine, or dress up a salad with this goat splendor.
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Photo: Courtesy of Spring Brook Farm.
Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise, Reading, Vermont

Inspired by the beloved alpine cheese Abondance, Tarentaise is crafted from the raw milk of organic grass-fed cows. Curds are cut by hand with a harp, then aged in the farm's caves where they're lovingly rubbed and flipped and nurtured for 10 months. The result is a big-flavored, complex beauty, redolent with notes of toasted hazelnut, ripe fruit, and buttered toast (Yum!). Cheese profits go to support a bigger project, the Farms for City Kids Foundation, and the farm doubles as an educational center. Tarentaise pairs beautifully with a juicy Pinot Noir, as well as marcona almonds and dried fruit.
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Photo: Courtesy of Landaff Cremery.
Landaff Creamery Landaff, Landaff, New Hampshire

Did you know New Hampshire has Welsh roots? Cheese maestro Doug Erb got inspired by the Welsh cheese Caerphilly, but Landaff is all his own, and perhaps even tastier. It’s made from the raw milk of Erb's herd of Holsteins, rucked away in the foothills of the White Mountains. His creation is hard yet milky and pliant, with complex sweet-tart flavors of creamy yogurt, fresh grass, and fragrant herbs. It will stand up to a peaty scotch or a hoppy IPA.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cowgirl Creamery.
Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, Point Reyes, California

In the 1990s, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith opened Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station, a picturesque postage-stamp-sized town on the Cali coast. Red Hawk was a wonderful accident. A few batches of their original cheese, Mt. Tam, became subjected to a natural strain of bacterium linens that moved down the coast of Marin in 2000. In an attempt at a solution, they washed the cheese with brine, but the brine only supported the grown of more (tasty!) b linens. Now, they repeat the process: The sumptuous triple cream gets washed to create a vibrant crimson-range rind, and the cheese is buttery-lush and just a bit beefy and pungent. Savor with a rich and lusty big Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Photo: Courtesy of Meadow Creek Dairy.
Meadow Creek Grayson, Galax, Virginia

Funk, yeah. This is a stinker. So meaty and pungent and good. Grayson's texture is custardy and sticky, its flavor hits in a wave of brawny, beefy fury. The wheels are lookers, too — handcrafted from the raw milk of an 80-head herd of Jersey cows, the bright orange washed rind reveals a setting-sun-yellow paste. Serve with a bright gewürztraminer and ripe pear, or top a burger with this luscious, smelly goodness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nettle Meadow.
Nettlw Meadow Kunick, Thurman, New York

This is made from 75% goat milk, 25% Jersey cow cream (that's the breed with the highest butterfat content in its milk), 84% butterfat, and 100% excessive decadence.

This triple creme from the Adirondacks is obscene in its buttery splendor, yet its tangy, goaty flavor keeps it fresh rather than cloying. Nettle Meadow Farm is home to more than 300 goats and dozens of sheep, and is also a sanctuary for retired and rescued farm animals. Serve this cheesecakey beauty with some (truffle!) honey and a bottle of rose or a crisp wheat beer, or for dessert with shards of darkest dark chocolate.
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