There are many reasons why Uplands Cheese is one of our favorite creameries. First, it makes Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which just happens to be the most awarded cheese in American history. It is the only cheese to have won the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show three times, and the only cheese to have ever won both that and the U.S. Cheese Championship.
But the people behind Uplands and their passion for raw milk cheese is what really makes them special. Uplands is run by two families in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin.
Andy and Caitlin Hatch run the cheesemaking operation and Scott and Liana Mericka operate the cow dairy. The two families purchased the farm and creamery from the original owners, ensuring the future of a 300-acre dairy farm where cows have been milked for over a hundred years.
They milk their cows seasonally and only make two cheeses, each one based on a recipe perfected to the ruminants’ dairy. Pleasant Ridge is an alpine-style cheese made with summer, grass-fed milk and aged for up to two years. Rush Creek Reserve, made in the fall, when the cows’ diet changes to hay and the milk is richer.
Like a fine wine, which can only be made with superior grapes, a great cheese is the output of high quality milk. And great milk comes from great pasture. We like to say that cheese is really the cow’s (and cheesemaker’s) expression of the dairy animal’s pasture, and the dairy animal itself.
Uplands has bred a special herd of dairy cows that thrive on the farm’s diverse range of grasses, legumes and herbs. The two combine to create a unique flavor of milk that can only be produced on that farm—it’s cheese’s version of terroir.
Why does raw matter? Because that’s the only way you can capture that terroir. Pasteurizing milk essentially creates a blank slate for a cheesemaker and allows a cheesemaker in Wisconsin to make the exact same cheese as a cheesemaker in Vermont. But raw milk captures the taste of a place and a time. A raw milk cheesemaker in Vermont can’t replicate the flavors of a raw milk cheese from Wisconsin. By definition, raw milk cheese is always a one-of-a kind product.
In Pleasant Ridge Reserve, that stereo sound produces a distinctive sweet, savory and salty flavor. Meanwhile, Rush Creek Reserve is a rich, ooey-gooey cult-like cheese only available six to eight weeks a year starting in November. Cheese+Provisiosn is the only store in Colorado to get an allotment of Rush Creek Reserve directly from Andy.