The second time was a charm for Lacey Lamb, an exquisite cheese produced by Steve and Darlene Eckerman’s Phlox Farms.
The cheese captured a first place award in the 2018 World Champion Cheese Contest Wednesday in Madison. Competing in the hard sheep’s milk cheese, nine months or longer class, the Eckerman’s smooth and mellow cheese scored 99.20, well above the second place Spanish entry with 98.70.
The Eckermans were delighted with the win, which comes in only their second competition.
“We entered the U.S. Cheese Contest in 2017,” Darlene said, “and placed respectably.”
There were 25 entries in the class, including several from Spain, Croatia, and across Wisconsin.
Perennial powerhouse Sartori Cheese, which operates an acclaimed specialty plant in Antigo, walked away with two first place awards and three second place finishes.
The title of World Cheese Champion will be announced tonight.
The contest draws powerhouse cheese producers from across the globe, but perhaps few smaller that Phlox Farms and Lacey Lamb.
The third generation cheese maker is based at the Eckerman Sheep Company LLC off South Rollwood Road in the town of Norwood. And there are hopes that a fourth generation may soon be added, with the Eckerman’s son, Chris, recently earning his cheesemaker’s license.
The couple milks only a few dozen sheep, with the actual cheese-making process guided by Katie Fuhrmann at LaClare Farms in Malone.
“She is a world-renowned cheese-maker,” Steve said. “We supply the milk and developed the recipe, with her help.”
Lacey Lamb is a mix of sheep’s milk, cultures, enzymes and salt in precise proportions that blend to create what Darlene called a “smooth, mellow, Old Word flavor.”
She picked the actual wheel that went south for the competition.
“We told Katie to send up three wheels and we picked it from there,” she said.
Tiny does not begin to describe the size of the current cheese-making operation, with Eckermans 10,000 pounds of milk producing about 1,200 pounds of cheese annually.
“Other companies may do that in a few hours or days,” Steve said.
With the win, the couple said they hope to expand production and locate a distributor to sell the product. Right now it is only available at the farm and at LaClare Farms.
Mike Matucheski and Erin Radtke, both based at Sartori in Antigo, teamed to take five first or second place awards in the class judging.
The two won first place, with a score of 99.85, among hard mixed milk cheeses for the Sartori Limited Edition Pastorale Blend.
Individually, Matucheski took first and second place in open class: flavored cheeses with sweet or dessert condiments. His top performer was the Sartori Reserve Espresso BellaVitano, at 99.40 points, with the Sartori Reserve Merlot BellaVitano close behind at 99.35.
Matucheski also took second in open class: flavored hard cheeses with Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano, at 99.40 points. It was edged for first by a rosemary Asiago at 99.45 points made by Saputo Cheese in Milwaukee.
Radtke took a second, with 98.90 points, in the aged Asiago class for Sartori Reserve Extra-Aged Asiago.
Source: Antigo Daily Journal