Follow the Cheddar Brick Road
spots to visit on the great Southwestern Wisconsin Cheese Tour
Whether you’ve never visited a factory or your scrapbooks are weighed down with pictures of yourself in front of vats of curd, this unofficial trail of southwestern Wisconsin’s best factories and shops, which was compiled by Travel Wisconsin, is certainly worth a look.
1. Cedar Grove Cheese
Plain, Wis. — The first stop on our trail may be located in plain ol’ Plain, Wisconsin, but Cedar Grove Cheese is anything but. In December 1993, they were the first cheese factory in Wisconsin to be rBGH-free. Cedar Grove Cheese also has organic options, and their unique, artisan cheddar is made with other ingredients such as vegetables, tomato-basil, jalapeño, and garlic herb if you’re feeling adventurous.
2. Carr Valley Cheese Retail Store
Sauk City — The Carr Valley Cheese Company began in the late 1800s and remains a family-owned operation since little Ed Lepley started making cheese at a factory north of Viola. Sid Cook and his family, descendants of Lepley, maintain the traditional way of cheesemaking that put their original factory on the map. In their more than 100 years of operation, the Carr Valley Cheese Company has won multiple awards for their sweet vanilla cardona and cave aged mellage which can all be found in any one of their locations.
3. Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet
DeForest — In 1968, Ralph and Lucille Ehlenbach, a pair of cheese-loving siblings, purchased Fenlon’s House of Cheese in Deforest, Wisconsin, and turned the little cheese and gift shop into Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. Today, they make more than 400 different kinds of cheese, among them an extremely sharp cheddar that’s been aged for 15 years and an XXX habanero jack that will leave your mouth flaming! They also sell equally varied, handcrafted summer sausages that can either be bought separately or in gift boxes with cheese.
Madison — A southwestern Wisconsin cheese trail wouldn’t be complete without Fromagination. This shop is more modern and whimsical than the previous cheese shops and factories on this trail, but don’t worry, the cheese is just as delicious. Fromagination was founded in 2017 by Ken Monteleone who wanted to spread awareness of artisan cheese. They offer classes and tutorials on cheese platter building, beer/wine and cheese pairing, and cheese-making demonstrations by artisans from around the state.
5. Edelweiss Cheese Shop
New Glarus — Edelweiss Cheese Shop began with its own Edelweiss Creamery cheeses, then invited other local cheesemakers to share their products, giving shoppers 100 different cheeses to choose from. This classic, alpine cheese shop also sells locally brewed beers, award-winning sausages, as well as various “accoutrements” such as Dusseldorf mustard from Germany and chocolates from Switzerland. Bruce Workman, the master cheesemaker for Edelweiss Cheese Shop, has nine master diplomas for cheesemaking and his expertise is obvious in his signature emmentaler.
6. Emmi Roth Cheese USA
Monroe — Roth Cheese USA’s story begins in 1863 in Niederbipp, Switzerland. Oswald Roth, a licensed cheesemaker, started the O. Roth and Cie Cheese Company, and from there, his company grew and spread across Europe until his son, Otto, emigrated to New York City in 1911. With a son in the United States, Roth’s cheese company grew into a transcontinental business. Since then, O. Roth and Cie Cheese Company evolved into Roth Käse AG and finally Emmi Roth USA. Although their name has changed, their quality has not.
7. Roelli Cheese Company
Shullsburg — Dave Roelli, a cheesemaker from a family of Swiss cheesemakers, worked alongside his father and grandfather amid vats of curd and cream until 1991 when their cheddar factory closed. It seemed as though the Roelli family was out of the cheese business until 2006 when Dave’s son, Chris Roelli, reopened the small, artisan factory and focused on handcrafting small batches of perfectly made dunbarton blue. Three master certificates and multiple awards adorn the walls as suggestions if you feel overwhelmed by all the delicious choices.
8. Montchevre Goat Cheese
Darlington — Quite possibly the only cheese factory in southwestern Wisconsin devoted to traditional French cheesemaking rather than an Alpine approach, Montchevre is perfect for a splash of diversity. Montchevre began as a small cheddar factory in Preston, Wisconsin, but through the years, it has risen from obscurity to the leading goat cheese brand in the United States. If you’re a chef and little packages of heaven are inconvenient, Montchevre also offers a food service line of those same cheeses in bulk packaging without compromising quality.
9. Hook’s Cheese
Mineral Point — Hook’s Cheese is most famous for its washed curd Colby which won the 1982 World Championship for its unique, sweet taste. A washed curd is exactly what it sounds like because curds are washed in water to remove the starter bacteria from the surface, which cause the cheese to be acidic. Julie Hook, one of the cheesemakers, is also the first woman in the history of the World Championship Cheese Contest to win first place!
10. Meister Cheese Company
Muscoda — Just like their name suggests, the people at the Meister Cheese Company are masters of their craft. For more than 100 years, the Meister family has perfected the art of cheesemaking by combining ancient tradition with modern practices to create their world-class cheeses. Though it is the last place on this trail of remarkable artisan cheesemakers, factories, and shops, it is certainly not the least of them.
To learn about more stops on the Great Wisconsin Cheese Trail created by Travel Wisconsin, visit tinyurl.com/SWCheeseTour.