CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — A Southern Oregon creamery was the cream of the crop at the 2019 World Cheese Awards in Italy.
Rogue River Blue, an artisan blue cheese made by Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Ore., was crowned the world’s best cheese by a panel of 260 judges from 25 countries at the annual competition Oct. 18.
David Gremmels, president of Rogue Creamery, created the recipe for the cheese in 2002, capturing regional flavors of the Rogue Valley. The milk comes from pasture-fed Holstein and Brown Swiss cows raised at the creamery’s own organic dairy, and the cheese is hand-wrapped in organic Syrah grape leaves from Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in nearby Jacksonville, Ore.
The grape leaves are also soaked in a pear liqueur made by Organic Alcohol Co. in Ashland, prior to wrapping each wheel of Rogue River Blue.
“The flavor of this cheese really captures the terroir of our valley,” Gremmels said. “It’s an expression of the milk, of our pastures, of the vines as well as the orchards.”
Gremmels said he was humbled and filled with gratitude for the global recognition. More than 3,800 cheeses from 41 countries were entered into this year’s World Cheese Awards, held in Bergamo, Italy, during the city’s FORME cheese festival.
Both Rogue River Blue and a 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy received perfect scores of 100 points from the judges. Nigel Barden, a food broadcaster and chairman of the judging panel, cast the deciding vote for Rogue River Blue. It is the first time a U.S. cheese has won the top award.
“This is a cheese made with passion by the entire team here at Rogue Creamery,” Gremmels said. “It’s worth every bit of work we put into the cheese.”
Rogue River Blue also received the award for best blue cheese at the 2003 World Cheese Awards in London. U.S. cheeses received 131 honors at this year’s competition, including 17 gold, 40 silver, 67 bronze and seven “super gold” medals.
Angelique Hollister, executive director of the USA Cheese Guild, said markets worldwide are discovering the quality of U.S. cheese.
“We put a concerted effort into raising the profile of U.S. cheese by telling our story,” Hollister said in a statement. “And the global community has embraced what sets us apart — our legacy of excellence, forged from experience, but unbound by tradition.”
Founded in 1933, Rogue Creamery produces 30 cheese varieties and is a vertically integrated operation. Gremmels said Rogue River Blue is “a new American original,” and the award is a validation of artisan U.S. cheeses everywhere.
“It’s really humbling, and I’m just so taken aback by such an honor,” he said. “It also represents history for American artisan cheese-making.”
Rogue River Blue can be found in fine cheese shops across the U.S. and around the globe. It is also available to buy online at www.roguecreamery.com.