Only recently, in the past 20 years or so, has the craft of American cheesemaking been able to compete with the Europeans. A revolution has occurred with major hotspots for cheese developing in California, Vermont, and elsewhere. The small state of Vermont hosts dozens of artisan cheesemakers. With so many great cheesemakers creating a huge variety of cheeses, it's impossible to say who's the best. This list only reflects some of my favorites.
01 of 10
Willow Smart creates some of the best cheeses you'll find anywhere. She has set the standard for what American artisan cheeses can be. Certified organic, Willow's cheeses are hand-crafted from sheep milk (East Friesians raised on the farm) and matured in an underground cave. Recommended styles: Alderbrook, Autumn Oak, Fernwood, Summertomme, Vermont Brebis. Check the Willow Hill site for shops that carry her cheese.
02 of 10
Laini Fondiller is the guru of goat cheese. Masterfully crafted, cheeses from Lazy Lady Farm rival anything from France. Available in markets and specialty stores in New England. Recommended: Les Pyramids, Capriola, La Petite Tomme, La Roche, Valencay.
03 of 10
Grafton Village Cheese makes cheddar. I mean really, really good cheddar. Aged from 1 to 6 years, Grafton cheddars are full of flavor and much more complex than typical store varieties. Cheddars aged 4 to 6 years have a drier, slightly crumbly texture with strong flavors. If you've never tried real artisan cheddars, Grafton is a good place to start. They set the standard. Available to buy directly from their website and at some national markets like Whole Foods.
04 of 10
David and Cindy Major raise about 180 sheep in Putney, Vermont. They make only one kind of cheese, Vermont Shepherd, but with an outstanding product like this, why make anything else. Vermont Shepherd is a semi-hard cheese that is wonderfully earthy and complex. Order online or check their website for a list of stores around the country that carry Vermont Shepherd.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Created in 1886, Shelburne Farms is nearly 400 acres of sustainably managed woodlands on the shores of Lake Champlain. Now a national historic landmark and education center, Shelburne Farms raises a herd of 125 purebred Brown Swiss cows that produce the milk for some of the best farmhouse cheddar in America. Available in ages from 6 months to 3 years, longer aged cheeses will be more robust and drier. Order online from their website.
06 of 10
One of the few American cheesemakers that attempt to make French-style soft cheeses like brie and camembert. Tom and Becky Loftus have succeeded in crafting cheeses that are simply amazing. You will be hard-pressed to find a better example of camembert outside of France. Available at selected stores in Vermont and surrounding states. Varieties include Vermont Brie, Camembert Vermont, Green Mountain Gruyere, Cookeville Grana, Jersey Blue.
07 of 10
Cheesemakers Marjorie Susman and Marion Pollack may have a small operation, but their cheese is huge, world-class in every way. Orb Weaver is a Colby-style cheese with a buttery color and creamy texture. A wonderful cheese that adds variety and depth to any cheeseboard, it's also great for fondue.
08 of 10
Using milk from over 20 family farms, Vermont Creamery makes both goat and cow dairy products. Varieties include Chevre, Feta, Creme Fraiche, Mascarpone, Quark, and yes, butter. To my mind, their goat cheese (chevre) is some of the best around (American or French). Creamy, yet firm with a great earthy, slightly sharp flavor, not at all goaty. Available in many cheese shops and markets or call 1-800-884-6287 for a retailer near you.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
The Boucher Family has lived in the New World for nearly 400 years. Today, some of them are making cheese for a living. Their French ancestors would be proud. The Vermont Blue Cheese is truly exceptional with a smooth, creamy texture and great depth of flavor. Other varieties include the Gore-Dawn-Zola (Gorgonzola-style) and Brother Laurent (French Muenster-style).
10 of 10
Three Shepherds is the home of America's youngest cheesemaker, Jackie Faillace. Her father, Glen, is her chief assistant. Mom, Linda, and siblings, Francis and Heather, also do their part. Made from raw cow's or sheep's milk and aged in their unique straw-bale cheese cave, these products are truly great examples of fine artisan cheeses. Varieties: Aurora, Vermont Brabander, Cosmos, Montagne.
Three Shepherds cheeses are only available at the Waitsfield Farmers Market on Saturdays from May to October and at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm market in November. 1-802-496-4559