Swiss cheese named America's best, Marieke Gouda places 2nd, 3rd in contest

Daniel Higgins
Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY - The top cheese in the United States is a baby Swiss from Guggisberg Cheese in Ohio. The next two best cheeses come from Marieke Gouda in Thorp. So say the judges in the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

Neither cheesemaker is a stranger to taking the stage at this event. Guggisberg won the title in 2015, making it the third cheesemaker to win the title twice alongside Land O'Lakes (1981, 1993) and Sartori (2009, 2017). 

Meanwhile, Marieke has won or been among the top three cheeses during four of the last five contests. 

Richard Guggisberg, center, of Guggisberg Cheese in Ohio celebrates a first-place victory at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest with Kim Rabuck, left, and Marieke Penterman, right, of Marieke Gouda, which took second and third places, on Thursday at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.

Despite past success, both cheesemakers were humbled and excited. Marieke Penterman danced her way across the stage when called for second runner-up, then was equally enthusiastic when called for third runner-up. Richard Guggisberg simply said he was speechless.

While excited for the win, Penterman said she was dedicating these two awards to the dairy farmers who are struggling to make ends meet. Calling attention to the long bout of low milk prices. 

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Winners were announced in front of a crowd of about 500 guests at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, just a few minutes from Lambeau Field where all the judging took place the previous two days.

Guggisberg said he didn't expect this win but was proud of carrying on his father's tradition and wishes he could have been here to see this win. 

Richard Guggisberg, center, of Guggisberg Cheese in Ohio celebrates a first-place victory at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest with Kimberly Rabuck and Marieke Penterman of Wisconsin-based Marieke Gouda, which took second and third places, on March 7, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis. Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Of the 20 finalists in the running for the honor, 10 were Wisconsin-made, including defending champion Sartori (Plymouth). Marieke Gouda was the only other finalist from 2017 to make the top 20 this year. While claiming 10 spots in the finals is far more than cheesemakers from any other state, it is down from the 14 Wisconsin finalists in 2017.

More: 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest finalists

Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the 2019 competition, earning gold medals in 60 of the 116 contest classes and sweeping the gold, silver, and bronze medals in 25 classes. 

David Satterness of Chr. Hansen in South Dakota, pulls a sample of cheese Tuesday from an entry at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Returning to Lambeau Field for 2019, the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest is run by Madison-based Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and held biennially. Started in 1981, this was the 20th U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

It was a record year for entries with 2,555 coming from a record-breaking 35 states.

The addition of new categories and having 29 dairy manufacturers enter the contest for the first time helped set records, says John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. 

“Guggisberg Cheese has found a recipe for success with Swiss cheeses, and our distinguished judges were impressed with the quality of the company’s Baby Swiss entry this year,” Umhoefer said.

A team of 60 national judges hailing from 20 states considered each entry’s flavor, body and texture, salt, color, finish and appearance, scoring entries on a 100-point scale.

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