Wine and Cheese Pairing, Wisconsin-Style

RiverBendAtCheeseShopNo visit to Wisconsin is complete without tasting cheese. After all, fans of the Green Bay Packers are known as “Cheeseheads,” right?

In yesterday’s blog, we told you about our frustration in driving to the River Bend Winery and Distillery in Chippewa Falls, Wis., only to find that is was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

So, after substituting a stop at the Leinenkugel Brewery, we decided it was time to sample some of Wisconsin’s best-known product. At the urging of one of my cousins, who has lived in Wisconsin his entire life, we headed to Holland’s Family Cheese in the town of Thorp, home of Marieke Gouda.

The Marieke in that name is Marieke Penterman, who was born in the Netherlands and raised on her parents’ dairy farm, 60 cows strong. She would end up earning a college degree in Dairy Business and beginning a career as a farm inspector.

CheeseCaseMeanwhile, her future husband, Rolf, emigrated to Thorp and began a 360-cow dairy farm in 2002. A year later, Marieke joined him, got her Wisconsin cheese-making license and began working with a local cheesemaker. She then returned to her homeland where she received further training from two experienced cheesemakers.

Just four months after making her first batch of Gouda, Marieke earned a gold medal at the 2007 U.S. Champion Cheese Contest.

Locals and visitors have been flocking to Holland’s Family Cheese ever since. After perusing the refrigerated cases there, Michelle and I settled on the Young Gouda — a soft, creamy cheese that’s packed with flavor.

We also noticed that the cheese store carried a number of wines, including five from the River Bend Winery. We saw a bottle on a counter that was available for tasting but, alas, it was not from River Bend. It had become obvious that we were not destined to taste any of that estate’s wares on this trip. Perhaps another time.

WineBoardBut we did sample plenty of cheese, and were impressed by the consistency of quality. We also appreciated the “Wine & Cheese Pairings” chalkboard, which suggested the types of cheese one should try with dry wines, sweet wines, Riesling-style wines, apple wines and dessert wines. For anyone faced with supplying the beverages and food for a wine-and-cheese party, that chalkboard could be a God-send.

As we headed out and began the next leg of our journey through Wisconsin, I wanted to just chomp away on our wedge of Young Gouda, but Michelle told me we needed to buy some crackers or bread first.

That was okay, because a great dinner at a special restaurant in Green Bay awaited us.

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