Sometimes I think this is the best American cheese being made today. Like a European mountain cheese, it's fruity in an apple sort of way—rich, deep and sweet. It's great paired with slices of pear, cubed on salads or all by its lonesome. If I had my pick of the world's cheeses to enjoy, I'd come back to this one again and again.
Mike Gingrich and his partner bought their farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, in 1994, and they've been doing pretty much everything right ever since . . . at least by my traditionalist handbook.
Pleasant Ridge is a cheese made with only the milk of the farm's own mixed herd of 140 or so Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jerseys. Production is very small—about 6,000 wheels this year. They utilize a seasonal, open grazing system, which means all the milk used to make the Pleasant Ridge Reserve is taken when the cows are happy and content out in the open pasture. Happy cows make great tasting milk.
Since we've been working so closely with Mike we have the opportunity to select specific days of cheese, tasting from a series of different days of production to pick the most flavorful of the bunch to bring to Ann Arbor.
The wheels we receive are specially aged for us over 19 months—at least six months more than what you'll find almost anywhere else, hence the "Reserve". Currently the wheels we're cutting into are just over two years old, made in July 2011. They're very complex, greeting you with lush sweet fruity notes, ending with an ultra-long finish.