by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - AHD owner/operators Paul Obringer, center, and sons Neil, left, and Hank Obringer.Oregon cheesemakers, including Ancient Heritage Dairy in Madras, received 20 awards, with seven first-place recognitions at the American Cheese Society's Annual Cheese Competition.

Ancient Heritage Dairy won a first-place award for its soft-ripened cheese “Valentine,” and a second-place award for its international-style, aged cheese “Hannah.”

Located on Agency Plains, Ancient Heritage Dairy is owned and operated by Paul Obringer and his sons Neil and Hank. It produces cheeses from sheep’s milk, and sheep-cow milk blends.

“ACS is the most prestigious cheese competition in America. It was exciting for us to do so well after our first year here in Madras,” said Paul Obringer.

The contest took place during the society's 30th annual conference, "In a Dairy State of Mind" held July 31-Aug. 4, in Madison, Wis.

Award winning cheesemakers included: Ancient Heritage Dairy, Briar Rose Creamery, Face Rock Creamery, Ochoa's Queseria, Quail Run Creamery, Rivers Edge Chevre, Rogue Creamery, Tillamook County Creamery Association and Willamette Valley Cheese.

It was no small task for the team of 37 judges, including food science professors, cheesemongers, retail cheese managers, and cheese experts, who smelled, felt, tasted, and analyzed 1,794 different products from 254 companies.

Oregon's cheesemakers are pretty special. "They are passionate and always looking for ways to improve their cheeses," said Lisbeth Goddik, Oregon State University Extension dairy processing specialist. "They pay close attention to details from animal welfare to the handling of cheeses during the affinage (fine art of ripening cheese)process."

Artisan cheese is a trend that is here to stay. More than 20 cheesemakers belong to the Oregon Cheese Guild which started with only seven members back in 2006. Oregon is a true model for food culture and cheesemaking.

"The climate is ideal for assuring optimum milk quality, because dairy animals thrive in Oregon," said Goddik. "As a result, Oregon continues to win a disproportionately large number of awards at both national and international cheese competitions."

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