Just in time for the holidays, Sartori Company is releasing its Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano, Winner of The Super Gold (Best US Cheese) at the 2012 World Cheese Awards. Each wheel is hand-inspected and signed by one of the Master Cheesemakers at Sartori’s Antigo, Wisconsin Plant.
Created, made, and aged at least eighteen months by Master Cheesemakers at Sartori’s Antigo Plant, literally out in the middle of nowhere in Northern Wisconsin, Cognac BellaVitano is a special cheese, partially because Antigo is a special place. According to Sartori’s Owner, Jim Sartori, “Antigo is unique. The plant was originally the Antigo Brewery, established there because of the water, which is necessary to make beer. I’ve often wondered if the flora and the hops have continued to find life in the plant and that contributes to the unique flavors and quality of the world-class cheeses we make there. We have taken the same milk, the same recipes, and the same processes, and duplicated them in our other plants, but the finished cheeses just aren’t the same as they are when they are made at Antigo.”*
A few years back when I was still slinging cheese, I was introduced to BellaVitano Gold and fell in love with the nuttiness, creaminess and sweetness of this American Original. There just isn’t another cheese that you can compare to this one. It’s not an aged cheddar; it’s not a premium parmesan; but it has flavor notes of both. The recipe is closely guarded; I tried to get Master Cheesemaker, Mike Matucheski, to share it with me and he simply smiled with a twinkle in his eye.
Sartori takes its buttery, rich BellaVitano and steeps it in Remy Martin Cognac for at least seven days. The cognac becomes part of the edible rind and adds a smoky, oaky flavor to this cheese. If you’re going to start with one of your best cheeses, then you should finish it with one of the world’s best cognacs. Biting into this cheese is like swirling cognac in a sifter and inhaling its intoxicating aroma. It ends with a lingering caramel taste.
I served it with 34 Degree Natural Crispbreads, grapes, and dark chocolate with… wait for it…Remy Martin Cognac.
Cognac Bellavitano will be available in early December in time for the holidays at select specialty cheese shops and on the Sartori website. If your local cheesemonger has it, then you had better buy it…because when it’s gone, it’s gone, and you’ll be waiting another year to try it.
*From my 2012 interview with Jim Sartori. You can read my entire interview with Jim Sartori by clicking here.
If you’d like to learn more about the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, visit the website.
–Marcella Wright, ACS Certified Cheese Professional™