Artisan & Specialty Cheese

Cow Grazing on a Dairy Farm

The Artisan Cheese Exchange has partnered with the finest cheese makers from around the United States to bring together an assortment of the most delicious, high-quality artisan, organic, farmstead and specialty cheeses. Our cheeses represent the best of the best; the cheesemakers and their superb cheeses consistently win awards at competitions around the world.

True artisan and specialty cheeses are made in small quantities, not mass-produced. The artisan cheese maker chooses the freshest milk and finest ingredients to create unique cheeses full of character and flavor. Because many of our cheeses are made by hand, no two cheeses are identical. Much of the milk comes from pasture-fed cows. Daily variations in the weather, soil and grazing conditions add to the delicious subtleties found in each vat.

The Artisan and Specialty Cheese category can be broken into sub-categories. These sub-categories help define the characteristics of the cheese.

Specialty Cheese

Soft Cheeses

Specialty cheeses are produced in limited quantities and are typically well-aged, full-flavored, or unique in some way. Special packaging for snack cheeses and convenient forms of sliced, shredded and grated cheese are value-added components sometimes associated with specialty cheese.

The Artisan Cheese Exchange’s collection of “Select Classics” offers high-quality, select specialty cheeses. These cheeses include Mild Cheddar, Mature Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Provolone, Baby Swiss, American Swiss, String Cheese, Mozzarella and Colby.

American Originals

The term “American Originals” refers to cheeses that originated in the United States, or European-style cheeses that have been uniquely crafted and named by American cheesemakers. Hundreds of American Originals are produced all over the United States.

One of the most famous American Originals is Ig Vella’s “Dry Jack”. It is a handcrafted cheese made by the “godfather” of the American Artisan Cheese movement, Ig Vella. Each wheel is handmade and rubbed with an oil, cocoa and pepper rub. The wheels are then aged for a minimum of nine months.

Carr Valley

Artisan Cheese

The word “artisan” implies that a cheese is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, with particular attention paid to the tradition of the cheese maker’s art. Artisan cheeses typically require special aging or curing techniques and may include various flavorings.

Rogue Creamery’s “Smokey Blue” is a true artisan cheese. It is a handcrafted blue cheese with a uniquely sweet, smoky flavor created by smoking Rogue Creamery’s “Oregon Blue” cheese over hazelnut shells.

Farmstead Cheese

Farmstead cheeses are made with milk from the farmer’s own herd or flock on the farm where the animals are raised. Farmstead cheeses may include various flavorings. One such farmstead cheese is Upland Dairy’s “Pleasant Ridge Reserve”. It is a delicious deep, complex, handcrafted aged cheese using “Old World” techniques. The cheese is made only during the grazing season when cows graze on lush pastures from spring to fall.

U.S. Cheese Traditions

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and its cheese traditions started with its first settlers. Early in the 1600s, almost 200 years before there was a United States, European settlers landed in the “New World.” One of the luxuries they brought with them was cheese, a treasured food that they knew would survive a long ocean journey and would not be immediately available in their new homeland.


For several centuries to follow, people from all over Europe continued to migrate to the United States, including the English, Italian, French, Swiss, German, Dutch, Scandinavians and others. They brought with them a taste for the traditional foods of their homeland, including cheese. Finding rich soil and grasses that reminded them of the mother country, these immigrants quickly began to settle down and farm the land. As they grew grains for their bread and grazed cattle on the lush grasses, fresh milk, cream and butter became available to them.

In addition to a desire for cheese, many immigrants also had the expertise to make it using centuries-old family recipes and traditional methods. They produced cheeses similar to the ones their ancestors had enjoyed in Europe, such as cheddar, gouda, provolone and swiss. Together, they created a melting pot of cheeses for Americans to enjoy. An industry was quickly born, starting a long tradition of cheese making in the United States that continues today.

How Do Americans Eat Cheese?

The vast majority of cheese in the United States is used as an ingredient or component in prepared foods and recipes. That is true at home and when dining out. Cheese is a key ingredient in dishes at breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Some of the most popular ways Americans use cheese at home include:

  • Omelets and eggs
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Snacks and appetizers
  • Cheese breads
  • Sandwiches
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Wraps
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Desserts

The Cheese Course

Specialty cheese courses are emerging as a growing trend in upscale U.S. restaurants. A cheese course usually consists of four or five unique and flavorful cheeses to sample. The cheeses usually vary in the type of milk and firmness of body. They are artfully arranged on a platter and paired with their appropriate accompaniments such as fruits, nuts, crackers/breads and condiments. A cheese course can also include samplings of wines and beers that pair well with the individual cheeses.