Chris Roelli, Roelli Cheese

What distinguishes  Chris  from other Cheesemakers, is his strong determination and knowledge, patience and attention to detail. Chris can walk into the make room, and just by the smell of the cheese cooking in the vat tell you what the humidity levels are outside. He can tell you what the cows ate that day. He can slide a hand into the vat, swipe the milky curds from its side and sense the temperature, turn things up a little or down a little accordingly. These are the things you just can't duplicate with machines and computers in large-scale factories.

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Chris Roelli is a fourth-generation cheese maker, with mentors Dave Roelli (Chris' Dad) and Willi Lehner at his side.  The Roellis made a name for themselves producing quality cheddar and selling it alongside other locally produced brands out of their retail shop on Highway 11 in Shullsburg.  Chris grew up helping his dad and grandpa at the plant and got his cheese maker's license the summer after high school. He took the UW-Madison short course in cheese making in 1989 and secured a business degree from Madison Business College in May 1991. In that same month, Chris' dad announced profit margins were impossibly low, and their cheese making needed to come to an end.  Throughout the 1990s, Chris dreamed about how things could changeā€¦and they did.

Chris started pushing the other four partners in the family business (his dad, two uncles, and a cousin) to get back into cheese making. They still had the retail store, still had the name in the cheese business, still had the infrastructure-but this time they'd give specialty cheese a try, which required a major structural overhaul. The DBIC gave the Roelli family a grant and "an awful lot of professional expertise," retrofitting the old commodity cheese plant, which now produces eleven times less in volume as an artisan facility today. With the new fit, the Roellis double production every year, and they have since 2006.

Roelli's crown jewel is his Dunbarton Blue, a shelf-cured, cellar-aged cheddar-based blue cheese wheel of amazing flavor. Inspired by Chris' love of English Cheddars and a vision of where artisan cheeses were going, Chris worked with Willi on his first batch of Dunbarton Blue and aged it in Willi's cave.  Chris says he will not sell Dunbarton Blue to anyone who's going to vacuum seal it in plastic - it's got to be cut off the wheel or else I won't market it.  And we are proud to be the exclusive retailer of Chris' cheese in Door County.  The Penicillium Roquforti culture used in Dunbarton Blue is the "Midwest" version which is gluten free because it is grown on a liquid base rather than a bread base.

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Videos

Watch this video to see why we are "crazy" about Dunbarton Blue.

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