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Haystack wins 'Best American Cheese' award

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Photo submitted Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy's Gold Hill Cheese was recently named "Best American Cheese" in a global competition. Paonia residents James and Carol Schott own the family-owned company, which is located near Niwot.

Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy's Gold Hill Cheese was recently named the "Best American Cheese" at the 30th annual World Cheese Awards at Tobacco Dock in London.

Paonia farmer James Schott is the big cheese at Haystack Mountain. He founded the family-owned business near Niwot in 1990. In 2002, he and wife Carol purchased a small farm on Lamborn Mesa, where they planned to relocate the company. But the popularity of artisan cheeses surged and the company quickly grew too large for the small farm, said Schott.

In 2009 the Schotts moved to their farm to start a small goat dairy. They eventually sold their goats, and now grow lavender and raise chickens, sheep, and Scottish Highland cows at Lamborn Mesa Farmstead.

Gold Hill cheese, which the Schotts describe as a very flavorful pasteurized milk version of a Spanish-style raw milk hard cheese, was among some 3,000 cheeses judged at the day-long global competition. Haystack cheese maker Jackie Chang gets the credit for the awards, said Schott. She developed the recipe and is the one who suggested trying a pasteurized milk recipe.

Two other varieties, Funkmeister and Queso de Mano, also won gold medals in London.

Haystack produces about a dozen cheeses, which are sold throughout the U.S. City Market carries its Chevre goat's milk cheese. Each year Haystack enters cheeses in the World Cheese Awards competitions. It has won other awards over the years, said Schott, but this is the first time it won in the "Best American Cheese" category.

Over the years Haystack has also won numerous awards at the annual American Cheese Society conference and competition, which this year was held in Denver. The "Best American Cheese" award is a big deal for Haystack, said Schott. "To get the 'best of show' at the American Cheese Society would be the next big thing."

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