WEST PAWLET, Vt. — A small creamery in West Pawlet, Vermont is turning heads and igniting taste buds with award-winning cheeses made on their Civil War-era farm.

On Jan. 19, Consider Bardwell Farm, an animal welfare certified raw-milk creamery, received word that its 12-month-old Rupert — a type of alpine swiss cheese — had won the Northeast Region Cheese Award from the Good Food Awards. The national nonprofit Good Food Awards consider the quality and taste of the product as well as the sustainability of the producer before recognizing the best foods and beverages in the country by region.

“This is one of the best awards we’ve ever won,” said creamery manager and resident cheese queen Leslie Goff. “All this hard work that we’re doing, the farmers, the creamery, this makes it worth it. All those long, hard days actually pay off.”

The selected cheese had to be one of the best in America, co-owner Angela Miller said.

“This is better than any gold medal,” Miller said. “It’s a combination of excellent food and excellent environment. It’s making a perfect cheese.”

Goff said Rupert is a cheese well deserving of stardom.

“Rupert is a super unique cheese,” Goff said. “The longer it ages, the more butterscotch, savory, umami notes you get out of that cheese. It’s really appealing because of how sweet it is and the texture of it.”

“It’s almost like a candy when you eat it,” Miller said. “It’s perfect melted, with mac and cheese or with apple pie.”

The award came as a surprise and a thrill for the raw-milk creamery, one of more than 50 creameries in the Green Mountain State alone.

“The competition is super stiff in Vermont,” Goff said.

The farm won its first awards in 2007 from the American Cheese Society — a silver medal for its Manchester cheese — and bronze medal for its Dorset. This year alone, Consider Bardwell won 10 awards for its cheeses from the Big E, Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, The Good Food Awards, and the U.S. Cheese Championships (bronze for its blue cheese).

Consider Bardwell is pushing out more cheese every year, producing 115,000 pounds in 2017.

Miller and her husband Rust Glover started setting up the creamery in 2003 and were licensed in 2004. While in the process of purchasing the West Pawlet farm in 2000, the owners discovered its notable history.

“I found out that this is the first cheese-making cooperative in Vermont during the Civil War in 1863,” Miller said.

The farm started off with just six Swiss Alpine goats, and quickly began to expand.

“We made about $9,000 in the first year,” Angela said. “At that time, we were milking 25 goats. To say we didn’t know what we were doing is an understatement.”

Consider Bardwell got started by selling their cheese at farmers markets and to restaurants in New York City. Today, the creamery houses and milks 150 Swiss Alpine, French Alpine, and Nubian goats to make their raw milk cheeses. The creamery employs 15 people, 11 of them women.

The creamery’s cheese can be found in 18 of the 66 farmers markets in New York City and in more than 1,000 stores across the country including Wegmans, and Whole Foods. It is also featured annually as part of the Washington County Cheese Tour.

Consider Bardwell also partners with Larson Farm in Wells, Browe Farm in West Pawlet, and Brooks Farm in West Pawlet for their raw cow milk supply. The farm is committed to ethical animal husbandry and promoting local raw-milk dairy.

“You get more natural flavors from raw-milk cheese,” Leslie said. “We’re not having to add stuff to the vats to add flavor.”

Goff said the cheeses are aged in five caves on the farm for anywhere between 60 days and 14 months.

“Dorset is smaller, aged for two months,” Miller said. “Rupert is bigger, so it’s aged longer.”

Making high-quality cheese is no simple task, but the crew at Consider Bardwell are passionate about their animals and proud of their product.

“It is not an easy job,” Goff said. “It’s super stressful at times in the year. The recognition makes it all worthwhile.”

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