It shows the strength and popularity of the growing world of American craft cheese that not only are all of my top five new (to the Bay Area) cheeses of the year American, but I had a hard time choosing. Ten years ago I would have felt obligated to find one non-Euro cheese to mention. This year it's all American.
1. Nettle Meadow Kunik
From upstate New York, a ripened goat milk cheese made into a triple cream using Jersey cow milk. Jersey milk is the richest of all the cows and the Kunik is tangy, rich, refreshing, and fruity. Nettle Meadow Farm even runs an animal sanctuary on the premises. This is a cheese I didn't know I needed until I tried it. Now I think I'd cry if I couldn't get my hands on it.
2. Vintage Cheese Company Mountina
"An Alpine cheese from the mountains of ... Montana." I was absolutely skeptical of this cheese before I tried it. Sure, third-generation cheese makers, blah blah blah. I expected yet another pale imitation of a baby Swiss like Jarlsberg. But no, Vintage Cheese Company's Heap brothers went to the real source for inspiration. Not only is this cheese nutty and earthy like a real Emmenthal, this is better than most Emmenthal sold in the states. Big, unexpected flavor.