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Put Benoit Cheese Haus & Tetzner’s Dairy on Your Wisconsin Itinerary

Driving in the Ashland/Washburn area, plan two stops for a true taste of Wisconsin with regional cheese at Benoit Cheese Haus and couldn’t-be-fresher ice cream and milk at Tetzner’s Dairy and its self-serve store. 

Smiles & Samples at Benoit Cheese

bc bbOne of the pleasures of stopping at Benoit Cheese Haus, 12 miles west of Ashland, is getting to sample cheeses you’ve never had – and may have never heard of – before. Another pleasure: the big smiles that greet you when you walk in the door.

More than 150 different cheeses are sold at the modest-sized specialty store whose tongue-in-cheek motto is “We cut the cheese.”

There’s no joking about the quality of the cheese. “We support 30 to 35 Wisconsin cheese makers, and we carry the cream of their crop,” says owner Jill Jones. “A lot of them have wheels or loaves of cheese, and we cut those in the back so you can sample and get it cut to size.”

On my visit in August, I came away with two new favorites that I suspect are as new to you as they were to me. Marieke Gouda brand’s foenegreek gouda comes from Penterman Farm in Thorp, Wisconsin, where cheese maker Marieke Penterman, originally from the Netherlands, has won multiple prestigious awards. Foenegreek is a seed, and the cheese has a nutty flavor with hints of maple. This outstanding cheese, best savored with a good wine, sells for $14.50 a pound.

Another of my choices is the Sartori brand Citrus Ginger BellaVitano ($13.95 a pound). To Jill, it’s a cross between parmesan and asiago, “with a touch of fine cheddar and a creamy, almost buttery finish with the wonderful ginger and citrus.” I second that.

Even those who crave spicy cheese can find happiness here, with a range in “heat” from the mild and popular buffalo to chipotle havarti, jalapeno cheddar, pepper jack, habanero jack or, the hottest, ghost pepper.

The store has been around since 1973, and for many years served as a sort of a co-op for dairy farmers. Jill bought the business two years ago after working there for nine years. “With the knowledge I had of Wisconsin cheese, and especially with the tourism in Ashland, I thought it would be great to have that little cheese shop.”

She grew up “cheesy.” Her grandfather was a cheese maker when Jill was growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Benoit Cheese is stacked with shelf after shelf of packaged cheeses in refrigerated cases. It also sells a few other groceries and locally made products such as honey, jams, soaps, wine and souvenirs. All of that helps serve the local folk as well as the visitors.

“We’re a small little town way out in the country,” Jill says. “There was a gas station and it closed, so we try to carry some of the products so that people don’t have to drive all the way into Ashland to buy their milk.”

The shop’s styles and prices range from $4.35 a pound for a mild Wisconsin Colby to almost $80 a pound for a 19-year-old cheddar. The age, quality of the cheese and the cheese maker can affect the price, Jill says.

The store offers made-to-order gift boxes and can ship throughout the United States. The guest book shows cheese fans have visited from as far as Colorado, South Carolina and Europe.