The dairy state is once again proving its cheese clout.

Wisconsin cheesemakers swept the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest held in Green Bay this week. Antigo-based Sartori Co. won the top prize for its Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano from cheesemaker Mike Matucheski, while two other Wisconsin cheeses — a cheddar and a Gouda — were first and second runners-up.

And Wisconsin dominated the 19th biennial contest. It accounted for about half of the 2,303 cheese, dairy and yogurt entries and Wisconsin cheeses racked up 58 gold medals in 101 categories.

Fifty judges — including 27 Wisconsinites — from 18 states judged cheeses based on flavor, body, texture, color, finish and packaging, said Rebekah Sweeney, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which hosts the competition.

At the last contest, there were 1,892 entries. This year, 33 states were represented. Following Wisconsin, states with the most entries ranked as New York, Vermont, California and Idaho.

Since the competition's start in 1981, Wisconsin cheeses have been named champion 14 times.

Jackie Renzetti is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.