13th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival

A weekend long celebration brought together by a lively and friendly group of experts and presenters from the wonderful world of artisan cheese. The festival promotes broad awareness of the artisan cheese making community and enjoyment of its products. 

Laura McIntosh attended the 13th annual cheese festival to visit, taste, and support local cheese makers in Sonoma County. After numerous cheese tasting and visits, Laura learned more about the art of cheese making and the dedication that these men and women have to make their craft. Great cheese starts with the what the cows are eating and the influence of the nearby ocean breeze. In Northern California, cheese is made with the hands of artisans who call their farm home. There are no short cuts, this is what their lives are and each men and women behind cheese making are dedicated to making the best product possible and treating the animals with the utmost respect and dedication. This is how cheese should be made, ever time.

Want to go on a cheese tour of your own? Below, we have listed where Laura visited.

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Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company

THE FIRST INGREDIENTS ARE NATIVE GRASS
AND COOL OCEAN AIR.

Some say they can taste it. The Pacific coastal fog that so often settles over and lightly salts the pastures of the Giacomini dairy. The crisp, pristine air. The lush rye grass. Clearly, it brings a healthy freshness to the cheeses made here at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.

But that’s just one reason why we work so hard to preserve the incredible land we farm.

This beautiful Northern California stretch of land has sustained our family for going on four generations. So we feel honored, and obliged, to sustain it in every way possible. Not only as a legacy to pass along to our children and their children. But as a model for sustainable agriculture that promotes healthy food and a healthy environment for everyone.

 

Tomales Bay Foods at
Point Reyes Station

Cowgirl creamery

Our original creamery and cheese shop is located at Tomales Bay Foods, a former hay barn we restored in picturesque Point Reyes Station. Say howdy to the cheesemongers behind the counter, who will help you find, taste, pair and purchase to-die-for cheeses from America and Europe. Take a gander around the barn and you’ll find The Cowgirl Cantina, a take-away deli offering delightful local breads, wines, sandwiches and salads. Enjoy our shaded picnic areas or take a magnificent hike in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Also in our building, you’ll find the best clothing shop in the wild west, Susan Hayes Handwovens.

 
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Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

Our Ranch

Our family ranch is nestled in the beautiful Nicasio Valley, located in Marin County, one hour north of San Francisco.

Spanning generations, our grandparents and family have been ranching here, on this same site, since the early 1900’s. This is our home and we are very proud of the quality of our operation and the family foundation that our business has been built on. 

We are 100% Organic. Our family & ranch have been committed to sustainable agriculture since 1919.

 

Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery

The Farm

Mountain View Jerseys is a 640 acre dairy farm in Western Sonoma County, continuously operated by the same family since 1918. Overlooking the unique waters and wetlands of the Estero Americano in Valley Ford, its lush, rolling pastures have been home to five generations of the Bianchi dairy family, practicing sustainable agriculture as their ancestors did in the Ticino district on the Swiss-Italian border for so many generations past. The farmstead cheese comes from a “closed” herd that is dedicated to top quality health and nutrition programs. There are around 500 Jersey cows milked daily, continuing with outstanding genetics for longevity and productivity. 

We use the sustainable practices our great grandparents brought with them, and taught us, knowing sustainability is our future. It is our job to work closely with nature to grow our crops, produce a healthy dairy product and protect our earth’s resources. Our location allows tourists driving by to enjoy the beauty and appreciate the scenery of the dairy, the open fields and the fresh air. We are working with many local and state organizations: Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Dairy Quality Assurance Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation, the Milk Advisory Board, and the California Cheese Board, among others.

 
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Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese

The Story

How It All Began….From the Alps of Switzerland to the Hills of Two Rock. In the late 90’s, Bonnie DeBernardi purchased two Nubian goats for her grandchildren to play with and from there a new business was created. Not unfamiliar to the dairy business, Don and Bonnie DeBernardi have been raising and milking Holstein dairy cows since 1968, however, these goats served as the beginning of a new venture for the pair. As the two goats quickly turned to a small herd, Don decided to turn the milk into goat cheese, like his ancestors made in the Swiss Alps. The hobby for Don quickly turned into a new business venture as the herd grew from two to forty goats in a short period of time.

Bonnie is the primary caregiver to the kids. Overseeing the kidding and raising of the goat kids is a full time job. Bonnie cares for the kids as she would any member of the family. During kidding season you will almost always find a few kids in the house snuggled up in blankets getting a little extra attention.

Don is the master cheese maker, perfecting his skill with each batch. Cheese is made three to four times a week and then aged for over 60 days before it is ready to market. As the cheese is aged in the storage rooms, it takes on a life of its own. Cultures used change the texture and taste the longer the aging process is prolonged. Creating a unique taste pleasing to any palette. Recently, Don has ventured into the fresh cheese market by making a goat Brie. Delicious!


William Cofield Cheesemakers

The story

William Cofield Cheesemakers brings to Sonoma County its first proper British style cheesemaker. In doing so it also brings together two old friends - one a winemaker, one a cheesemaker and both at the top of their game. Their reunion has resulted in their best work yet.

Keith Adams and Rob Hunter, founders of William Cofield Cheesemakers, are proud to introduce Wine Country to two tasty and exciting new cheeses: a complex, Stilton-inspired blue, a lush, cloth-bound aged Cheddar. And for the more mild and playful at heart, William Cofield offers the squeakiest cheese curds this side of the Wisconsin border. All three cheeses make use of certified organic milk from grass-fed cows in nearby Petaluma.  

The blue, the aged cheddar and the curds serve as the latest in the prize-winning canon of cheesemaker Keith Adams, whose own work and reputation with Alemar Cheese gave him valued access to master cheesemakers in the U.S., Canada and England. He created William Cofield Cheesemakers with wine country luminary Rob Hunter, former winemaker for Markham, Sterling, and for the past 12 years, Bennett Lane Winery. Rob brings to William Cofield Cheesemakers the same gift of precision and detail that defined his wines and established his name worldwide. The result is a taste experience that meets not only the exact demands of proper British style cheese, but the demands that two successful, passionate men have of their craft and themselves. From two best friends, William Cofield offers cheese worthy of yours.

 
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Cheese, Bites & Booze

Our final approach Saturday night is Cheese, Bites & Booze! at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar at Sonoma Jet Center. Get your tickets for this nonstop adventure and delicious competition where the Cheesemakers, Chefs and Cheesemongers’ flight plan includes the creation of their “best bite” of California artisan cheesy goodness. Standby, because there’s more… this tasty, light-hearted walk-around tasting will have you in holding pattern as you sample the amazing creations and must choose just one cheesy bite as your favorite. No need to bring a credit card or drink coupon, samples of regional artisan wine, cider, spirits, and beer are on the house! But, you will want to bring a hearty appetite and include Cheese, Bites & Booze! as part of your travel itinerary! Guests 21 and over only.

All sales are final and event takes place rain or shine.


ARTISAN CHEESE TASTING & MARKETPLACE

In this banquet for the senses, the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace brings together more than 100 artisan cheese and food producers, winemakers, brewers, cider makers, distillers and chefs who will offer their hand-crafted cheeses, and delectable products that complement cheese. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese products, books and recipes. Taste, sip, and explore! Bring your wallet as there will be an opportunity to purchase your favorite cheeses and artisan products. Every guest brings home a coveted Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag as well as a festive wine glass. Live entertainment included. (Baby strollers are not permitted in the Marketplace.)

All sales are final and event takes place rain or shine. Parking is complimentary

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For more information regarding the cheese festival please click the link below.

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Bringing it Home would like to thank everyone involved with the California Artisan Cheese Festival, especially the artisans behind the cheese.

Bringing it home would also like to thank those who worked with our team:

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Laura McIntosh