Fiscalini Cheese

An American original with Swiss roots.

The year is 1886, when Mateo Fiscalini emigrates from Switzerland with his family. First finding work on the railroad, he eventually settles all the way west in Cambria, California.

In 1912, Mateo’s son, John Baptiste Fiscalini, a graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, purchases 160 acres of land in Modesto. Two years later he starts a dairy farm with ten cows.

By 1995, two generations later, the Fiscalini farm has a large herd of Holstein cows. And in 2001, John Fiscalini, the grandson of John Baptiste, who has dreamt of making cheese, is introduced to Mariano Gonzalez, master cheddar-maker from Paraguay. Mariano develops a bandage-wrapped cheddar, sweeping up many awards, and giving British cheeses a run for their money.

Today, Fiscalini Cheese produces award-winning cheeses with the knowledge and spirit of four generations of family behind them. And, best of all, you can visit them.

Stop by their farm and creamery (yes, the cows are right there!) to pick up cheese in their front office. If you feel like making it a bigger cheese journey, Fiscalini can be just one of your stops on the Central Valley Cheese Loop #1.

This month you can find Fiscalini’s San Joaquin Gold on promotion at Whole Foods Market in Northern California. San Joaquin Gold is an Italian-style, semi-hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk. It is named after the beautiful San Joaquin valley where it is made.

Laura Chenel Started it All

Photo courtesy of Laura Chenel

Laura Chenel and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse created salad history.

Laura Chenel, a real person, began making cheese in the 1970s in Sonoma County. After one goat turned to many, and she had to figure out how to use the milk, she began making cheese. After stumbling a bit, she headed to France, to learn from other cheesemaking families.

Once back in U.S., Laura began selling her now, stellar cheese. Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse, tried it, and fell in love. She began ordering 50 pounds a week, while creating a now-familiar recipe. Alice breaded and baked slices of the Laura’s chèvre (Chevre, by the way, is the French word for cheese, and is used to refer to fresh, spreadable goat cheese), then laid the disks on a bed of mesclun greens. Voila! Goat cheese salad was born.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Chenel

Many other goat cheesemakers followed in her footsteps, making goat cheese a national staple.

In 2006, Laura sold her company to Rians, a French company owned by the Triballat family, who later also purchased Marin French Cheese Company.

Chevre is not only a great topping for salads, you can put it on pizza or pasta. You can also use it as a substitute in recipes calling for sour cream or ricotta. It has a wonderful bite for those who love tang in their foods. This chèvre comes plain or flavored with various herbs.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Chenel

Though Laura Chenel is not open to the public, you can pick up cheese at the Marin French and picnic by the lake, or one of many other retail shops.

This month Whole Foods is promoting Laura Chenel’s Chabis during “Build your own California Cheese Platter” and suggests pairing it with Candied Lemon & Hazelnut Bittersweet Chocolate Bar by Charles Chocolates.

Whole Foods Cheese Love

Springtime with warm picnic weather, graduations and family fun! Yes, bring on the cheese!  

We asked Chrissy, a certified cheese professional at Whole Foods Market (yes, those exist!) to share some of her favorite cheeses along the California Cheese Trail. Here are her top three picks:

San Joaquin Gold 

A farmstead cow’s milk cheese made in Modesto, California, by Fiscalini Farms. It’s a raw-milk cheese that uses microbial rennet, an ideal method for vegetarians. The cheese is reminiscent of parmesan — it’s nutty, salty and slightly sweet with a thin, natural rind. Pair this cheese with Rustic Bakery’s Organic Olive Oil on Sal Gris Flatbreads along with an IPA, and you will have the start of a beautiful picnic.


The Laura Chenel Chabis, made in Sonoma County, is a creamy, delicate, flavorful goat-milk cheese with a slightly tart finish. It’s even vegetarian friendly! In 2018, the cheese won a Gold Medal at the California Exposition State Fair in the Fresh Goat Cheese category. For dessert, try pairing it with Charles Chocolates Candied Lemon and Hazelnut Bittersweet Chocolate. Paired together, they’re a perfect to end a meal. Consider your guests impressed.

Nicasio Square

A cow’s milk cheese, Nicasio Square is made by the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. This cheese is a young version of a Taleggio and is washed in brine that imparts a garlicky bacon flavor. Pair this cheese with charcuterie and a hoppy beer for an extraordinary appetizer or spread generously on a baguette with a slice of Fra’ Mani Salametto. You truly cannot go wrong.

If you weren’t excited about cheese before, just a taste of one of these is likely to change your mind.  All locally sourced from Northern California, all cared for by the team at Whole Foods Market, they’re delicious and completely unique. Oh, and did we mention they’re on sale? Cheese platter dreams, realized.

The Cottage Cheese is Back!

Cowgirl’s Cottage Cheese is unlike any you’ve had before.

Most people know Cowgirl Creamery for its flagship cheese, the decadent bloomy-rinded triple cream Mt Tam. But Cowgirl actually began – more than 20 years ago – with fresh cheese, which offered not only a quick-to-market turnaround but an ideal way to showcase the high quality organic cow’s milk being produced by the Straus Family Dairy on Tomales Bay in West Marin.

Fromage blanc and crème fraiche were among the first cheeses to be turned out of Cowgirl’s small creamery in Point Reyes Station, along with their clabbered cottage cheese, a unique creation that was nothing like the gummy, small curd cheese that you’d find in many supermarkets. Over the years, Cowgirl’s cottage cheese developed a loyal following. But unfortunately, its production became too much for the small creamery to handle, and in 2012 the company decided to stop making it.

Last year the cottage cheese faithful rejoiced when Cowgirl, with the opening of a new, larger creamery in Petaluma, was able to begin producing this fresh cheese again. The two-day process starts with skimmed milk, which is cultured and left to set and develop flavor overnight. The coagulated milk is then cut into large, pillowy curds, which are dressed in a mixture of cultured milk, or “clabber,” and crème fraiche.

Cowgirl cottage cheese is available at shops throughout the Bay Area, and is starting to make its way to retailers across the country. It can also be found in the specialty case at Northern California Whole Foods stores under the name “Curds & Cream.”

5 New Cheesemakers to Visit

Get out the Lactaid, it’s time for a road trip!

This article by Sarah Stierch originally appeared on North Bay Voyager

The friendly ladies at Fresno’s Rocky Oaks Goat Creamery. (Courtesy photo)

California is one of the cheese capitals of the world. Our fair state has 80 creameries producing every type of cheese under the sun from every corner of the state. From Crescent City’s Rumiano Cheese Co. which produces Dry Jack, to Silverdale Cheese, which produces butter and cheese from its El Centro headquarters, California’s cheese is as diverse as our population.

To help guide one through the overwhelming amount of producer, we turn to the California Cheese Trail map, which is now in its eighth printing.

The map, which is available online and at visitors bureaus and welcome centers across the state, was launched in 2010 by Vivien Straus. (You might recognize her last name, her family founded Straus Family Creamery.) Straus is a self-proclaimed “woman with a slight addiction to cows” who loves cheese and advocates for producers and sustainable farming.

Thankfully for cheese lovers, the new map means new cheeses to try! Here’s five of the newest additions to the map to check out.

Bivalve Dairy, Point Reyes Station

Located on the site of the scenic Bianchini Ranch in Point Reyes, Bivalve is the brainchild of Karen Bianchini and John Taylor. In 2006, Bianchini and Taylor decided to return to the farm of Bianchini’s youth, where the couple would continue sustainable ranching practices and raise their three children. Today, they operate Bivalve Dairy onsite.

The dairy is 100% organic and pasture-based with over 400 cows on property, including 200 milking cows. In March 2019, Bivalve released their first cheeses, debuting them at the California Artisan Cheese Festival: Mendonça, a semi-hard Portuguese island cheese, and Foundry Fresh, an organic cream cheese. Currently, Bivalve is open by appointment for farm tours which are $25 per person.

To Read the Rest of the Article Click Here Northbay Voyager

A Newbie’s Resources to Learning Cheese

A few handy dandy resources on exploring the cheese world.

My name is Philip and I’m Vivien’s sidekick here at the California Cheese Trail. My journey into the world of cheese started a little under a year ago. I love eating cheese and I also did not really know anything about it.

Here are my go to resources on cheese that helped me in the beginning.

Cowgirl Creamery’s Library of Cheese

The user friendly interface of the Cowgirl Creamery library and the available information on cheeses, especially California cheeses, makes this an invaluable source for discovering the world of Californian cheese.

Whole Foods Market – Guide to Cheese

Whole Foods has a nice little guide to get you started on learning more about cheese. That source, coupled with any cheesemonger at a Whole Foods cheese counter makes learning super easy.

Cutting the Curd Podcast by Heritage Radio Network

I live in Los Angeles. That means I’m always in my car driving. The Cutting the Curd podcast is an essential part of my daily life. You’ll get lots of insights into cheese trends, cheese makers and cheese retailers.

Cheese for Dummies

There are lots of great books on cheese out there. I went to my local LA Public Library branch and decided to start with Cheese for Dummies which was created by the founders of Culture Magazine. Very easy to read which is essential!

Culture: the word on cheese

Great publication on cheese! Lots of insightful interviews and articles on the cheese world.

These are all great, easy to understand resources on starting your journey. My ultimate resource is actually Vivien herself who has an incredible knowledge and insight into everything cheese and dairy!

Please reach out to us here at The California Cheese Trail and sign up for our newsletter down below!

The 2019 Cheese Map is Out!

Plan your next California cheese adventure.

The 2019 Cheese Trail map shows you 49 cheesemakers open for visits including address, hours and tour instructions.

Travel Highway 99 through the Central Valley. There’s cheese everywhere!

In Gold Country there are small farms with Highland cows, goats and feta cheese.  

Pick up fresh mozzarella and ricotta direct from a Los Angeles creamery.  

Travel the north coast and get a grilled cheese by the crashing waves.  

Pet a goat on the Central Coast.

In San Francisco, the first creamery EVER, Daily Driver opens in May.

Sonoma and Marin? Well, you knew it was all there, but maybe you didn’t know the specifics.  Now you do!

Download the map online, order a free copy to be sent to you, or if you’re a tourism office or business, pick up boxes of maps to hand out. 

The farms and cheese and cheesemakers are all waiting for you.

Long Dream Farm: Cheesemakers & Farmers

This story by Joan Cusick originally appeared on Civil Eats

At Long Dream Farm in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Abrahams allow their heritage breed cattle to live out their lives and serve as partners in food production.

Abrahams. Photo Credit: Joan Cusick, Civil Eats

Andrew Abrahams is explaining how Long Dream Farm works—by treating animals like partners in food production—when he notices a cow nuzzling the gate to the milking room. “So, here’s Emily,” he says. “She’s very smart. She’s going to try to get this gate open, and she’s pretty capable of doing it.”

In the end, Emily doesn’t manage to open the gate. But knowing each cow is just one part of the philosophy behind this no-slaughter farm that puts the highest emphasis on animal welfare.

“I can’t conceive of not knowing the names of all the cattle, knowing their histories. It’s important to understand who their friends are, who they’re related to… I wouldn’t want to do this if I couldn’t be completely hands-on, because I think there’s so much value originating from that.”

Abrahams says

Andrew Abrahams and his wife, Krista, established Long Dream in 2011 on a 90-acre home farm, plus hundreds of acres of grazing land, in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. The farm is home to 190 heritage-breed cattle, plus chickens, donkeys, emus, guinea fowl, horses, pigs, seven working dogs, and one alpaca.

At most dairies, farmers are not on a first-name basis with their cows. One farm can have hundreds or thousands of cows that eat in indoor stalls or crowded feedlots. These operations push cows hard to increase milk production, which often translates into twice-a-day milkings, hormone injections, and too-frequent pregnancies, with calves separated from their mothers just hours after birth. After three or four years, when a cow’s milk production starts to decrease, she is sold and slaughtered for hamburger meat.

Cattle like “Captain” have their names printed on ear tags, but the Abrahams family knows all of the animals on sight. Photo Credits: Joan Cusick, Civil Eats

But Long Dream and other independent farms are beginning to challenge traditional dairy practices by prioritizing animal welfare over high-volume milk production. Under the Abrahams’ care, the cattle at Long Dream live mostly outdoors in large, fenced areas and have daily access to acres of hillside pasture. Rotational grazing provides abundant feed, which the farm supplements with hay, alfalfa, sprouted barley, and small amounts of grain and minerals. They breed cows every two years or less, and calves stay with their mothers for at least nine months. Meanwhile, chickens have free range of the farm during the day and sleep in airy coops at night as farm dogs patrol for predators.

Continue reading the rest of the essay HERE!

13th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival


The popular weekend festival, taking place March 23-24, attracts more than 2,500 guests, and brings together the top California cheesemakers, artisan producers, authors, chefs, brewers, winemakers and turophiles for two
days of cheese tasting, education and celebration.

From CA Artisan Cheese Festival

At the festival you can taste the cheese of Bellwether Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, Clover Sonoma, Nicasio Valley, Laura Chenel, Marin French Cheese, Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Central Coast Creamery, Sierra Nevada and many more.

“The Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace is a truly unique opportunity for attendees to taste, sip, savor and purchase delectable cheeses, and products that complement cheese, all in one place,” said Judy Groverman Walker, executive director of the California Artisan Cheese Festival.

“With over 100 total vendors at this year’s Marketplace, we are delighted that this year’s festival brings 25 new purveyors to the Marketplace, making it our biggest event ever.

Attendees can not only taste an incredible array of delicious offerings at the event, but also buy cheese and artisan products and store them in a complimentary, insulated tote for the ride home. It’s definitely a not-to-be-missed event for all cheese lovers.”

From CA Artisan Cheese Festival

For more information about the festival visit the California Artisan Cheese Festival website. For tickets, you can purchase them in advance.

*All information courtesy of California Artisan Cheese Festival

Visit Achadinha Cheese

Just a short jog outside historic Petaluma you can meet goats, see sweet, brown Jersey cows grazing in the fields, and taste cheese.

The Pacheco family of Achadinha Cheese, the sixth generation of a Portuguese farming family, offer both farm tours and cheesemaking classes. Right there on the farm.

Wrapping the curd tightly in cloth, allows the whey to drain out.

Donna is bubbly and Jim always makes me smile. Their “kids” are coming into their own. And the cheese is fantastic. They make fresh cheese, cheese curds, feta and aged cheeses with a combo of goat and Jersey cow milk.

You may have seen their cheese at farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, but what better way to really enjoy a cheese, than to know where it comes from and meet the people behind it. Click HERE to see a list of their upcoming farm tours and classes.