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!

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.

6 Reasons to Visit A Farm

pennyroyal

Especially if you love cows, goats & sheep!

Spring is one of the best times to visit a cheesemaker’s farm. You’ll have sunny days and plenty of time to interact with all the hardworking girls who make cheese possible!

On a tour you might see the loafing barns, the milking parlor or the cheese plant. It depends on the farm, so check ahead of time. And you always get tastes of cheese.

Whether cows, goats or sheep, each cheese has its own distinct flavor.

In general, cow’s milk, with larger fat molecules, has an earthy taste. The smaller fat molecules in goat’s milk contribute to a slightly tangier flavor profile. Sheep’s milk has the highest content of fat molecules which leads to a more nutty taste.

Achadinha Cheese by Appointment

Each girl on Achadinha Cheese Co has its own name and personality. You’ll meet William’s Jersey Cow Macy (#77) who has a tendency to walk in front of the cheese plant so she can look at her own reflection in the windows.

garden variety
Garden Variety Cheese by Appointment

At Monkey Flower Ranch, there are over 100 ewes providing milk for Garden Variety Cheese. Each ewe is named after a garden flower and produces milk for about 6 months of the year.

Harley Farms – Open to the Public

In addition all the dairy goats, Harley Farms also has guardian llamas, Anatolian shepherds and Rosie the Donkey. Rosie will look at you with a pleading, hungry face. But resist feeding her!

Long Dream Farm by Appointment

At Long Dream Farm, you’ll catch gorgeous heritage cattle roaming around the farm. They live outside year-round!

Pennyroyal Farm – Open to the Public

Cheese is made seasonally at Pennyroyal Farm. Each cheese is named from Boontling, a unique language that originated from Boonville and the surrounding hills at the end of the 19th century.

Spring Hill Farmstead Cheese by Appointment

At Spring Hill Farmstead Goat Cheese, you’ll find La Mancha dairy goats roaming around the farm.

Use our list of cheesemakers to plan out your next visit to a California cheese maker!

Jenny MacKenzie of Tomales Farmstead Creamery

Original Interview by Hilary Green, ACS CCP at Marin Co. Monger

Jenny MacKenzie in the barn at Tomales Farmstead Creamery. Photo Courtesy Jenny MacKenzie

Four miles inland from the mighty Pacific ocean, a small Marin County dairy is making some of the best cheese in America. Tomales Farmstead Creamery is a 160-acre sheep and goat dairy in Tomales, California. Founded in 2003, owners Tamara Hicks and David Jablons dedicated four years to the restoration of the land, and after careful coordination with sustainable land management organizations, the farm became an Animal Welfare Approved goat and sheep dairy in 2007.

This year, Tomales Farmstead won second in its category at the American Cheese Society conference for Atika– a sheep and goat blended cheese with a beautiful, basket-weave natural rind. At the helm (or vat, as it were) for this winning batch: assistant cheesemaker Jenny MacKenzie. In my quest to better understand the world of West Marin cheese producers, I reached out to Jenny for an interview this month. Jenny is an East coast transplant with a love of cheese and sustainable agriculture. What’s the story of a micro-dairy cheesemaker whose work wins a national award? Continue below for Jenny’s story!


August 26, 2018

Marin Co. Monger: What brought you to the world of sustainable agriculture?

Jenny MacKenzie:  I started making cheese in 2014 on a very small, farmstead goat dairy, Appleton Creamery, in Appleton, ME. Working on such a a small farm and being surrounded by other types of small organic/sustainable/diverse farms at the farmer’s markets where we sold cheese really sparked my interest in sustainable agriculture. After attending the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, ME that same year I really fell in love with small sustainable farms. Just being immersed in agriculture and learning the harms it can cause but being fortunate to see how it can be done correctly with little to no impact was so fascinating to me. I really don’t see why anyone would want to farm any other way!

To read the rest of the article visit Marin Co Monger

Hilary Green, ACS CCP

Visit This Cheesemaker: Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.

As a Bay Area resident, there’s nothing like taking a drive out to the coast. As you head out towards Point Reyes from Petaluma or Marin, slip down a side road to find the only farmstead, organic cow cheesemaker in California, located in the one-block town of Nicasio, population 96.

There you’ll see St. Mary’s, a sweet church built in 1871, Rancho Nicasio, a restaurant with live music (they get some pretty hot bands) and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, a tiny creamery & retail shop filled with yummy cheese and other goodies.

The Lafranchi family, originally from Maggia, Switzerland, dairy farmers in the U.S. for 3 generations, have the ONLY farmstead, certified-organic cow dairy making cheese in California.

Farmstead means that the cheese is made on the farm with milk from the farmer’s own herd (which is right down the road from the shop).

At their creamery, you can watch them make cheese through the floor to ceiling window (best during the week), sample each and every one of their cheese, and purchase cheese and other picnic items. Tomino and Locano are their latest creations. They’re gooey and absolutely fine. I’m especially in love with the Tomino, a washed-rind (it has a lot of flavor!) and their fresh Foggy Morning. But you’ll find your own favorite, of course.

The shop is open 7 days a week, 10-5.  Nicasio Valley Cheese Company is on the Marin County Cheese Trail, just a short jaunt off the Point Reyes Petaluma Road or, coming from the other side:  Sir Francis Drake or Lucas Valley Road.

What We’re Snackin’ On – Fiscalini Traditional Cheddar

This week we picked up some of Fiscalini Cheese’s Traditional Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar. This cheese has won more awards than you can count, including “Best Farmhouse Cheese in America.” 

Cheddar cheese originated in the village of Cheddar in England. Yes, there’s a place called Cheddar Village. We can only dream of living there! While it ages, this cheese is wrapped in cheesecloth (which is how it gets its name). It’s a tad crumbly, and has a nice delicate smoky flavor to it. You can eat it with pretty much anything!

Fiscalini Cheese has the following pairing suggestions:

BEER

  • Red Ale
  • German Wheat
  • Amber Ale

FOOD

  • Green Apples
  • Blueberry Granola
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Mild Salami

WINE

  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Chardonnay

You can find Fiscalini Cheese‘s Traditional Cheddar at your local cheese shop.  Or, stop by their farm in Modesto, see the cows, and pick up cheese at their creamery.  It’s on the Central Valley Cheese Trail.

Cheese By Mail

Sneak your way to into someone’s heart by sending them cheese. Each package listed below is carefully selected and perfectly paired by a California cheesemaker, so you don’t have to think about anything except pushing a button.  (Note: shipping may be extra)

Send one as a gift, bring it along to a party, or, just save it for yourself.

For a full list of cheesemakers who ship, click here

BURROUGH FAMILY FARMS

So Gouda – $34
A delicious gift basket from the Burroughs Family Farms that each member of the family will surely enjoy this holiday!


Package includes:
Burroughs Grass to Gold Gouda Cheese
Rustic Bakery artisan crisps
Jar of Whipped Honey
Burroughs Family Almonds


COWGIRL CREAMERY

Truffle Tam Home Kit – $75

The cheesemongers at our Cowgirl Creamery Ferry Building cheese shop create a delicious and decadent truffled Mt Tam in collaboration with their neighbors at Far West Fungi and sell it during the holidays. Due to a loud demand from out-of-town visitors, it’s been decided to offer this do-it-yourself kit to our customers to prepare at home.

 

Package includes:
Mt Tam
Black Truffle Pate
Cowgirl Creamery Sea Salt & Olive Oil Crackers


Holiday Shipping Schedule:
For delivery before Christmas, orders must be placed to ship the week of December 17. The cut off time to place orders shipping the week of Dec 17 is Dec 19 at 8am Pacific Time.
For the week of Dec 24, we will only be shipping on Dec 26.
For the week of Dec 31, we will only ship on Jan 2.

 

CYPRESS GROVE

Cheese and Cookies for Santa – $50

The perfect gift set for the cheese-loving kid at heart. If you’re trying to get on Santa’s good list and just aren’t sure what to do, mix up the cliche “milk and cookies” with a spread chock-full of delicious cheeses, decadent butter cookies, and divinely rich drinking chocolate. Naughty to nice in ten seconds flat!

Humboldt Fog and Sweet Dreams are the perfect pairing companions for Rustic Bakery’s vanilla butter cookies and Dick Taylor Chocolate’s Drinking Chocolate, a rich and velvety European style drinking chocolate, handcrafted using ethically sourced cacao beans from the Maya Mountain Co-op in Belize. Sweet, salty, and decadent, this set makes a fabulous gift for friends, family, or yourself (trust us, you deserve it!).

 

Package includes:
Humboldt Fog Mini
Fresh Cup, Sweet Dreams
Belize Drinking Chocolate
Box of Snowflake Cookies

 

MARIN FRENCH

3-Wheels Variety – $32

The 3-Wheels Variety makes a great gift for coworkers, clients, friends or family.  It includes 3- 8 oz wheels of Traditional Brie, Triple Crème Brie, Camembert, plus a cheese knife.

 

Package includes:

Camembert (8oz)
Traditional Brie (8oz)
Triple Crème Brie (8oz)
Wooden Cheese Knife

NICASIO VALLEY

Family Favorites Gift Box – $48.50

This collection sparks lively debate when our family discusses which cheese is the “best.” Foggy Morning embodies the cool quiet mornings shared at the Lafranchi  family ranch. Nicasio Reserve is assertive, yet refined and luxurious. The sentimental favorite, Nicasio Square features the stronger aromas and flavors achieved in washed rind cheeses.

Package includes:
Foggy Morning
Nicasio Reserve
Nicasio Square

 

PENNY ROYAL FARM

Holiday Cheese Sampler – $68

When you’re planning a get-together and need a festive board or a special delight in seasonality, this selection of six farmstead cheeses—all handmade in small batches at the farm—will bring a unique taste of place to the table!

 

The Holiday Cheese Sampler includes:
Laychee 
Laychee with Fennel Pollen & Pink Peppercorn 
Velvet Sister
Boont Corners, Two Month
Boont Corners, Vintage 
Boont Corners, Reserve

 

POINT REYES CHEESE

Taste of Point Reyes – $75

Share the taste of West Marin expressed in farm fresh cheese with this cheese bundle from Point Reyes Cheese.

Package includes:
Original Blue
Bay Blue
Toma
Aged Gouda
Bonnie Bee Honey 
Wooden Honey Dipper
Rustic Bakery Blue Cheese Coins
Soft Pack Logo Picnic Cooler (not shown in photo)
Wooden Logo Cheese Knife

 

WM COFIELD

Gift Box – $65.00

This mix comes with Wm. Cofield’s signature cheeses that will surely brighten up your holidays!

Package includes:
Mckinley Cheddar
Bodega Blue
Fresh Willie’s Curds

For a full list of cheesemakers who ship, click here

Artisan Cheese Festival

California’s main cheese event happens next weekend, Friday, the 23rd thru the 25th, in Santa Rosa. For a cheese nerd, this hits all the right buttons.

On Friday, there are farm tours (including a stop at this writer’s own farm – Straus Home Ranchtickets are still available).

A Best Bite Competition where chefs and cheesemongers come up with their best ideas, pays tribute to those brave and hardworking, first responders of the recent fires.

On Saturday, industry experts instruct on pairings with charcuterie to beer and wine and how to judge cheese.

Then start your evening with a cheese and cocktail pairing.

On Sunday, you can start your morning with a cheese and bubbly brunch.

Then, besides the farm tours (which I LOVE), comes my own favorite event: the Sunday Marketplace. Here you meet 115 producers of cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. One ticket gets you access to tastes galore, including both current and new cheeses while meeting the cheesemakers themselves.

This year the festival has moved from Petaluma to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. But parking comes FREE with your ticket purchase.

To purchase tickets, click HERE.  See you there!

Discovering Organic Cheese  

When was the last time you searched out organic cheese and what is it? And which cheesemakers in California make organic cheese?

Organic certification of cheese comes down to the animals, the ingredients and the method of processing; all overseen by the USDA National Organic Program. 

Animals must be raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. All feed must be certified organic (organic pastures, and no pesticides or genetically engineered feeds). Animals must be allowed access to outdoors, including shade and sunlight, clean and dry bedding, and space for exercise (amount of access and pasture required is outlined and determined by region).  

If an animal is sick and antibiotics are the only solution to save the animal, organic regulations require that you save the animal, but then remove it from your organic herd. If this happens, farmers then sell their milk as conventional, or more likely, sell the animal itself.

 

The ingredients must all be certified organic as well. That includes both the milk and the enzymes (which create the curds). Chymosin, the ingredient produced naturally in the lining of a ruminant’s stomach and solidifies the milk and creates curds, is available as a genetically engineered ingredient. This genetically engineered enzyme is the most commonly used enzyme in cheesemaking.  As it is genetically engineered, it is not allowed in organic cheese. If you care about that, and you’re not sure if your cheese contains a genetically engineered ingredient, contact the company to inquire. Or, simply purchase organic cheese.

In processing, only cleaning agents that do not leave a residue are allowed to touch equipment or ingredients.

California organic cheesemakers include Cowgirl Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese, Organic Pastures and Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. Rumiano and Sierra Nevada also have organic lines of cheese. 

Organic cheese sales grew 15% a year between 2012 and 2015 and are now estimated to be around $570 million annually.

Want organic cheese? Look for the USDA Organic label. Questions about organic cheese?  Just ask!