Cheese Lover? Your Ultimate Cheese weekend awaits at the 11th California Artisan Cheese Festival, Friday-Sunday, in and around Petaluma
From newly-released small-batch artisan cheeses to those that have an international following, the focus of the 11th California Artisan Cheese Festival is on our region’s artisan cheese and the inside track on haute pairings and pours. This wonderful event, which kicks off Friday, is held in and around Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County and is considered one of the country’s top, if not the best, artisan cheese festivals. Friday is always devoted to day-long farm tours which get more creative every year. These are so popular they sell out within days of being announced in January. The opportunity to meet the farm animals and to get the low-down on what makes our area’s cheese so special straight from the farmers who produce it always proves too good to pass up. Each tour also includes a gourmet lunch with wine in a bucolic setting and an informative talk by a leading cheese educator. Don’t despair, there are still two full days (Sat and Sun) of fascinating activities that are not yet sold out.
Saturday’s Seminars and Pairings Demos
A good number of spaces are still available in the seminars listed below, all which are held in or within a few steps of the hotel (click here for full descriptions and pricing). Show up early to purchase your tickets in person at festival headquarters in the lobby of the Sheraton.
Saturday morning: 10 to 11:30 AM:
Cheese & Charcuterie (Vanessa Chang and author, educator Laura Werlin) Foolproof pairings of artisan cheese, old world meats and rosé.
Mighty Morphing Milk (author, educator Janet Fletcher, Liam Callahan (Bellwether Farms), Jennifer Bice (Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery) Explore the magical transformation of exceptional goat, sheep and cow milk into yogurt, fresh cheese and aged cheese with an emphasis on cultures, techniques and timing decisions. Plentiful tastings.
Cream of the Crop (Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, co-founders Cowgirl Creamery and Jill Giacomini Stray and Lynn Giacomini Stray, co-founders of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese) A lively conversation about cheese, politics and preserving family farms with tastings and cheese pairings with local craft rums.
Saturday Afternoon: 1:30 to 3 PM:
Cheese and Chocolate (Vanessa Chang and author, educator Laura Werlin) An indulgent exploration of two of life’s pleasures: cheese and chocolate with an emphasis on great pairings and how to heighten the pleasure even more with beer and port.
California Cheese: Past, Present, and Future (Kiri Fisher, The Cheese School) Taste your way through the history of cheese as you learn more about the special roots of our local dairy industry, the cheese-making renaissance of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the challenges the industry currently faces and what cheeses are on the horizon.
Saturday evening Cheese & Cocktails, 5 to 7 PM:
A new two hour event, event under the Big Top at the Sheraton featuring cheesemakers showcasing their favorite cheeses while local craft distilleries sample their best spirits both as straight pours and mixed cocktails. The mood is celebratory and this is great place to meet friends for drinks.
Sunday Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace, 12 to 4 PM:
Say “hello” to the makers as you gather under the big top Sunday for a final cheesy soirée with over 90 artisan producers of local cheeses, wines, beers, ciders and other specialty foods. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products, books and the new innovative cheese vaults that let you preserve your expensive cheeses.
Don’t miss the demos! Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks from cheese twins, Charlie and Michael Kalish, winners of Season 7 of “The Great Food Truck Race” and hosts of their own Food network Show “Big Cheese,” who will give a “Grilled Cheese Two Ways” demo at 12:30 PM.
Award winning local food writer and author, Michele Anna Jordan will demonstrate Butter Making at 1:45 PM, teaching everyone how they can churn their own butter at home in just minutes. There will ample samples of organic goat, sheep and cow milk butters and attendees can take a hand at the churn.
Aside from eating well and to your heart’s content, the tasting tent is an exciting launch pad for gourmet products which are just getting their start. This year’s “gotta have it” find is Volo Chocolate, the love child of Healdsburg chefs, Jeff and Susan Mall. In 2015, the couple sold their beloved Zin restaurant and moved to Baja to embark on a quiet life as resort chefs. Soon, they found themselves enamored with Mexican cacao and they embraced the traditional Mexican method of fire-roasting the cacao beans to create their own chocolate. Now, they are back in Healdsburg creating small-batch handmade bean-to-bar chocolates with beans sourced from Mexico’s Chiapas and Oaxaca regions. These delectable bars are available mainly through their website, so this is your chance to sample and pounce.
Other newcomers to this year’s tent include: Chico Honey Co., Dick Taylor Chocolates, Firebrand Artisan Breads, Hensley Hard Goods, Joseph Jewel Winery, Lemonbird Preserves, Moonside Creamery, and Seismic Brewing.
Details: California’s 11th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 24-26, 2017 at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and various cheese country locations. Tickets for all festival events are sold separately online until March 23 (Thursday) and then will be available at the event itself. All events take place, rain or shine.
Tickets for the 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival are now on sale: ARThound talks cheese with Judy Groverman Walker, the festival’s executive director
Love cheese? A growing number of artisan cheese aficionados travel far and wide to cheese gatherings across the country, but we in the Bay Area don’t have to because Petaluma and its pastoral farmlands are cheese paradise for both producers and consumers. This March 18-20, 2016, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, takes place in and around Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County and it’s considered one of the nation’s top, if not the best, cheese festivals. The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and promise a glorious immersion in all things cheese. From new small-batch and very rare artisan cheeses to those that have already garnered international recognition, the spotlight is on the vibrant hues, bold aromas, and surprising flavors that make our region’s cheeses so divine. You’ll meet the local farmers who produce these cheeses and get to “ohh” and “ahhh” and cuddle their kids, lambs and calves. You’ll have classes with legendary food tzars who will feed you and, in the process, help you drill down on your own personal preferences. You’ll be briefed on the latest trends in pairing artisan cheeses with special foods, boutique wines and artisan brewed beers and ciders. And what stories you’ll hear! But unless you register soon, you’ll miss out on the farm tours and the special events this three-day extravaganza has to offer because the festival always sells out.
In honor of its 10th anniversary, the festival will expand its beloved Farm Tours to both Friday and Saturday with two new destinations in the Sacramento area and educational components will be included in every Farm Tour. A not-to-be-missed 10 Year Anniversary Celebration will be held under the Big Top on Saturday night. For the festival’s full schedule and to buy your tickets ($45 to $135), click here.
ARThound spoke with Judy Groverman Walker, the festival’s executive director, about this year’s festivities. Judy has been at the helm for the past five years. Like Arthound, Judy grew up in a 4-H farming family with deep roots in Sonoma County and has had lots of experience with raising and grazing animals as well as understanding the economics of running a dairy and bringing a product to market. Her transition to a career in designing and promoting food events seems a perfect fit for this Windsor resident who spent most of life in Sonoma County.
This is the 10th anniversary of this very special festival…what’s your history with the festival and how has it changed since you became the executive director?
Judy Groverman Walker: I’ve been involved since 2012 and, prior to that, I organized a number of local food and wine events—I helped start Kendall Jackson’s Heirloom Tomato Festival and worked with River Valley Winegrowers who used to do Grape to Glass, a three-day event. The California Artisan Cheese Festival has been growing steadily each year, both in attendees and cheesemakers. This year, we have 33 artisan cheesemakers already confirmed. This is always a struggle because those who are located further away from the festival are the hardest to pull away for a weekend because, either they’re a small farm and just can’t get away, or it’s just not cost effective. Most of the cheesemakers are from around the Bay Area. There’s never been much Southern California representation but, this year, Golden Valley Farm, from Chowchilla, the only sheep dairy in the San Joaquin Valley, will be participating again. They produce some wonderful Pecorino cheeses that have the flavor and aroma of various wines. Last year was their first time at the festival and they participated in a seminar and were at Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace. Phillip Franco from Sierra Cheese in Compton will participate as a panelist in one of our Farm tours too. While I’ve been with the festival, I’ve noticed more cheesemakers popping up in proximity to the festival (the Petaluma area) and I think the festival has had something to do with that.
You were the first festival in the country to offer an extended weekend of artisan cheese-related events. There are more cheese festivals now; what remains unique about your festival?
Judy Groverman Walker: Because we live in an area that really appreciates fine cheese, you might assume there would be cheese festivals all over the rest of the country too. Actually, there are just a handful and ours is one of the biggest, the most comprehensive, and the best. The Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute (three days, early June) and the Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival (one day, mid-July) are large festivals but don’t have our breadth. The Oregon Cheese Festival is also very well known but it’s little and just one day and is mainly about sampling. We give participants the chance to taste cheeses from over 30 artisan cheesemakers, so that’s a lot of variety. Because we represent California and so many diverse artisan cheesemakers, we maintain a strong education element that reflects and sets trends. All of this is in one place. Our farm tours are very special too and we are always working to improve them. They give consumers a chance to see firsthand how the cheeses are made and to meet and pet the goats, sheep and cows and water buffalos and get up close and personal with the farmers and ask questions about the entire process. These are our most popular events and they start to sell out a couple of days after we put up the announcement.
This year, we’ve added a panel discussion or some sort of education aspect to each tour. We’re seeing a lot of interest in local farmstead ciders right now and they happen to pair wonderfully with cheeses, so we’ve incorporated cider stops into a couple of the farm tours. Farm Tour C will visit Apple Garden Farm in Tomales and Farm Tour D visits Devoto Orchards in Sebastopol. We realized that some of some of our cheesemakers don’t get enough attention because they are further away, so we added two farm tours that take place in the Sacramento Valley area. One tour goes North and the other goes South, with stops along the way where participants can meet cheesemakers and find out what they are doing that might be different from what we are doing here.
Are there any special plans for your 10th anniversary?
Judy Groverman Walker: We’re still working out the details but Saturday night will be our 10th anniversary celebration. We’ve invited restaurants to come in and we’re partnering up cheesemakers with chefs and we’ll have live music and a photo booth and it will be a very fun and festive environment. Look for more on that in the coming weeks on the festival webpage.
Any speakers who have proven to be crowd favorites over the years that you invite back again and again?
Judy Groverman Walker: We include Laura Werlin and Janet Fletcher every year because they are such experts and such great communicators and teachers. This year, they will also participate in the farm tours. Laura will do a seminar with some California’s instrumental cheesemakers (Farm Tour C) and she’ll also do a Saturday afternoon seminar, ‘Farm to Table, Bean to Bar’ on pairing cheese and chocolate, which is selling very well.
Janet Fletcher, who has spent years and year working with cheese, will do a mixed milk cheese tasting seminar that we’ve incorporated into Farm tours A and B) and will lead a Saturday afternoon pairing seminar, ‘Dubbel Down: Belgian-style Beer and Cheese’ which is a primer on Belgian style beers made in the U.S. and American artisan cheeses.
Chef, author and teacher, John Ash, has been involved with the festival since it began and has done wonderful seminars and cooking demos and has overseen some of our dinners and carried out the live festival broadcast with KSRO. This will be the first year he’s doing the Sunday morning brunch which has California cheese at every course and features our region’s sparkling wines. He’ll also do a live cooking demonstration and I’m very excited about that.
You offer a sake and cheese pairing seminar on Saturday afternoon with Chef Tominaga of Hana and sommelier Robert Bath…is this the newest trend?
Judy Groverman Walker: We’ve had some of our cheesemakers experimenting with sake and that’s why we’re giving it a try. I’ve not heard that this is trending but after the festival there may be a lot more interest. And, of course, if sous chefs believe it can work, then it will be in restaurants and take off. It’s such an odd combination but we feel it will have appeal. I wish I could go because it’s something I know very little about.
For someone who has one day to spend at the festival, what do you recommend?
Judy Groverman Walker: If you like cheese and you’re a restaurant person and you want your cheese prepared into something, then Saturday evening’s special California Cheesin’ event is for you because chefs from leading restaurants are going to use cheese in very creative and diverse dishes. If you just want pure cheese sampling then Friday night’s Cheesemongers’ Duel will offer cheeses that famous cheesemongers have turned into “the best bite” and Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace is straight cheese in its raw form.
What is the “value” in spending $45 to enter Sunday’s tasting tent?
Judy Groverman Walker: We give you the opportunity to try all these cheeses and include all all the beer, wine and cider you can drink, along with live entertainment. You also get an insulated insulate shopping, an ice pack and a wine glass. You are face to face with the actual cheesemakers, talking cheese and can come away with a lot of information. In between tastes, you can watch live demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts on topics like how to put together the perfect cheese board for a party. There are lots of cheese accessories too—cheeseboards, cheese knives—and local high-end gourmet accompaniments like small batch jams, tapenades, olive oils, and the latest artisan whole grain crackers. You’re not going to see jewelry makers because we keep it cheese-related. Lots of people use this as a head-start on holiday shopping and entertaining too. The newest CA artisan cheese spreads are showcased too. This year, I’m excited about Chevoo (pronounced SHAY-voo), run by an Australian couple who live in Sonoma. They’ve taken fresh Cyprus Grove goat curd and put it into an olive oil base that has been infused with different herbs. This is brand new. The tasting tent is the place to try all of these new gourmet products.
We have artisan cheesemakers from outside our area who want to participate but we try to limit it to California. We let Beehive Cheese (hand-rubbed Barely Buzzed, Teahive, Seahive) attend because they’re from Northern Utah and there’s no other cheese organization they can associate with and we are the closest festival they can attend. And we also let Willapa Hills come down from Southwest Washington come too. They started out with just sheep’s milk cheese and now have expanded into sheep/cow milk blends (Two-faced Blue, Ewe Old Cow).
Details: California’s 10th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 18-20, 2016 at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and various cheese country locations. Tickets for all festival events are sold separately and all events take place, rain or shine. Click here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets.
Say “Cheese” and then pounce! Tickets are on sale now for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015, in Petaluma
California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its ninth year, March 20-22, 2015, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. Tickets just went on sale. If you are interested in a farm tour, where you get to meet innovative local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats and watch them create awesome cheeses in bucolic abodes, buy your tickets now as these tours sell out within a few hours of being listed. These intimate tours give visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer, the individual farm’s unique community and how an animal’s diet and the local terroir influence the taste of the cheese. Six tours kick off this year’s festival on Friday morning and they all include an upscale lunch. Back in town, at the Sheraton Sonoma County, the festival proper begins on Friday evening and kicks off with a new event in the famed grand tasting tent, the“Cheesemonger’s Duel – The Best Bite” reception, which promises to pit 24 cheesemongers in competition to create the best cheesy bite. The long weekend of cheese brings together leading artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, dozens of specialty food, beer, wine and spirit producers for cheese seminars, pairings, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations. And did I mention samples galore? Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses (paired with gourmet delights) and learn all about the art and science of making and pairing cheese. Also new this year is an additional off-site seminar at the new Cowgirl Creamery location in Petaluma. The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are available online at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
“California’s Artisan Cheese Festival has become a beloved yearly tradition for local foodies and cheese lovers,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker. “Over the course of the last nine years the Festival’s offerings have gotten better and better. From farm tours where guests can interact with the animals and hands-on cheese-making classes, to educational seminars led by world-class cheese experts, there truly is something for everyone.”
Friday, March 20, 2015:
morning—Behind-the-Scenes Farm Tours & Lunch:
One of the most popular and coveted of events, these intimate Farm Tours are held at various local farms and creameries, giving visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer and where cheese gets its start. A gourmet lunch, each with a special emphasis, is included and transportation will be provided to and from the Sheraton Hotel by Pure Luxury Transportation. **Pack your boots and ice chest! Tours are rain or shine; no refunds will be given.
These are still available—
Farm Tour A – Marin County Milk Magic Nicasio Valley Cheese Company; Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. and lunch at The Fork with guest chef; Heidrun Meadery; Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Don’t miss this special cheese lover’s culinary expedition winding through the beautiful rolling hills of Petaluma, western Marin County and Pt. Reyes. Your day starts with a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. Next it’s back on the bus for the short drive to Point Reyes Station where we will meet the Giacomini Family of Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. You will tour their dairy farm and learn how they made the transition from contract dairy to award winning farmstead cheese producer. Lunch at The Fork, the Farmstead’s state-of-the-art event space, begins with a cheese tasting of the Pt. Reyes award winning cheeses followed with a multi-course cheese focused lunch prepared by a celebrity guest chef. During the lunch, your hosts will provide commentary on the pairings and field questions about cheesemaking and product development. As you head back to the Sheraton, enjoy a final stop at Heidrun Meadery where they produce naturally sparkling varietal meads (yes, made from honey) using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise. Their trademark Champagne-style mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, and will be paired with cheeses from Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese out of Modesto. This tour will undoubtedly be a special day for any cheese lover! $135.00 per person.
Farm Tour D – Family Farms, World Class Dairies and Magnificent Cheese! McClelland’s Dairy; Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese; Petaluma TAPS Restaurant; and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Start your day at McClelland Dairy where you will tour the family dairy and learn all about the history and day-to-day operations of this state of the art farm. Visit the nursery; pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor. You’ll even have a chance to milk one of the beloved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style. Then it is off to the Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese Company where you will meet Dairyman Don DeBernardi and his wife Bonnie, along with the newborn “kids” at their family run dairy and farmstead creamery. You’ll taste their award winning aged goat tommes that are typical of Don’s ancestral region in Switzerland. To quench your thirst and ease your appetite, we are off to Petaluma TAPS where you will meet owner Eric LaFranchi, (yes, part of the LaFranchi Ranch family). Eric will guide you through a tasting of local brews and a three course cheese-inspired lunch. Next on your itinerary is a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. $135.00 per person.
Farm Tour E– European Heritage Shines in California’s Artisan Dairy Products Valley Ford Cheese Co.; Achadinha Cheese Company; Scoggins Wines at the former Denman Creamery; Bruno’s on Fourth; and McClelland’s Dairy First stop on today’s itinerary is the Valley Ford Cheese Company, a 640 acre Jersey dairy farm continuously milking 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/Grossi families, practicing sustainable agriculture just as their ancestors did in the Ticino district on the Swiss-Italian border. Meet the Bianchi Family and taste their award-winning farmstead Italian style cheeses. Then you are off to meet the Pacheco Family whose Portuguese roots show in the rich complex flavors of their cheese. Visit Jim and Donna Pacheco’s ranch and family run Achadinha Cheese Company and visit their herd of dairy goats. The “girls”, as the goats are called, are able to graze pasture all year long on 290 acres. Coincidentally, their diet is supplemented with alfalfa and brewer’s grain from the local breweries which gives their cheeses their distinct flavor. Your lunch stop is Scoggins Winery in Penngrove at the historic Denman Creamery. Meet winemaker PW Scoggins who will take you on a tour of the Creamery turned winery, then sample some of his Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wine as you enjoy a three course cheese-inspired lunch specially prepared for you by Chef Rick of Bruno’s on Fourth. Your bus then rolls on to McClelland’s Dairy where you’ll tour their state- of- the art dairy, learn about the history and the day to day operations on the family farm. Visit the nursery, where you can pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor; you’ll even have a chance to milk one of the much loved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style. A perfect finish to a perfectly delicious day! $135.00 per person
Farm Tour F – Petaluma Perfect Pastures Barinaga Ranch; Marin French Cheese Company; McEvoy Ranch; and Petaluma Creamery This culinary adventure proves that perfection exists in our own “back pasture”! Your experience begins at Barinaga Ranch where owner and cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga is continuing the ancient shepherding and cheesemaking traditions of her Basque family and ancestors in Euskadi, the Basque region of Spain. Meet her small flock of dairy sheep and lambs who graze year-round on nearly 100 acres of hilly, organically managed pastures. Next stop, the award-winning Marin French Cheese Company – celebrating its 150 year anniversary. Meet the cheesemakers as you take a walk through the recently renovated creamery learning about the cheesemaking process and changes that have occurred over the last 150 years. Complete your visit with a tasting of their landmark cheeses. Next is a rare treat – a visit to McEvoy Ranch. Take a short tour and learn how Nan McEvoy’s vision and her spirit of adventure took her from Chairwoman of the Board of The San Francisco Chronicle to a sprawling 550 acre ranch in Petaluma producing artisan olive oil and olive oil based products and wine. Enjoy a delicious box lunch as you relax and take in the beauty of McEvoy Ranch. Your final stop is the historic Petaluma Creamery. Started in 1913, since its founding the “Creamery” has been an integral part of the farming tradition in Sonoma County. Dairyman and creamery owner Larry Peter makes certified organic Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, specialty cheeses, butter and ice cream. $85.00 per person.
Friday evening – 6 to 9 pm –Cheeeemongers’ Duel — The Best Bite
Warm up your taste buds for the weekend’s events as you meet rock star cheesemongers in a light hearted competition. More than two dozen cheesemongers will take center stage as they are provided with a block of cheese from one of our local artisan cheesemakers and asked to create The Best Bite! Audience participation is a must! Chef Ryan Scott will join us as a judge and emcee. Artisan wines, beers and cider will also be available for sampling. ($50 per person, Sheraton Sonoma County)
Saturday, March 21, 2015:
morning and afternoon—Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations
The 2015 event presents a whopping 13 seminars from which to choose, giving guests the hand-on opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, how to cook with different cheeses, and experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Amina Harris, Director of Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, UC Davis; Lynne Devereux, Director of Marketing and Public Relations of Laura Chenel’s Chevre and Marin French Cheese Company; Stephanie Skinner, Co-owner and publisher of Culture: The Word on Cheese; Thalassa (Lassa) Skinner, Co-owner and Independent Sales Manager, Culture: The Word on Cheese; Soyoung Scanlan, Owner and Cheesemaker at Andante Dairy; Laura Werlin, author and educator; Louella Hill, aka The Milk Maid, educator; Sacha Laurin, Assistant Cheesemaker at Winters Cheese Company; Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, co-founders of Cowgirl Creamery; Janet Fletcher, author and educator; Stephanie Soleil, educator. The seminars include a catered lunch. During the lunch break and after the afternoon seminars authors will be available for book signings. (Tickets $65-95, Sheraton Sonoma County, Seminars 9:30 -11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., with lunch provided at 12 – 1 p.m.)
Saturday evening: Chefs vs Chefs — The Best Bite:
This popular roaming feast showcases top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. More than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries will vie for your affection, and your vote, at this lighthearted competition of all things cheese. From soufflés to sandwiches, guests can expect to experience artisan cheese in ways they’ve never had before at this gastronomic showdown. (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6-9 p.m.)
Sunday, March 22, 2015:
morning—Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef:
Early risers get an amazing brunch, some light hearted entertainment and advance entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace. Enjoy a Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course while being entertained with a live cooking demonstration. Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11:00 am before it opens to the public at 12:00 noon. (9:30 to 11 a.m.; tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County)
Gather under the big top for an afternoon like no other! Meet 90 artisan producers and experience the best of local cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products and books. Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks at chef demos scheduled throughout the day. There will be an opportunity to purchase your favorite cheeses and artisan products. Ticket includes admission, access to chef demos and book signings, the coveted Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag and a festival wine glass. ($45 per person, $20 for 12 and under.)
Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers
It’s not too late—California’s 8th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival closes Sunday with a marketplace filled with all the new artisan cheeses and outrageously au’courant delicacies for pairing
ARThound has spent the past two days at Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County realizing how blessed I am to have so many dedicated artisan cheesemakers nearly in my backyard. The Artisan Cheese Festival, now in its 8th year, has brought together our most innovative and creative local cheesemakers and paired them with equally creative chefs, winemakers, brewmasters, and even a celebrity Cicerone (Rich Higgins) resulting in a weekend celebrating cheese and discovering all the culinary companions and beverages that passionately enhance its flavor and texture. If you haven’t been to the festival yet, tomorrow’s Sunday Marketplace is an excellent introduction. Bringing together more than 70 of California’s best artisan cheesemakers, restaurants, breweries and wineries, this walk-around tasting and marketplace is one of the weekend’s most popular events—and for good reason! With two tents set up outside of the Sheraton, there will be more than 20,000 sq. feet of space—filled with goodies which you can sample to your heart’s content and buy. Talk about a no brainer for picking up gifts that earn you cudos when you’re been invited to dinner at a friend’s home. Most everything offered will be locally and sustainably made too, supporting our community and the values that keep it flourishing. You can chat with the vendors, artisans, cheesemakers, brewers and winemakers, all of whom have amazing pairing advice. Throughout the day there will be chefs’ demos representing some of the Bay Area’s best chefs, including Brandon Guenther of Valley Ford’s Rocker Oysterfellers at 1:45 p.m. and Liza Hinman of Santa Rosa’s Spinster Sisters at 3 p.m. Several of the weekends’ cheesemakers and chefs are also authors and many will be selling and signing their cheese-inspired tomes at the Marketplace. The chefs’ demos will be taking place inside of the Sheraton Sonoma County and the book signings will be taking place inside of the tent throughout the day. Book signings and demos are included with admission to the Marketplace. (Tickets $45 for adults; $20 for children 12 and under, Sheraton Sonoma County, 12 – 4 p.m.)
Cheesemakers showcasing their products at the Marketplace include:
Achadinha Cheese Company (Petaluma)
Ancient Heritage Dairy (Madras, Oregon)
Beehive Cheese Company (Uintah, Utah)
Bellwether Farms (Petaluma)
Bleating Heart Cheese (Sebastopol)
Bohemian Creamery (Sebastopol)
Bravo Farms (Traver)
Casitas Valley Farm & Creamery (Carpinteria)
Central Coast Creamery (Paso Robles)
Cowgirl Creamery (Point Reyes Station)
Cypress Grove Chevre (Arcata)
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Company (Modesto)
Garden Variety (Royal Oaks)
Gypsy Cheese Co. (Valley Ford)
Laura Chenel’s Chevre (Sonoma)
Marin French Cheese Company (Petaluma)
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. (Nicasio)
Orland Farmstead Creamery (Orland)
Petaluma Creamery/Spring Hill Jersey Cheese (Petaluma)
Pennyroyal Farm (Boonville)
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. (Point Reyes Station)
Pugs Leap (Petaluma)
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery (Sebastopol)
Schoch Family Farmstead (Salinas)
Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese (Willits)
Tomales Farmstead Creamery/Toluma Farms (Tomales)
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese (Petaluma)
Valley Ford Cheese Co. (Valley Ford)
Weirauch Farm & Creamery (Penngrove)
Willapa Hills Farmstead & Artisan Cheese (Doty, Washington)
Breweries and wineries pouring their products at the Marketplace include:
AppleGarden Farm (Tomales Bay)
Berryessa Gap Vineyards (Winters)
Black Kite Cellars (Anderson Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands)
Bucher Vineyard (Healdsburg)
Clif Family Winery (St. Helena)
Crispin Cider (Colfax)
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
(Half Moon Bay)
Handley Cellars (Philo)
Heidrun Meadery (Point Reyes Station)
Kokomo Winery (Healdsburg)
Lagunitas Brewery (Petaluma)
McEvoy Ranch (Petaluma)
Navarro Vineyards & Winery (Mendocino)
North Coast Brewing Company
Paul Mathews Vineyards (Graton)
Russian River Vineyards (Forestville)
Sonoma Valley Portworks (Petaluma)
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks (Oregon)
Artisan food purveyors and other vendors will include:
American Cheese Society (Nationwide)
Black Pig Meat Company (Sebastopol)
Brown Dog Mustard Co. (Concord)
California Artisan Cheese Guild (Oakland)
California Endive Farms (Rio Vista)
Cassata-Sonoma Olive Oil (Glen Ellen)
CC Made Inc. (San Anselmo)
Cheese Shop of Healdsburg (Healdsburg)
Clover Stornetta Farms (Petaluma)
Copperfield’s Books (Petaluma)
Creminelli Fine Meats
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
Culture Magazine (Massachusetts)
Farm Fresh to You (Capay Valley)
Friend in Cheeses Jam (Santa Cruz)
Gary & Kits Gourmet Mtn Mix
Humboldt Hot Sauce (Arcata)
Interiors by Lynn (Rohnert Park)
Kelly’s Jelly (Lake Oswego, Oregon)
L’Artisane Box (Burlingame)
Marin Agricultural Land Trust (Marin)
McEvoy Ranch (Petaluma)
McClelland’s Dairy (Petaluma)
Mi Distinctive Tastes (Ukiah)
Negranti Sheep Dairy (Central Coast)
Noci Foods (Walnut Creek)
Petaluma Visitor’s Center (Petaluma)
Poco Dolce (San Francisco)
Potter’s Crackers (Sacramento)
Redwood Empire Food Bank (Santa Rosa)
R&J Toffees (San Jose)
Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar (Petaluma)
Rustic Bakery (San Rafael)
Simple & Crisp (Seattle, Washington)
Sonoma Land Trust (Santa Rosa)
The Beverage People (Santa Rosa)
The Garden Wild (Middletown)
Three Twins Ice Cream (Petaluma)
Valley Fig Growers (Fresno)
Village Bakery (Sebastopol)
Yelp (Bay Area)
About California’s Artisan Cheese Festival
A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond. In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival donates 10% of all ticket proceeds to Sonoma Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Petaluma Future Farmers of America, California Artisan Cheese Guild and Redwood Empire Food Bank. To date the Artisan Cheese Festival has contributed more than $55,000 to these non-profit organizations that work to support the artisan cheesemaking community and its infrastructure in California. For more information, visit www.artisancheesefestival.com.
A Weekend of Cheese—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival at Petaluma’s Sheraton Hotel, tickets for many events still available
Fresh mozzarella. The innocence of childhood, summer evenings on a swing set flying through air scented with magnolia. New grass, slightly damp, soft against my cheek. A baby’s elbow: velvet, dimpled, full of hope. (Patricia)
There’s something about cheese that inspires people—to know more, eat more, celebrate its diversity, wax poetic, and ultimately go to its source. This weekend, that means Petaluma and the 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival, which runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Sheraton.
While Friday’s ever popular farm tours sold out months ago, tickets are still available for most other events, and everything is priced individually.
Friday offers an inaugural Meet the Cheesemakers and Their Cheeses event ($35) where you can informally chat with cheesemakers and farmers and sample over 75 cheeses, and artisan wines and beers, to your heart’s content. Saturday features a Grand Tasting and Cheese Competition ($75), from 6 to 9 p.m. This popular roaming feast pairs leading restaurant chefs and cheesemakers using artisan cheese in a variety in dishes, from sweet to savory, creating scrumptious things to eat in order to win your vote.
There are 14 seminars, cheesemaking classes, and cooking and pairing demonstrations throughout the day on Saturday. Cheesemaking classes are $95, all others $65. Select authors will sign their books. If a cheesemaking class sounds interesting, book it online NOW, as most of them have less than 4 spots available.
Sunday begins at 9:30 a.m., with the Stark Reality Brunch prepared by chef Mark Stark ($115)—start the day with a glass of bubbly and an artisan cheese inspired sit-down brunch. Attendees enjoy VIP access to the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace and can enter one hour early before it opens to the hungry masses.
Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace ($45) celebrates cheese under the big top. Meet over 70 artisan producers and experience the best of local cheese, beer and other specialty foods. Attendees receive an insulated bag for carrying purchases and samples of cheese, beer, wine and other artisan foods.
Details: The 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival is March 22-24, 2013, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at Petaluma’s Sheraton, 745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma. Tickets $35 to $135. Many events are already sold-out, so purchase tickets for all events now. www.artisancheesefestival.com.
last call: this weekend’s 5th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival is sold-out except for Sunday’s all day marketplace
For a growing number of fine cheese lovers who are traveling to cheese gatherings across the country, this weekend’s 5th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival (March 25-28, 2011), in Petaluma, holds the promise of glorious immersion in cheese. From new small-batch cheeses to those that have already garnered international recognition, the spotlight is on the vibrant hues, bold aromas, and surprising flavors that make our region’s cheeses so unique, the local farmers who produce them and the industry that has emerged to promote them. But unless you’ve already registered, this 3 day extravaganza Friday through Sunday (March 25-28, 2011) at Petaluma’s Sheraton Hotel is completely sold out, except for the Sunday’s big tent Artisan Cheese Marketplace from 11 AM to 4 PM.
This year’s festival is going to be both enlightening and entertaining. (Full Schedule) Friday’s day-long farm tours to Strauss Family Creamery, Toluma Farms, The Fork at Point Reyes, and Bellweather Farms sold out almost as soon as they were posted. The opportunity to get the low-down on what makes our area’s cheese so special right from the farmers who produce it was too good to pass up, even at $145. A number of Saturday’s 14 seminars covering all topics cheese by leading experts in the field sold out well over a month ago too. Subjects range from making cheese (what does it actually take to become a cheese maker? a primer on essential molds, a lesson in curd stretching) to the politics of cheese (the transhumance movement, proposed legislation that seeks to regulate raw milk cheeses) to the nuances of evaluating cheese. There are fabulous opportunities to eat some revamped classics too, like mac and cheese, and to try some new “hidden cheeses of California.” You’ll learn that most of California’s elite cheeses don’t venture far from home and we in Petaluma are smack dab in cheese paradise for both producing and consuming.
On Sunday, you can still meet over 73 artisan producers and try the finest local cheese, gourmet accompaniments, and wine and beer. Throughout the day, acclaimed chefs Mary Karlin, Kristine Kidd, Boris Portnoy and Jacquelyn Buchanan will each be demonstrating an original recipe with artisan cheese and Clark Wolf will be both mc’ing and signing his own best-seller American Cheeses.
$45 ticket includes Sunday admission, all sampling, access to chef demos and author book signings, a festival wine glass and an insulated cheese tote bag to hold your precious purchases. Tickets will be sold online through Friday evening and then 100 will be made available on a first come-first served basis at the door on Sunday, starting at 11AM. There is no wait list for any of the sold-out events. All events on Friday and Saturday are already sold out.
Book Signings on Sunday:
12:30 p.m. Laura Werlin (launching her fifth book at the festival Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes (2011) , and author of The New American Cheese Profiles of America’s Great Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese, The All American Cheese and Wine Book: Pairings, Profiles and Recipe, Great Grilled Cheese 50 Recipes for Stovetop, Grill, and Sandwich Maker, Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese
1:00 p.m. Maggie Foard Goat Cheese (2008)
1:30 p.m. Mary Karlin Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses (2011), Wood-Fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace, and Campfire (2009)
2:00 p.m. Lenny Rice & Clark Wolf Lenny Rice: Fondue (2007), Clark Wolf: American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who Makes Them, and Where to Find Them (2008)
2:30 p.m. Kristine Kidd, Weeknight Fresh + Fast (2011) Kristine Kidd has written a number of books for Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library.
3:00 p.m. Andrea Mugnaini The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking(2010) Anna Mugnaini and the Mugnaini crew will be baking wood fired pizzas in a portable pizza oven on working the Pizza Patio on Sunday too. Enjoy artisan cheese and fresh wood fired pizza?
Cheese Wiz: in researching the various symposiums associated with the conference, I learned
- The first cheese was made over 4000 years ago by nomadic peoples. It is believed that someone tried to store or transport fresh milk in a water bag made from an animal stomach. Later, when the milk was needed, the first cheese was discovered (the rennet in the lining of the bag would have caused the milk to separate into curds and whey).
- Asian travelers likely brought cheese production to Europe where cheesemaking flourished among monks during the Middle Ages.
- In 1620, cheese was on the Mayflower when the Pilgrims journeyed to America.
- Spanish priests first made cheese from the milk of mission livestock in the early 1800s. Later, during the Gold Rush, European immigrants built dairies on the Point Reyes peninsula to supply butter and cheese to gold miners in San Francisco.
- Sonoma and Marin counties—the Normandy of Northern California—are home to the largest concentration of artisan cheesemakers in California, if not the country. Our unique foggy, grassy terrain has roughly 22,000 acres of land dedicated to making cheese and fermented milk products. To celebrate this and educate, the Marin Economic Forum (MEF) just introduced the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail map [PDF], the first-ever map to local artisan cheesemakers.
21 Artisan Cheese Producers will participate Sunday:
Achadinha Cheese Co.
Beehive Cheese Co.
Central Coast Creamery
Cypress Grove Chevre
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese
Laura Chenel’s Chevre
Mt. Townsend Creamery
Marin French Cheese
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.
Shamrock Artisan Cheese
Sierra Nevada Cheese Co.
Tumalo Farms, Bend, OR
Valley Ford Cheese Co.
Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese