ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Tickets for the 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival are now on sale: ARThound talks cheese with Judy Groverman Walker, the festival’s executive director

My heart goes to ewe! The 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival has expanded its beloved Farm Tours and will offer tours on both Friday and Saturday and two new tours in the State Capitol Area. These intimate tours are held at various farms and creameries and give visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer and where cheese gets its start. Lunch is included and there’s plenty of time to pet and ohhh and ahh the babies as well watch artisan cheese being made. The festival is March 18-20, 2016. Image: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

My heart goes out to ewe! The 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival is March 18-20, 2016.  The festival has expanded its beloved Farm Tours to both Friday and Saturday and will offer two new tours in the Sacramento Valley area.  These intimate tours are held at various farms and creameries and give visitors a glimpse into the life and important role of the farmer and where and how artisan cheese gets its start. Lunch is included and there’s plenty of time to pet the babies.  Image: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

 

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.

Judy Groverman Walker, Executive Director, California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 18-20, 2016. The Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year takes place in and around the Sheraton Sonoma County, Petaluma. Cropped photo. Original photo: Derrick Story, photographer California Artisan Cheese Festival

Judy Groverman Walker, Executive Director, California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 18-20, 2016. Cropped photo. Original photo: Derrick Story, photographer California Artisan Cheese Festival

 

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.

Golden Valley Ubriaco from Golden Valley Farm, Chowchilla. Ubracio means “drunken” in Italian and this Pecorino cheese is aged three months and then covered completely in grape pomace (the post-press pulpy remains) and aged another three months. The result is a Pecorino cheese with the aroma and flavor of Chardonnay. This is also available in Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Photo: Golden Valley Farm

Golden Valley Ubriaco from Golden Valley Farm, Chowchilla. Ubracio means “drunken” in Italian and this Pecorino cheese is aged three months and then covered completely in grape pomace (the post-press pulpy remains) and aged another three months. The result is a Pecorino cheese with the aroma and flavor of Chardonnay. This is also available in Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Photo: Golden Valley Farm

 

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.

How do like them apples? Devoto Orchards Cider is a family owned farm and cidery in Sebastopol. Jolie Devoto-Wade and husband, Hunter Wade, tend her family’s orchards, growing over 100 heirloom apple varieties, all dry-farmed and certified organic, and create two lines of artisanal ciders with the nuances of fine wine. Their “Save the Gravenstein” cider salutes the long history (back to 1812) of the once abundant Gravenstein apple, a victim of the region’s vineyard mania. This cider is made from 90% Gravensteins, semi-dry and heavy on the acidity, balanced by caramelized apple and spice notes. It boasts low alcohol content so you won’t get smashed drinking it. Farm Tour D includes lunch at the picturesque Devoto farm, with ample time to tour the orchard and taste their three estate ciders paired with cheeses from Redwood Hill Farm. Image: courtesy Devoto Orchards

How do like them apples? Devoto Orchards Cider is a family-owned farm and cidery in Sebastopol. Jolie Devoto-Wade and husband, Hunter Wade, tend her family’s orchards, growing over 100 heirloom apple varieties, all dry-farmed and certified organic, and create two lines of artisanal ciders with the nuances of fine wine. Their “Save the Gravenstein” cider salutes the long history (back to 1812) of the once abundant Gravenstein apple, a victim of the region’s vineyard mania. This cider is made from 90% Gravensteins, semi-dry and heavy on the acidity, balanced by caramelized apple and spice notes. It boasts low alcohol content so you won’t get smashed drinking it. Farm Tour D includes lunch at the picturesque Devoto farm, with ample time to tour the orchard and taste their three estate ciders paired with cheeses from Redwood Hill Farm. Image: courtesy Devoto Orchards

 

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.

Laura Werlin has written six bestselling, award-winning books on cheese, the first of which, The New American Cheese, published in 2000, set the stage for what is now the American artisan cheese movement. She received the prestigious James Beard award for her 2003 book, The All American Cheese and Wine Book. Over the years, she's remained relevant, humorous and ever passionate about cheese. This year, her Saturday seminar tackles pairing cheese and chocolate. Photo: Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

Laura Werlin has written six bestselling, award-winning books on cheese, the first of which, The New American Cheese, published in 2000, set the stage for what is now the American artisan cheese movement. She received the prestigious James Beard award for her 2003 book, The All American Cheese and Wine Book. Over the years, she’s remained relevant, humorous and ever passionate about cheese. This year, her Saturday seminar tackles pairing cheese and chocolate. Photo: Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

Laura Werlin's 2015 seminar, "Mac & Cheese Please!" was a hit. Werlin always includes informational placements in her seminars that make it easy for participants to follow and remember the pairings they sampled and liked. Photo: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

Laura Werlin’s 2015 seminar, “California’s Sheep’s Milk Cheeses (and Wine)” was a hit.  Informational placements are used in most of the festival seminars making it easy for participants to follow and remember the pairings they sampled and liked. Photo: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

 

Janet Fletcher is the author or co-author of more than 20 books on food, cheese, and wine, including her very popular newsletter Planet Cheese. She resides in Napa Valley but teaches cheese-appreciation and cooking classes around the country. This year, she is teaching the Saturday afternoon pairing seminar “Dubbel Down: Belgian-style Beer and Cheese,” a primer that will introduce the best Belgium-style craft beers made stateside and pair those with their perfect American cheesy partners. Be prepared to be inspired─Fletcher can tease apart the mechanics of flavor and explain the science behind taste like no other. She’s also conducting cheese tasting seminars for Friday’s Farm Tours A & B. Image: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

Janet Fletcher is the author or co-author of more than 20 books on food, cheese, and wine, including her very popular newsletter Planet Cheese. She resides in Napa Valley but teaches cheese-appreciation and cooking classes around the country. This year, she is teaching the Saturday afternoon pairing seminar “Dubbel Down: Belgian-style Beer and Cheese,” a primer that will introduce the best Belgium-style craft beers made stateside and pair those with their perfect American cheesy partners. Be prepared to be inspired─Fletcher can tease apart the mechanics of flavor and explain the science behind taste like no other. She’s also conducting cheese tasting seminars for Friday’s Farm Tours A & B. Image: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

 

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.

Sunday’s Tasting Tent & Marketplace is the festival’s bustling grand finale. The event brings together nearly 100 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers, chefs and producers who sample and sell their products directly to attendees. Guests can sample the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as cheese products and haute accompaniments. Photo: courtesy Scott McDaniel, California Artisan Cheese Festival

Sunday’s Tasting Tent & Marketplace is the festival’s bustling grand finale. The event brings together nearly 100 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers, chefs and producers who sample and sell their products directly to attendees. Guests can sample the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as cheese products and haute accompaniments. Photo: courtesy Derrick Story, California Artisan Cheese Festival

 

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).

Chevoo CDP&G Jar Single

Sunday’s Tasting Tent & Marketplace at the 10th Artisan Cheese Festival brings together nearly 100 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers, chefs and producers who sample and sell their products directly to attendees. Just launched in October, CHEVOO is an exquisite combination of hand-blended chèvre marinated in extra virgin olive oil that has been infused with unique combinations of spices, herbs, chiles and pollens. You can slather it on pretty much anything, melt it, or crumble the chèvre over your favorite dish and toss with the infused oil. The Sonoma-based company is run Gerard and Susan Tuck, Aussies who relocated. They use Cypress Grove Chevre and California Olive Oil. Three blends to date: CHEVOO Smoked Sea Salt & Rosemary, CHEVOO California Dill Pollen & Garlic, and CHEVOO Aleppo-Urfa Chili & Lemon. Photo: courtesy CHEVOO

Sunday’s Tasting Tent & Marketplace is the place to scout all that’s new in cheese. Just launched in October, CHEVOO is an exquisite combination of hand-blended chèvre marinated in extra virgin olive oil infused with unique combinations of spices, herbs, chiles and pollens. You can slather it, melt it, or crumble the chèvre over your favorite dish and toss with the infused oil. The Sonoma-based company is run by Gerard and Susan Tuck. They use Cypress Grove Chevre and California Olive Oil. Three blends to date: CHEVOO Smoked Sea Salt & Rosemary, CHEVOO California Dill Pollen & Garlic, and CHEVOO Aleppo-Urfa Chili & Lemon. Photo: courtesy CHEVOO

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.

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say “Cheese” and then pounce! Tickets are on sale now for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015, in Petaluma

Local farm tours are the highlight of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015.  Jim and Donna Pacheco’s Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company, on Chileno Valley Road, is a tour participant.  Achadinha carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay.  Achadinha struck gold with its delectable and award-winning “Capricious” aged goat cheese.  Their "California Crazy Curd," fresh cow and goat's milk curds, are trending big time.   Image: courtesy Achadinha Cheese Company

Local farm tours are the highlight of the 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015. Jim and Donna Pacheco’s Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company, on Chileno Valley Road, is a tour participant. Achadinha carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay. Achadinha struck gold with its delectable and award-winning “Capricious” aged goat cheese. Their “California Crazy Curd,” fresh cow and goat’s milk curds, are trending big time. Image: courtesy Achadinha Cheese Company

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—

Situated on the pastoral Giacomini Family Dairy, just north of Point Reyes Station, is the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, a participant in the festival's farm tours.   When the early morning fog rolls in from the Pacific, it lightly salts their sleeping pasture.  This lush certified-Organic grass accounts for the majority of their cows' diet and the wonderful flavor of their award winning cheeses such as Toma, Bay Blue, Point Reyes Blue and their hand-pulled mozzarella.  This year, farm tour participants can have lunch at The Fork, the dairy's gorgeous educational and entertainment center.   Photo:  Point Reyes Farmstead Company

Situated on the pastoral Giacomini Family Dairy, just north of Point Reyes Station, is the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, a participant in the festival’s farm tours. When the early morning fog rolls in from the Pacific, it lightly salts their sleeping pasture. This lush certified-Organic grass accounts for the majority of their cows’ diet and the wonderful flavor of their award winning cheeses such as Toma, Bay Blue, Point Reyes Blue and their hand-pulled mozzarella. This year, farm tour participants can have lunch at The Fork, the dairy’s gorgeous educational and entertainment center. Photo: Point Reyes Farmstead Company

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.

Exquisite soft ripened cheeses have put the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s bounty on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses.  The LaFranchi Ranch, run by the third generation of LaFranchis, is a participant in this year’s farm tours and their 1,150 acre dairy farm has operated continuously for 90 years.  All Nicasio Valley Cheese Company cheeses are made from 100% organic farmstead cow’s milk—Foggy Morning, Formagella, Loma Alta, Nicasio Reserve, Nicasio Square and San Geronimo.  These detectible cheeses will be available for sampling throughout the 9th annual  California Artisan Cheese Festival. Image courtesy: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

Exquisite soft ripened cheeses have put the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s bounty on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. The LaFranchi Ranch, run by the third generation of LaFranchis, is a participant in this year’s farm tours and their 1,150 acre dairy farm has operated continuously for 90 years. All Nicasio Valley Cheese Company cheeses are made from 100% organic farmstead cow’s milk—Foggy Morning, Formagella, Loma Alta, Nicasio Reserve, Nicasio Square and San Geronimo. These detectible cheeses will be available for sampling throughout the 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Image courtesy: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

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)

She’s back!  James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, has become a mainstay of California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.  Last year, she wowed her seminar attendees with grilled cheese.  This year, she’s giving a Saturday morning seminar on pairing cheese and chocolate, with plenty of opportunities to taste.  Werlin will present duos she claims are “transcendent” such as (Portland Oregon-based) DePaula Confections’ Belgian Milk Chocolate w/ toasted organic sunflower seeds and Sartori BellaVitano Gold, from Wisconsin, a cheese that Werlin says “tastes almost sweet but its salt and crunch perfectly match those same qualities in the chocolate.  Image: Laura Werlin

She’s back! James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, has become a mainstay of California’s Artisan Cheese Festival. Last year, she wowed her seminar attendees with grilled cheese. This year, she’s giving a Saturday morning seminar on pairing cheese and chocolate, with plenty of opportunities to taste. Werlin will present duos she claims are “transcendent” such as (Portland Oregon-based) DePaula Confections’ Belgian Milk Chocolate w/ toasted organic sunflower seeds and Sartori BellaVitano Gold, from Wisconsin, a cheese that Werlin says “tastes almost sweet but its salt and crunch perfectly match those same qualities in the chocolate. Image: Laura Werlin

 

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.)

Couples of all ages, from all over the country, are repeat attenders at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.  A mutual love of cheese can be a great bonding experience.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Couples of all ages, from all over the country, are repeat attenders at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival. A mutual love of cheese can be a great bonding experience. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Well-crafted seminars with leading experts are the backbone of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival.  Last year’s seminar on local terroir with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Michael Landis was sold-out.  Participants tried delectable artisan beer and cheese pairings that illustrated keys concepts of terroir and learned how to talk about terroir. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Well-crafted seminars with leading experts are the backbone of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Last year’s seminar on local terroir with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Michael Landis was sold-out. Participants tried delectable artisan beer and cheese pairings that illustrated keys concepts of terroir and learned how to talk about terroir. Photo: Geneva Anderson

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)

afternoon—Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace (Grand Tasting Tent, 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.)

Sunday’s Tasting Tent at the California Artisan Cheese Festival always features the newest cheese accompaniments.  Snap them up and be the first to serve or gift them.  Last year’s hot item—the blood orange, apple and pear dried fruit crisps offered by Simple & Crisp.  These gorgeous little rounds—paper thin, perfectly crisp and not too sweet—are the perfect partner for cheese and are as versatile as the day is long.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

Sunday’s Tasting Tent at the California Artisan Cheese Festival always features the newest cheese accompaniments. Snap them up and be the first to serve or gift them. Last year’s hot item—the blood orange, apple and pear dried fruit crisps offered by Simple & Crisp. These gorgeous little rounds—paper thin, perfectly crisp and not too sweet—are the perfect partner for cheese and are as versatile as the day is long. Photo: Geneva Anderson

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

 

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment