Artisan Cheesemakers in the North Bay

A list of local cheese producers in Sonoma, Marin and Napa

| March 14, 2012

Achadinha Cheese Co.

History: Owned by Jim and Donna Pacheco of Pacheco Family Dairy. Established in 1955 in Bodega Bay then relocated to Petaluma in 1969 by Jim's father. Made first cheese in 2001.

Cheeses: Goat and goat/cow's milk blend

Public tours: No

Where available: Petaluma Market, Big John's Market and numerous farmers markets

Cheesemaker: Donna Pacheco

Website: achadinha.com

Interesting fact: Goats eat grains from local breweries



Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.

History: Dairyman Bob Giacomini began milking cows at his Point Reyes dairy in 1959. With the help of his wife and four daughters, they began producing blue cheese in 2000 on the family ranch.

Cheeses: Cow's milk (blue cheese and toma); mozzarella in development

Public tours: By appointment

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Jakub "Kuba" Hemmerling

Website: http://pointreyescheese.com

Interesting fact: Manure from the dairy goes into a methane digester, which provides power back to the creamery and dairy



Barinaga Ranch

History: The Barinaga family has been sheep-ranching in America for more than a century. Cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga left a career as a science reporter to pursue cheesemaking when she and her husband, Corey Goodman, moved to Marshall.

Cheeses: Sheep's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Tomales Bay Foods (Point Reyes Station), Raymond and Co. (Glen Ellen) and the Cheese Shop (Healdsburg)

Cheesemaker: Marcia Barinaga

Website: http://barinagaranch.com

Interesting fact: Txiki, one of Barinaga's two cheeses, means "little" in Basque



Weirauch Farm & Creamery

History: Joel and Carleen Weirauch began making cheese commercially last year. They make cow's milk cheese, but will offer sheep's milk cheese this summer.

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Sebastopol and San Rafael farmers markets, Oliver's markets and the Epicurean Connection (Sonoma)

Cheesemaker: Joel Weirauch

Website: weirauchfarm.com

Interesting fact: The creamery was built out of a surplus portable classroom



Ramini Mozzarella

History: Software engineer Craig Ramini decided to become a cheesemaker and is currently tending a small but growing herd of water buffalo in Tomales

Cheeses: Buffalo's milk mozzarella; available this summer in limited quantities

Public tours: No

Where available: Not yet available

Cheesemaker: Craig Ramini

Website: raminimozzarella.com

Interesting fact: The butterfat content of buffalo milk is about 9 percent; cow milk butterfat is about 4 percent



North Bay Curds & Whey

History: Cheesemaker Alissa Shethar learned to make cheese at Three SHepherds, and released her first cheese in 2011. She now makes cheese at Ramini Mozzarella's quasi cooperative. Most hard cheeses are made from raw Jersey cow milk from Taverna Dairy in Petaluma or raw sheep milk from Black Oaks Sheep Dairy in Sebastopol. Fresh cheeses are made from Straus Family Creamery milk.

Cheeses: Cow, goat and sheep's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: East Bay Farmers Markets, the Epicurean Connection

Cheesemaker: Alissa Shethar

Website: http://northbaycheese.net

Interesting fact: The hot air balloon on the label is inspired by the balloons that fly over Napa and Sonoma counties



Bodega Artisan Cheese

History: Founded by Patty Karlin in 1984, Bodega Artisan Cheese is one of Sonoma County's oldest goat cheese makers

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: By appointment

Where available: Laguna Farm, Bodega Country Store and the Valley Ford Store

Cheesemaker: Patty Karlin

Website: bodegaartisancheese.com

Interesting fact: Bodega Artisan Cheese's goat ranch and creamery are for sale



Bleating Heart

History: Bleating Heart began in 2009 when there were only four licensed sheep dairies in the state

Cheeses: Sheep's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Tomales Bay Foods (Point Reyes Station), the Epicurean Connection (Sonoma) and the Cheese Shop (Healdsburg)

Cheesemaker: Sheana Doughty

Website: bleatingheart.com

Interesting fact: Bleating Heart's 120-square-foot milk-processing facility is the smallest in the state



Cowgirl Creamery

History: Started by friends Sue Conley and Peggy Smith in 1997 in Point Reyes Station

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: Wednesdays by appointment

Where available: Tomales Bay Foods, Whole Foods and online

Cheesemaker: Maureen Cunnie

Website: cowgirlcreamery.com

Interesting fact: Most cheeses are made with Straus Family Dairy milk



Epicurean Connection

History: Cheesemaker Sheana Davis mentored under the late Ig Vella, former cheesemaker for Sonoma's Vella Cheese Co.

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: The Epicurean Connection (Sonoma) and Sonoma Valley Farmers Market

Cheesemaker: Sheana Davis

Website: theepicureanconnection.com

Interesting fact: Ig Vella's cheese knife hangs in Davis' store



Marin French Cheese Co.

History: The Marin French Cheese Company has produced cheese in the same location in Petaluma since 1865. It began when the company produced fresh cheese for the San Francisco market. With the end of California's Gold Rush, disillusioned would-be miners poured back in to San Francisco, which in turn created a shortage of eggs. Marin Cheese French Co. sold its cheese as an egg substitute. The company was sold to Rians, a French cheese conglomerate, in 2011.

Cheeses: Soft, ripened cow's milk

Public tours: Yes

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Alex Borgo

Website: marinfrenchcheese.com

Interesting fact: America's oldest cheesemaker



Valley Ford Cheese Co.

History: Owner Karen Bianchi-Moreda's great-grandparents immigrated from Switzerland in the late 1890s and settled in Marin County. The other side of the family immigrated from Northern Italy. They bought the Jersey Dairy Ranch in Valley Ford.

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: By appointment

Where available: Farmers markets (Petaluma, Cotati, Healdsburg), restaurants and Oliver's Market, Pacific Market, Petaluma Market and other small stores

Cheesemaker: Joe Moreda Jr. (Karen Bianchi-Moreda's son)

Website: valleyfordcheeseco.com

Interesting fact: Parts of the movie The Birds were filmed on the dairy. The scene in the movie where the guy's eyes are poked out was filmed in what was Bianci-Moreda's father's bedroom before that.



Andante Dairy

History: Established in 1999 in Petaluma

Cheeses: Organic Jersey cow's milk, goat and sheep's milk

Public tours: Closed to the public

Where available: San Francisco Ferry Plaza, Oliver's Market, Whole Foods (Mill Valley) and the Cheese Shop (Healdsburg). Restaurants include the French Laundry, Cyrus and Willie's Wine Bar.

Cheesemaker: Souyoung Scanlan

Website: andantedairy.com

Interesting fact: All cheeses are named after classical music terms



Goat's Leap

History: Rex and Barbara Backus moved from Los Angeles north to Napa Valley in 1972. They got tiny-eared La Mancha goats for grazing, milk and entertainment, and in 1992 became licensed cheesemakers.

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Terra Restaurant (St. Helena)

Cheesemakers: Rex and Barbara Backus

Website: goatsleap.com

Interesting fact: Only cheese manufacturer in Napa County.



Bellwether Farms

History: Former nurse Cindy Callahan founded Bellwether Farms in 1986

Cheeses: Cow and sheep's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Tomales Bay Foods (Point Reyes Station), Whole Foods, Pacific Market (Sebastopol and Santa Rosa) and Oliver's Market

Cheesemaker: Liam Callahan

Website: bellwethercheese.com

Interesting fact: Callahan first got sheep as a way of keeping the weeds mowed



Bohemian Creamery

History: Bohemian Creamery is the creation of Lisa Gottreich and Miriam Block, who recently decided to break out of their midlife molds and fill new ones with innovative and compelling cheeses

Cheeses: Goat, cow and sheep's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: The Cheese Shop (Healdsburg), Sonoma Wine Shop (Sebastopol), Paradise Foods (Corte Madera) and Whole Foods

Cheesemakers: Lisa Gottreich and Miriam Block

Website: bohemiancreamery.com

Interesting fact: The creamery makes a cheese covered in cacao nibs



Laura Chenel

History: Started in the late 1970s by Laura Chenel on a small Sebastopol farm. Its current home is the renovated Stornetta Dairy. Laura Chenel was sold in 2006 to Rian's Group, a French cheese corporation.

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: No

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Rians Group

Website: laurachenel.com

Interesting fact: Former owner Laura Chenel was once a waitress at a restaurant where Cowgirl Creamy co-owner Peggy Smith worked as cook



Matos Cheese Factory

History: The Matos family are fifth-generation Portuguese cheesemakers originally from the island of Sao Jorge in the Azores

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: Yes

Where Available: Tomales Bay Foods (Point Reyes Station) and the creamery

Cheesemakers: Joe and Mary Matos and daughter Sylvia

Website: None

Interesting fact: St. George cheese is named after the island of Sao Jorge



Toluma Farms

History: Founded by Tamara Hicks and husband David Jablons in 2003

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: Yes. Email in advance for reservations.

Where available: Plan to have first cheeses out spring 2012

Cheesemaker: Anne Marie Vanderdreissche

Website: tolumafarms.com

Interesting fact: The goat herd includes Nubians, Saanens, Alpines, La Manchas and Oberhaslis



Redwood Hill

History: In 1978, Jennifer Lynn Bice assumed ownership of Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, the family farm and a goat dairy her parents started in Sonoma County in 1968. Along with her late husband, Steven Schack, she expanded the business to produce a greater variety of goat's milk products and diversified the goat-breeding program.

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: May 12–13 and June 9–10, 11am–3pm

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Jennifer Bice

Website: redwoodhill.com

Interesting fact: The creamery is solar powered



Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

History: The creamery is housed in a remodeled milking barn last used for that purpose in 1964

Cheeses: One hundred percent organic cow's milk from Lafranchi Ranch

Public tours: Mini tours daily as time allows. The creamery store doubles as a viewing area of the cheesemaking operation.

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Scott Lafranchi

Website: nicasiocheese.com

Interesting fact: Cheeses are American versions of classic Swiss Italian varieties



Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese

History: In 2005, Bonnie DeBernardi was given a few goats to keep her dairy cows company. With more milk than the family could drink, they began making hard, raw goat cheese in the style of the Swiss Alps.

Cheeses: Goat's milk

Public tours: Yes. Call ahead.

Where available: Santa Rosa and Petaluma farmers markets, and Pacific Market and Fircrest in Sebastopol

Cheesemaker: Don DeBernardi

Website: None

Interesting fact: Two Rock is named after a small community in West Sonoma County



Vella Cheese

History: Founded in 1931 by Gaetano "Tom" Vella

Cheeses: Cow's milk from Merten's dairy

Public tours: No

Where Available: Widely available

Cheesemakers: Vella family

Website: vellacheese.com

Interesting fact: First solar-powered business in Sonoma County



Petaluma Creamery/Spring Hill Creamery

History: Founded in 1913

Cheeses: Cow's milk

Public tours: Make reservations

Where available: Widely available

Cheesemaker: Larry Peters

Website: None

Interesting fact: The Petaluma Creamery store sells 25 varieties of local and imported cheese

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