California is a significant player on the cheese front in the United States. There is a rapid development, but states such as Oregon and Vermont are today responsible for the innovation. Of course, much of this has to do with passionate souls, who take hold and thus drive an entire “industry” forward. This does not mean that California is unimportant, nor that it is stagnant in terms of development, or that they do not have excellent cheese. There are many wonderful idealists here, both in terms of cheese and animal husbandry and the care of the soil. But the osterabulists can be found elsewhere. The dairies are concentrated, so here you get a lot in a small area. Just to follow the California cheese trail.
Some obvious cheeses
I have found some cheeses that are each in their own way distinctive and stand in the forefront in terms of quality for what the Americans call “artisan cheesemaking”; craft sewing. Then there are many more along the routes mentioned below but only the first four are “quality assured” by independent experts and considered to have the best California has to offer in terms of cheese.
Otherwise, many cheese courses are arranged from one day and upwards; from how to make mozzarella at home to significantly more sophisticated. Some are at the dairies, others in San Francisco.
Most dairies receive visitors. Only one that is worth visiting says they do not, but it is of course allowed to try.
East or west?
There are two main cheese routes, one eastern and one western, but they are not very far apart. Both routes go through the wine district Sonoma, so here it is possible to combine, although Napa is more sexy. Basically, most of the dairies are located between Petaluma in the south and Sebastopol in the north. Each route is approx. 80 km plus detours. From San Francisco Airport to Petaluma it takes an hour to drive, same to Napa, so the distances are short. However, there are also some dairies outside these routes that are worth visiting, but are a bit far away (Humboldt, Modesto, Crescent City). If you have the time and desire, just drive.
Garage companies? – Far from!
Although all of these dairies are craft dairies, they are not necessarily small garage companies, this is after all the United States.
The four ironies
Cowgirl Creamery. Has a dairy in both Point Reyes and Petaluma. Started and run by two women. Especially known for its white cheese Mt. Tam and the red hawk cheese Red Hawk. Operates organically. The cheeses are pasteurized. Also holds small courses for visitors.
Matos Cheese Factory. Located in Santa Rosa. Started and still run by the same family who in their time immigrated from the Azores. Makes a cheese called St. George that is a bit reminiscent of English cheese, which is also very typical of the Azores. This is where “all” Portugal’s solid cheeses come from. Does not have its own website.
Vella Cheese Company. Located in Sonoma. At this dairy, Dry Monterey Jack was created for the first time in the thirties.
Monterey Jack is also their main attraction. Very famous cheese in the USA.
Bellwether Farms. Makes two types of cheese, Carmody Reserve which is Parmesan-like, as well as a firm unpasteurized sheep’s meal called St. Andreas. Is very clear that they p.t. does not accept visits.
Other cheeses worth visiting
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Family mystery this, like so many others. Located in Point Reyes Station, facing the Pacific Ocean. Originally an Italian family who came to California in 1904. Cheese cheese from its own milk from 500 cows. Crafts, but not small-scale. Two cheeses, a blue cheese, Point Reyes original Blue. If not the only one, then at least the first blue cheese to be made in California. Unpasteurized !! Then they have a semi-solid cow’s milk cheese, Toma, which is pasteurized. In addition, a cow’s milk mozzarella that is only sold locally. Has many activities and runs both a day course in how to make simple cheeses at home, as well as arranges cooking classes and farm dinners for a maximum of 20 people.
Valley Ford Cheese Company
A Swiss / Italian family that has been making cheese in California for over 100 years. Makes typical alpine cheeses, Asagio and Fontina types respectively. They even make unpasteurized cheese which is a good sign. Cheese from own milk from 400 cows.
Marin French Cheese Company
This is the oldest artisanal dairy in the United States and has been operating in Petaluma since 1865. While other dairy farms like to use solid cheeses based on Swiss and Italian traditions or goat and sheep’s cheeses of various kinds, this dairy operates with soft white cheese; that is, Brie and Camembert types. Supposedly to make skilled white mold cheeses. There can be a lot of firm cheeses. All milk is pasteurized before cheese-making.
Weirauch Farm and Creamery, Petaluma
Here they make sheep’s milk cheese with milk from their own sheep, as well as cow ‘s milk cheese from milk from farms around. As a curiosity, they also make a sheep’s milk soap. Organic farm. The cheeses are basically unpasteurized, except for the varieties that have a shorter ripening than two months.
It is not possible to go to California without having wine as an important part of the experience. I find that cheese is located in Marin County and Sonoma. Wine experiences in California are largely synonymous with Napa, which is further east. I have discussed with my contact in California, and the distances are not greater than it is possible to combine.
In Napa there are two wine routes. The easternmost is the Silverado trail. For the aficionado, this is the most interesting because here are the small nerd vineyards (in a positive sense). High quality but not so well known and in no way available in Norway. “Garagistes” the French call this type of vineyard.
In parallel with the Silverado trail, we have a little further west Highway 29 (St.Helena highway). It is no further away than that it is possible to flick back and forth between these two. Here are also high-quality vineyards, but significantly more well-known names, some of which are also available in Norway. (Some small ones too, like one of my favorites; Cakebread).
The maximum size of groups they accept in these areas will probably be around 12. Give and take.
Along Highway 29 is also Yountville and at the end St. Helena with The Culinary Institute of America. Yountville in particular is a great little town. Blue. French Laundry is located here. From Napa to St. Helena it is half an hour to drive to say a little about the distances.
All vineyards of importance along these two routes require advance reservation. Not necessarily for any reason other than having control over the number of visitors. There is quite a lot of traffic of visitors in the Napa valley, though certainly depending on the season and especially the weekend or not.
Muir Woods just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is perhaps California’s oldest redwood forest. On the way there visit the town of Sausalito, very picturesque.
For those who have not been to San Francisco before, at least a tram ride is in place and probably China town as well. Then there is something about going up the Russian Hill quarter of Lombard street! 🙂 (If you take the Hyde street tram, you can get off at the top and wander down). If you are interested in prisons, you have both Alcatraz and San Quentin.
Yosemite is great, but quite som way away (about 4 hours each way).
Napa tourist guide
Discover California wines