Take one bite of Marin and Sonoma artisanal cheeses and you'll taste the rich favors of the area. Whether the cheese is from cow, sheep or goat’s milk; the love and attention from the farmers shine though each delicious bite. From the fresh triple cream of MT TAM cheese at Cowgirl Creamery to the tangy Point Reyes Original Blue, the bounty of choices for the gourmet traveler can be explored right in our own backyard.
Thanks to the California Cheese Trail website, free app and free printed map, you can choose a farm tour and find out in-depth information about the cheesemakers from Petaluma to Point Reyes to Sonoma to Sebastopol. Choose one of two suggested driving tours of open locations or plan ahead for a private visit of the various cheese producers and farms. No matter which you choose, it will be fun and enriching opportunity for the whole family, and your stomachs won’t complain either. This gift was created by Vivien Straus, who grew up on the family dairy farm in Marshall. I spoke to Vivien about the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail for her personal suggestions of family-friendly cheese adventures to learn, explore, enjoy and meet the farmers and animals behind your favorite cheeses.
FUN FOR KIDS
Redwood Hill Farms has an Open House 2 weekends a year. Play with their goats and sample cheese. It’s a huge family event. There is little parking but it’s such a fun event, carpool recommended. Next public tour is June 6 & 7, 11 am – 3 pm, free, 5480 Thomas Road, Sebastopol, CA.
Bohemian Creamery is open Friday-Sunday for cheese tastings and goat watching.
Toluma Farms has a tour on the first Sunday of every month. Play with goats and sheep and sample cheese.
Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company in Petaluma has a great fall event on their dairy with ice cream, Jersey cows, cheese and a pumpkin patch.
PRIVATE TOURS FOR FAMILIES
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese’s owner Bonnie will take you to see her goats and give you cheese tastings. Call 707-762-6182.
Achadinha Cheese Company has goats, jersey cows, and make cheese right on their farm just outside Petaluma.
TOURS TO EXPLORE
Cowgirl Creamery has a tasting of all their cheeses and you can view the cheesemaking and the cheese aging through the window in Point Reyes on Fridays at 11. You need to reserve 1 month in advance.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Wednesdays or Thursdays you are likely to see cheese making. Cheesemakers often don’t make the cheese on the weekends, some locations on the suggested driving tours are retail locations only, and some, for food safety reasons and the creamery locations, can’t actually show the cheesemaking.
The Matos Cheese Factory is open to the public. It’s very European to drive onto their farm. At the far end of their driveway is their shop. Ring the bell and someone will come out to give you a sample of cheese and sell you whatever you’d like.
Check out The Milk Maid of San Francisco, Louella. She just wrote a book called “Kitchen Creamery” with great instructions on how to make cheese at home. She also gives public and private cheesemaking classes.
The website and app are free to use but many people do not know that you can order a free map through MALT or pick up a copy at the Marin Convention & Visitor Bureau in San Rafael or California Welcome Center in Santa Rosa.
Vivien Straus grew up on her family’s dairy in Marshall. She ran away to Hollywood to become an actress until the cows wooed her back. She helped build her brother’s company Straus Family Creamery, serving as VP of Marketing for 11 years. Until last year, she served as Public Relations Coordinator at Cowgirl Creamery. Currently she manages the Straus Home Ranch as well as its vacation rental. In addition, she created and manages the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail project and California’s CheeseTrail.org, which helps to promote cheesemakers, and by extension, small farmers. Recently she completed a run of her one-woman show (writer and actress), E-i-E-i-OY! In Bed with the Farmer’s Daughter and is currently working on a new performance piece.