On a trip down the west coast to Sonoma and Napa Valley, I had the pleasure of stopping in to visit some great California cheese makers.
I made a brief stop in Arcata, near the California/Oregon order to stop by Cypress Grove Cheese. They very kindly showed us around their new creamery and production facility. It looks like they’re ready for increased production, so they can keep up with the demand for their super popular goat cheeses. Their Humboldt Fog is certainly iconic of the farmstead cheese movement in California. It’s a terrific location and they have worked diligently with the town to keep the look and feel of the property historic.
The next morning, I set off down the coast to visit Point Reyes Creamery. After a five hour drive we arrived at Point Reyes Station in Marin County. When my GPS started to falter, I was happy to have the directions sent to me earlier from the farm. With some help from my navigator we arrived on time for our appointment.
The first thing that struck me was what an amazing piece of property it was. The views were expansive in every direction. The farm is bordered on the west by the narrow inlet of Tomales Bay, and the fresh sea salt air is clearly a very special part of the farm and the original cheeses produced here.
The farm started out as a family dairy, with the milk sold to processors in the neighborhood. In 2000, after pursuing other careers, the four daughters of this local farming family came home to start a project moving the farm in a new direction, from a milk only production facility to cheese making. The change enabled the family to decrease the size of their herd and therefore decrease the stress on the land. Working to keep the area healthy and sustainable is of the utmost importance to the whole team. Every decision is weighed carefully to find the route with the least impact on the area.
We had a fabulous tasting of the whole Point Reyes line up. I had tasted many of their offerings before, as we carry some in our cheese counter, but I loved the super aged gouda we tried. That great butterscotch finish and rich, dense texture are spectacular. I love that they make fewer types of cheese and concentrate on doing an excellent job of the ones they do make. The focus really shows.
I had been corresponding with Annie Cockcroft, the hospitality and social media coordinator for the company. She met us and took us on a great tour of the barns, milking parlour and creamery. Cockcroft grew up as a neighbour and friend of the family and is well equipped to show off the facility. With a total of 720 acres of property, it is more than impressive. Although they have several amazing things on the go to better care for their animals and the land, I was especially wowed by their energy production. They convert methane gas (from the animal waste) into enough energy to run 60 percent of their daily operations.
The creamery on the farm is used to make the company’s Original Blue. They feel that the sense of place is perfect for this awesome raw milk blue. The flavours are fruity, sharp and salty. Certainly, the sea air and terroir are evident in the bright taste of this favourite.
In a new creamery building, forty-five minutes away in Petaluma, the cheese makers are busy making the other cheeses in the Point Reyes family: Cheddar, Gouda, Toma, fresh mozzarella and Bay Blue. The Bay Blue is one of our new go-to cheeses in the shop. It is a full flavoured blue with a crumbly texture and a great woodsy, earthy bite. It has a unique style, and is a great partner to the Original Blue, as they are so different
It’s always fun for us to visit cheese makers to see what they are up to and this trip was no exception. It was especially gratifying to see how committed the people at Point Reyes are to make excellent cheese and doing so in such a responsible manner. Search out their cheeses and see what we have found over many years – nice people maker better cheese.