By Lorrie Baumann
The Better Chip is bringing new energy to the deli department with a gluten-free snack chip that comes in flavors that complement the premium cheeses, cured meats and the dips already in the deli cases. The product fits in well with the transforming role of the grocery’s perimeter, which has become a destination within the store for grab and go meal and snack shoppers who want quick sustenance but who don’t intend to sacrifice their nutritional goals by resorting to fast food as well as those who regard the deli department as their resource for food to serve when they entertain.
Now The Better Chip has extended its line of five flavors of better-for-you vegetable chips: Sweet Corn and Sea Salt, Jalapenos and Sea Salt, Spinach & Kale and Sea Salt, Beets and Sea Salt and Chipotles and Sea Salt with a smaller package size, a 1.5-ounce bag that’s easy to drop into a lunch kit or a sandwich clamshell for an offering that enhances the value of the grab and go offering. “Everyone wants to offer something a little different. We feel like that’s something different they can offer that you don’t get at sandwich places,” says Andrea Brule, Vice President/General Manager of The Better Chip. “We found that accounts were interested in a smaller bag they could use in their lunchtime program. Because our chips are doing so well in their big bags, they thought that, in a smaller bag, they might be able to use it in their lunch program.”
Of the five flavors, which continue to be offered in 6-ounce family-size bags, the Spinach & Kale is far and away the company’s best seller, Brule said. The Jalapenos and Beets Chips are tied for second place. The Better Chip will announce two new flavors early in 2016.
The chips appeal to consumers who are looking for a better-for-you snack that’s a gluten-free alternative to the crackers and bagel chips that are often chosen in the deli to accompany dips and hummus. In addition to being gluten free, The Better Chip snacks are non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, whole grain and made with fresh vegetables.
They appeal to deli manager because they’re an innovation that can add new energy to the category. “They get the ring on the sandwich, but when they [shoppers] come back to buy more, they get that ring in the deli. That’s as opposed to, with other chips, that ring goes to grocery.” Brule said.
The 1.5-ounce bags retail as a separate a la carte offering for $.99 to $1.19.
By Lorrie Baumann
Cecylia Szewczyk is popping her buttons after the Emmental cheese made by her Sugarcreek team at Guggisberg Cheese was named the winner of the United States Championship Cheese Contest. The 200-pound wheel was chosen from among 1,894 entries in the contest, and it’s a cheese destined to lead Guggisberg Cheese’s product line in a direction that appeals to changing American tastes.
Of course, winning awards is nothing new for Guggisberg, which makes highly esteemed American Swiss-style cheeses that win championships almost routinely, but this award recognizes Guggisberg’s ability to turn its expertise toward traditional Swiss cheese styles with their robust flavors that were once considered too strong for American tastes. But as Americans have become more adventurous eaters, they’re demanding bolder flavors, and Emmental is back in favor. “In Switzerland, they are using different culture combinations that are able to break down the fat in cheese as it ages, and this produces the strongest notes that appreciated there. Here in the U.S. there is a tendency to use milder culture combinations that do not break down the fat , but more and more, Americans prefer pronounced flavors, and we would like to go in this direction,” Szewczyk explains.
Szewczyk led the team that developed the new cheese. Like the championship Emmental, she’s new to Guggisberg, although she’s been making cheese since 2006, when she was received her master’s degree in food biotechnology from the Polish university where she’d studied the food technology and food biotechnology. During the graduation ceremony in which she received her degree, she was approached by a Dutch company that was producing cultures for cheeses and offered a job immediately. She spent the next six years working in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands. Then the company sent her to Wisconsin to introduce its ingredients to the U.S. market. Two years later, the company’s management decided to change direction and scale back its efforts in the U.S. market.
By that time, though, Szewczyk had developed a friendly relationship with Guggisberg, which was one of her customers. “There was a mutual feeling,” she says. She approached Guggisberg with her thoughts about developing new cheeses, and the company took her on for a project that required testing a new pilot line that was an exact copy of the new production line Guggisberg Cheese was planning to install. “I came here, and we started playing with recipes,” she says. The 200-pound championship wheel was one of the first off that pilot line.
The winning Emmental was aged for just three months with a special cheese coating that allowed the cheese to breathe and release gases and moisture that naturally form within the cheese as it ages instead of the plastic wrapping that’s commonly used in the U.S. “There is a tremendous difference if you let cheese age the natural way, if there are no plastic bags to create a barrier,” Szewczyk says.
“The flavor that we managed to develop there was really outstanding. We were so happy,” she says. “We thought we wouldn’t stand a chance against other Emmentals because of the short aging. In only three months, we were able to develop the flavor. Considering the fact that this was one of the first trials, I’ll say we were very lucky.”
Gourmet Guru, the first all natural and organic food retail distribution company in New York City, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Launched as a sole-proprietor, one-truck operation in 1996, Gourmet Guru distributed mostly local items and imported cheese exclusively to independent accounts in the New York City market at that time. The organization has steadily grown to be an award-winning vertically integrated sales, marketing and logistics company now covering territory from Washington, D.C. to Maine.
Since its inception, Guru has focused on bringing only the most innovative and high-quality natural and organic products to market with a proud track record of having launched several emerging (and now major) categories such as: USDA organic, Greek yogurt, natural/organic deli and meats and functional beverages for companies that have become the leading CPG brands in those categories.
As Guru embarks on the upcoming year, the company will be launching a number of events that demonstrate its holistic approach to business and the world around us. The themes will highlight Guru’s passion for innovation and mutualism as well as an appreciation for customers and producer partners. These will include 20 new lines or line extensions in natural, organic categories, customer and producer appreciation awards for those maintaining 20 years of loyal partnership and 20 community give-back events as well as a 20th anniversary food show.
Arthur Schuman, Inc. will be showcasing its 2015 award-winning “Best of Class” cheeses at the Winter Fancy Food Show on January 17-19 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Arthur Schuman, Inc., a fourth-generation family company located in Fairfield, New Jersey, is recognized as a leader within the specialty cheese industry as both an importer and a producer of hard domestic cheeses for foodservice operators, retailers and distributors.
Arthur Schuman, Inc. invites you to stop by and taste these award-winning “Best of Class” cheeses that include:
Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan – This parmesan cheese has a unique rich and nutty flavor that earned a first place award at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition. Made with strict traditional methods, this award-winning cheese is produced in Arthur Schuman’s Lake Country Dairy facility using the highest quality milk. The cheese’s robust flavor and distinct color comes from our commitment to using a copper kettle in the cheese making process and natural sea salt in the brining process. Each wheel is hand selected by a team of expert cheese graders as soon as its flavor has reached the peak of perfection.
Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan – Produced by expert cheesemakers, Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan is made with the freshest milk from local Wisconsin farms and carefully crafted using traditional techniques. Each wheel is naturally aged for over 12 months, developing a deep, nutty, sweet flavor. The complex composition of Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan earned the second place award at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition.
Cello Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps – Cello Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps are an innovative snack made entirely of one delicious ingredient, 100 percent pure Parmesan cheese. Made with award-winning Cello Copper Kettle Parmesan Cheese aged 14 months, Cello Whisps provide health conscious consumers of all ages with a healthy snack alternative that also taste great. Cello Whisps are all-natural wholesome crisps baked into flavorful, airy, crispy bites. They are an excellent source of protein and calcium and are gluten free. One serving is just 100 calories.
Cello Whisps have gained a strong fan following: consumers try them once and fall in love. Even the cheese experts love Cello Whisps; their delicious flavor earned the second place award at the 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
“2015 was a very rewarding year for Arthur Schuman, and we are already looking forward to launching our new Yellow Door Creamery Hand-Rubbed Fontina and Yellow Door Creamery Brilliant Blue cheeses in 2016,” said lIana Fischer, Vice President of Innovation & Strategy at Arthur Schuman, Inc. “We pride ourselves in offering new and innovative cheese products into the specialty market.”
Arthur Schuman, Inc. will also be showcasing hand selected imported cheeses including Entremont, Dodoni, Brugge, Busti, Mario Costa, Zanetti, Garofalo, and Pastures of Eden.
Bare Snacks®, creator of delicious Snacks Gone Simple®, has just launched a fresh new look for its entire portfolio of crunchy baked snacks, which highlights the brand’s dedication to simple, clean ingredients. Featuring a modern interpretation of a slate board background coupled with a stylized new logo made from its baked fruit chips and striking real food visuals, the new packaging was developed to create an iconic brand block on-shelf and drive strong taste appeal while putting the simplicity of the snacks front and center. The new look for bare Banana Chips, Coconut Chips, and cornerstone Apple Chips will start shipping to retailers nationwide at the end of January.
“In an effort to better communicate the simplicity of our truly good-for-you snacks, we wanted to create a clean brand look that more accurately reflects our commitment to simple, real ingredients that still deliver the satisfying crunch of a chip,” said Dana Ginsburg, Director of Marketing at Bare Snacks. “Our modern packaging makeover perfectly expresses our brand promise to consumers in a fresh new way that puts our ingredients front and center.”
Bare Snacks’ new packaging features beautiful photography of real apples, coconuts and bananas on the front panel, as well as a refreshed logo made from the same fruit in chip form for each corresponding line. In addition, the new back-label design prominently displays ingredients front and center in large font and notes “The Bare Facts” for each product, such as containing no added oil or preservatives, as well as third party certifications like the Certified B Corp seal and Non-GMO Project Verified logo. To further communicate the simplicity of bare snacks, each bag also includes an illustration of a whole piece of fruit transitioning to slices and finally baked crunchy chips to accurately depict the minimally processed product inside.
Made with whole-food ingredients and real, fresh-picked fruit that is sliced and baked to crunchy perfection rather than fried, bare snacks are a tasty and healthier alternative to traditional chips. All bare snacks are Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten free, and contain no added oil or preservatives.
Bare snacks are available nationwide in natural and grocery stores including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts and Safeway as well as national retailers such as Target, Costco and Amazon with suggested retail prices ranging from of $0.99-$4.99.
Italian Foods Corporation is introducing a new display shipper for its best-selling La Piana shelf stable stuffed pastas at the Winter Fancy Food Show.
The shipper holds 48 of the 8-ounce packages and may be used as an end cap or stand alone display, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, general manager. It contains four flavors of the pasta and opens to about 5 feet high with a footprint of just 10 by 18 inches. Orders will be taken at the show for shipment in February, Lapiana-Krause said.
Flavors include Mezzaluna with Gorgonzola, Tortellini with Cheese, Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto, and Ravioli with Squash. All of the stuffed pastas are imported from the Lombardy region and are shelf stable for 15 months. The pastas have been repackaged into a recyclable plastic bag featuring a matte finish and elegant design of soft grey and yellow with a clear window allowing consumers to view the pasta. A squared bottom keeps the bags neatly displayed. The 8-ounce stuffed pastas have a suggested retail price of $4.99. They also are available in 1-pound boxes with a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19.
Natural and organic meat provider Applegate® announced that Chief Executive Officer Kerry Collins will transition to the role of CEO Emeritus, and Chief Operating Officer Steven J. Lykken will assume the position of President. Applegate Farms, LLC (Applegate) is a stand-alone subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation.
“Both Kerry and Steve played key roles in ensuring a smooth transition of Applegate into a stand-alone subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation,” said Thomas R. Day, Group Vice President of Refrigerated Foods at Hormel Foods. “Kerry’s leadership was essential in preserving the core of Applegate’s vision of ‘Changing the Meat We Eat,’ and we look forward to her continuing counsel as CEO emeritus. Steve brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help Applegate continue to grow and expand in the natural and organic food space.”
Collins joined Applegate in 2011 as vice president of finance. She led key efforts in information technology and supply chain management and quickly rose through the ranks to chief financial and operating officer. Collins was named chief executive officer of Applegate in 2014. She shepherded the acquisition of Applegate by Hormel Foods in 2015. In addition to her CEO emeritus role, Collins also will be a member of the Applegate Advisory Board, a group charged with continuing Applegate’s vision of “Changing the Meat We Eat.”
Lykken became chief operating officer of Applegate in August 2015. He is a 24-year veteran of Hormel Foods Corporation, most recently as the senior vice president of supply chain at Jennie-O Turkey Store. He began his career at Hormel Foods in 1992 as a grocery products sales representative in Salt Lake City, Utah. From 1996 to 2002, Lykken led teams in trade management and marketing at the Hormel Foods Corporate office in Austin, Minnesota. He was moved to the Jennie-O Turkey Store as senior vice president of the retail division in 2003.
General Mills, Inc. has acquired EPIC Provisions, a rapidly growing, premium meat snacks company based in Austin, Texas. EPIC will operate under General Mills’ Annie’s business, which itself has experienced strong sales growth since General Mills acquired the company more than a year ago. EPIC will maintain its present location in Austin.
“The acquisition of EPIC positions General Mills for exciting growth with a highly authentic brand in an entirely new natural snacking category,” said John Foraker, President of Annie’s. “A purpose-driven brand like EPIC perfectly aligns with the experience and capabilities set that Annie’s brings to the table. EPIC has tremendous potential for growth in the natural snacking category. We’re committed to maintaining the great-tasting EPIC snacks people love, while further building this important brand to drive positive impact we can be proud of well into the future.”
EPIC Provisions was launched in 2013 by co-founders Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest, both competitive athletes seeking a convenient way to add nourishing animal protein to their diets. The original EPIC meat, fruit, and nut bar — the first of its kind — has created a new snacking category. EPIC Bars come in unique flavors including Bison Bacon Cranberry, Beef Habanero Cherry, Chicken Sesame BBQ, and Pulled Pork Pineapple. Today the brand has evolved its product offerings to include EPIC Jerky Bites and EPIC Hunt and Harvest Trail Mix.
Both Collins and Forrest will continue with the business following the acquisition. “We’re proud of the rapid growth EPIC Provisions has achieved during the past three years,” said Collins and Forrest. “Our decision to join General Mills provides EPIC with the scale to bring our products to even more consumers, and to significantly increase the positive impact of our business on grassland regeneration and proper livestock management practices. We look forward to working with Annie’s and General Mills to continue this momentum and to build upon the authenticity of the brand we created.”
EPIC snacks are sold primarily in the natural channel including nationally at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers, but are also sold at sporting and hiking shops including REI, as well as some conventional grocers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Tickets are now on sale for the United States’ premier public artisan cheese event, the 10th Annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, which takes place March 18 – 20, 2016. The weekend-long Festival is a celebration of California cheesemakers, chefs, brewers, cider makers, winemakers and passionate guests, all coming together for three days of learning about, tasting and supporting artisan cheese.
Bringing attendees face-to-face with the farmers and cheesemakers who work together to create some of America’s best artisan cheeses, the farm tours tend to sell out early every year. This year, in honor of the 10 year milestone, there will be two full days of farm tours, on both Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, including destinations outside of the Bay Area, as well as educational components included in every tour. Details about the tours are as follows:
FRIDAY FARM TOURS
Tour A – Kids, Calves, & More
Attendees of Tour A will start their day at White Whale Farm with Anna Hancock, a former lawyer whose love of cheese and four-legged creatures led her to choose farm life over legal briefs. Anna and her team seasonally transform goat milk into award-winning Pug’s Leap farmstead cheeses, including three recent winners at the 2015 American Cheese Society conference. The next stop is McClelland’s Dairy, an organic family-run farm with a history as rich as their delicious butter. Nestled in the rolling hills of Two Rock Valley, guests will learn about the farm’s history and evolution, the ins and outs of pasture management and what it takes to raise grass-fed dairy cows in Sonoma County. A trip to the nursery will bring guests up close with big-eyed baby calves and the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. Then it’s off to the historic Denman Creamery and PW Scoggins Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. Following lunch, James Beard-award winning author Janet Fletcher will lead a cheese-tasting seminar about mixed milk cheeses, which have long been a mainstay in Europe, and are becoming more and more popular stateside. The final stop will be at the award winning Rustic Bakery where guests may stock up on their famous flatbread, lavosh and cheese coins.
Tour B – Sonoma’s Specialties
What happens when a classic cow dairy adopts pet goats? Attendees of Tour B will find out from Don and Bonnie DeBernardi at their dairy and creamery. Home to dairy cows since 1968, DeBernardi Dairy adopted goats in the 90s, and are now making award-winning aged tomme-style goat cheese. Spring is “kidding” season, so guests will get to meet the newest floppy-eared additions to the farm as well as taste Don’s Two Rock Goat Cheese, a tribute to his Swiss ancestry. Next, the tour will head to McClelland’s Dairy, an organic family-run farm with a history as rich as their butter. Nestled in the rolling hills of Two Rock Valley, guests will learn about the farm’s history and evolution, visit the nursery to see big-eyed baby calves and get the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. Next, the tour will visit historic Denman Creamery and PW Scoggins Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. Following lunch, James Beard-award winning author Janet Fletcher will lead a cheese-tasting seminar about mixed milk cheeses, which have long been a mainstay in Europe, and are becoming more and more popular stateside. The tour will wrap up with a final stop at Petaluma Hills Brewing Company, where guests will pair fresh brews with local cheese from Achadinha Cheese Co.
Tour C – Legends and Legacies
Guests of Tour C will start their day with a taste of tradition. Marin French Cheese Company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, making it the longest continuously operating cheese company in America. Guests will take a historical walking tour of this creamery, admiring the vistas of Hicks Valley Ranch, and taste their signature cheeses. Then the tour will head to AppleGarden Farm in Tomales, where owner Jan Lee has transformed grazing land into an orchard, and reminds us that farmstead isn’t a term reserved exclusively for cheese. Guests will tour the farm, learn about cider apple selection and dry farming, and taste the fruits of Lee’s labor. Guests will then continue on to the historic Dairymen’s Bank in Valley Ford where they will be treated to a seminar featuring three of California’s most heralded and important cheese legends: Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Chevre, Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farms and Phillip Franco of Sierra Cheese Co. Led by James Beard award-winning author Laura Werlin, this panel will take guests through the trials, tribulations and victories that comprise their own cheese stories and with that, the story of California cheese itself. And of course, attendees will taste each of these flagship cheeses along the way, before heading next door for a special lunch at Rocker Oysterfeller’s. The final stop is DeBernardi Dairy where guests will meet Don and Bonnie DeBernardi, visit their baby goats and taste their Two Rock Valley goat cheese.
Tour D – Sonoma’s Fertile Grounds
This tour begins with a buzz! JB Rumburg of Velo Fromage, Kathryn Allen of Hearth Coffee Roasters, and Sandra Loofbourow of Andytown Coffee Roasters, will kick off the morning with an educational seminar at the Sheraton, called “Third Wave Coffee and The Renaissance of the American Artisan Cheese Movement.” Attendees will explore the pairing principles behind different flavor profiles featured in local cheeses alongside a range of coffee varietals prepared in various methods. Fully caffeinated, guests will board the bus and head over to Bohemian Creamery to meet Lisa Gottreich, one of the region’s most creative artisan cheesemakers. Here guests will meet a herd of Alpine dairy goats whose milk becomes farmstead cheese, whey soda, and even goat’s milk frozen yogurt. The tour will then head to Devoto Orchards where second-generation apple farmer Jolie Devoto-Wade and her husband work with organic heirloom apples, including the local Gravenstein, and make three styles of cider each harvest. Guests will tour the picturesque farm, taste the estate cider, and enjoy lunch on the grounds. This tour will wrap with a stop at Freestone Artisan Cheese, where guests will meet owner Omar Mueller. His cozy shop boasts a well-curated selection of California’s incredible agricultural bounty including local artisan cheeses, olive oils grown and pressed locally, and hot roasted nuts. Omar will surprise the group with a guest cheesemaker appearance and tasting, and if time allows, attendees may walk over to Wild Flower Bread Bakery to snag a coveted sourdough loaf from their wood fired brick oven.
Tour E – Preserving Tradition
Guests of Tour E will start their day with a taste of tradition. Marin French Cheese Company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, making it the longest continuously operating cheese company in America. Guests will take a historical walking tour of this creamery, admiring the vistas of Hicks Valley Ranch, and taste their signature cheeses. Then they will continue on to Barinaga Ranch, a sheep dairy in Marshall, at the height of lambing season. Owner Marcia Barinaga, a scientist turned cheesemaker, is devoted to her animals and committed to raising them in a sustainable manner, while shepherding and cheesemaking in the tradition of her Basque ancestors. After meeting her flock and tasting her award-winning cheeses, guests will take a drive down Highway 1 to Straus Home Ranch for lunch and an educational seminar. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a pioneering organization founded by Ellen Straus and Phyllis Farber to protect working farmland in Marin County, protects this beautiful property and two others on the tour. Guests will learn about MALT ‘s influence on the local dairy landscape and a local cheesemaker and cheesemonger team will guide them through a tasting of cheeses made from “MALTed milk.” The tour will finish with a trip to Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, an award-winning organic farmstead creamery and a MALT-protected ranch run by the Lafranchi family for three generations.
Tour F – The Land of Milk & Honey
This tour will start in Pt. Reyes Station, where guests will visit the original Cowgirl Creamery. In 1997, in a renovated hay barn, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith started making fresh cheeses with surplus organic milk from a West Marin Dairy, and nearly two decades later, the Cowgirls are still making delicious cheese and supporting multiple local dairies. After tasting their cheeses, guests will toast this historic dairy town at Heidrun Meadery where they’ll taste different varieties of sparkling mead which is made from honey. After learning about their bees, beekeeping, and the traditional Methode Champenoise that transforms this nectar into a delicate bottle of bubbly, guests will drive up the coast for lunch and an educational seminar at Straus Home Ranch. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a pioneering organization founded by Ellen Straus and Phyllis Farber to protect working farmland in Marin County, protects this beautiful property. Guests will learn more about MALT’s influence on the local dairy landscape and a local cheesemaker and cheesemonger team will guide you through a tasting of cheeses made from “MALTed milk.” To finish, the tour will head to Neil McIsaac & Son Dairy, a diversified organic dairy that’s been a MALT-protected ranch since 1991. The McIsaac family sells their high-quality cows milk to Clover Stornetta and guests will get to taste their latest line of yogurt and learn about the changes they’ve brought to the farm to ready it for the next generation.
Capitol Area Tour North
PLEASE NOTE: This tour starts and ends at Nugget Market in Woodland which is about 75 miles away from the Sheraton – Sonoma County, Petaluma.
Guests of this tour will start at Nugget Market in Woodland before heading north to explore the “cheesescape” of the North Sacramento Valley. First stop is Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company, where guests will meet Tim Pedrozo, a third generation dairy farmer and self-proclaimed “accidental cheesemaker.” Since 1996, the Pedrozos have been milking a small blended herd of Holstein, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn cows on their 20-acre farm in Orland, and two years later began transforming that milk into a diverse range of farmstead cheese. Next, the tour will head to Orland Farmstead Creamery. Owner Paul Schmidt’s passion for farm life started early – he raised and showed cows through 4-H while still in elementary school. Over 30 years after founding his own dairy, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of making farmstead cheese. Orland Farmstead Creamery focuses on fresh cheeses that highlight the quality of milk from their grass-fed cows. A delicious cheese-centric lunch will be held at the Glen County Country Club before continuing on to Sierra Nevada Cheese Company. Founded in 1997, Sierra Nevada Cheese Company continues to innovate and create new dairy products, made with their meticulously sourced local cow, goat, and sheep milk.
Capitol Area Tour South
PLEASE NOTE: This tour starts and ends at the Sacramento Natural Food Coop in Sacramento which is about 81 miles away from the Sheraton – Sonoma County, Petaluma.
This tour will begin at Sacramento Natural Food Coop before heading south into the San Joaquin Valley where guests will visit Fiscalini Farms, home to Fiscalini Cheese Company in Modesto. Attendees will taste what happens when fourth generation farm know-how is combined with a very talented cheesemaker and farmstead raw cows’ milk. Here’s a hint…it’s arguably the best cheddar in the West! Next, the tour will visit some smaller hooved friends at Nicolau Farms, where goats rule the roost. Walter Nicolau III has a herd of Alpine, Saanen, and La Mancha goats whose “white gold” becomes fresh and aged farmstead cheeses. After touring the farm, guests will taste cheese and enjoy a cheese-inspired lunch as well as a tasting with Nutcher Milk Company. Dairy farmers aren’t the only multi-generational farmers in this area – the Phillips family at Michael David Winery has been cultivating grapes in the valley for nearly a century on 750 acres of vineyard. Guests of this tour will get to taste their estate wines and also meet Andrea Mongini, veterinarian and owner of Ewetopia Dairy, who will sample a selection of her sheep milk cheeses.
SATURDAY FARM TOURS
Tour G – All In The Family
Guests will start this tour with a taste of tradition at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Since 1919, the Lafranchi family has been dairying on over 1,000 acres in Marin County. At their historic ranch, guests will learn about the family’s rich history as local dairy farmers and their path to becoming the only organic farmstead cheesemakers in California. After touring the creamery and tasting the award-winning farmstead cheeses, guests will head out to the coast where they will meet the Giacomini family of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. This picturesque dairy farm is nestled among rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay and here guests will learn about how cheesemaking lured the four Giacomini sisters back to the farm. A multi-course lunch at The Fork will be prepared by guest chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, featuring cheeses from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. This tour will finish on a sweet note at Sonoma Portworks with a tasting of unique California fortified wines paired with Cypress Grove Chevre at their tasting room in downtown Petaluma.
Tour H – Taste of Place
This tour will kick off with a visit and tasting at the original Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station where Peggy Smith and Sue Conley started their own artisan cheese revolution years ago to help a localdairy farmer with a surplus of organic milk. Then guests will take a short drive up the
coast to meet the Giacomini family of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Attendees will tour the picturesque dairy farm nestled among rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay and learn about how cheesemaking lured the four Giacomini sisters back to the farm. A multi-course lunch at The Fork will follow, prepared by guest chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, featuring cheeses from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. The tour will end at Sonoma Aperitif, founded in 2015 by Laura Hagar Rush. Guests will learn about her California take on a centuries-old “Vin Maison” European tradition inspired by the bounty of local produce like Chinese quince, Bosc pears and grapefruit.
All farm tours, except the two tours of the Capitol Area, will pick up guests at the Festival’s host hotel, the Sheraton Sonoma County–Petaluma (745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma, CA 94954). Tour departure times are 8:30 a.m. and the tours will be rain or shine. Farm tour attendees are encouraged to wear boots or shoes that can get dirty and bring an ice chest since many farms will have cheese for purchase. The ticket price for the farm tours include lunch, transportation and educational components. Each tour will return guests to the departure site by 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $135 per person and may be purchased at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
Tickets to the Festival’s other events are also now available, including Friday’s Cheesemongers’ Duel, Saturday’s “California Cheesin’ – We Do It Our Whey!” 10 Year Celebration, and Sunday’s Bubbles Brunch with Celebrity Chef John Ash and The Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace. Tickets for all events may be purchased at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
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.
Generous sponsors of the Artisan Cheese Festival include American AgCredit, Beehive Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, Central Coast Creamery, Chevoo, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Cowgirl Creamery, Culture Magazine, Cypress Grove Chevre, Donald & Maureen Green Foundation, Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Co., Lagunitas Brewing Company, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Mike Hudson Distributing, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Nugget Markets, Oak Packaging, Oliver’s Markets, Pennyroyal Farm, Petaluma Market, Petaluma Post, Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Pure Luxury Transportation, Real California Milk, Redwood Hill Farms & Creamery, Rustic Bakery, Sheraton Sonoma County, Valley Ford Cheese Company and Willapa Hills Cheese.