Sonoma County, California Artisan Cheese Festival March 21-23 preview

Cheese Fest Wine Tasting - Image: Sherrie Perkovich
Cheese Fest Wine Tasting - Image: Sherrie Perkovich

SONOMA, February 22, 2014 – What do dozens of award-winning cheesemakers, hundreds of different types of cheese and 10,000 cheese lovers have in common?  They are all in attendance at the 8th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival in Sonoma County, taking place March 21-23.

This full cheese exposition is a collection of the best in the field when it comes to cheese. It is a three-day long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheese, foods, wines and beers from around California and beyond.

Cheese Fest Wine Tasting - Image: Sherrie Perkovich
Cheese Fest Wine Tasting – Image: Sherrie Perkovich

The event truly celebrates the craft of artisan cheese making. Attendees learn how to taste, buy, serve and enjoy cheeses from the experts. There are education seminars and tastings that are led by experts from around the country.  Festival attendees can participate in everything from touring local cheese farms, to meeting the cheesemakers, to taking cheesemaking classes. One thing is certain; you will consume a lot of cheese over the three days.  There is definitely a focus on California cheese, but other areas are also represented.

A hot topic this year will be sustainability. It is a hot word all over California artisan practices, and not just in cheese. It’s also a hot topic in winemaking, beermaking and any organic farming. The festival does a good job of helping consumers understand what is meant by sustainability and what the differences are in artisan cheeses versus non-artisan. The festival also supports the artisan cheesemakers financially.

Ten percent of ticket proceeds benefit non-profit organizations that work to protect and preserve the lands needed by the cheesemakers.

All this talk about cheese is likely making you hungry for cheese. There will be about 30 different artisan cheese producers handing out samples of their creamy delights; you name it, they will have it: hard cheese, soft cheese, aged cheese, infused cheese, sheep’s milk, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, raw cheese and cheese you’ve never heard of.

Let’s not forget about the wine tasting. What would a cheese tasting be without the perfect wine accompaniment? Fifteen artisan wineries, and half a dozen breweries will be pouring at the festival. They are the ideal cheese party companions to keep the cheese flowing and keep festival goers happy.

Bell Weather Cheese - Cheese Fest Wine Tasting - Image: Sherrie Perkovich
Bell Weather Cheese – Cheese Fest Wine Tasting – Image: Sherrie Perkovich

Here are some cheese favorites from last year:

  • Bellwether Farms, Sonoma County CA: Caramody and Pepato cheeses
  • Clover Stornetta Farms, Sonoma County CA: Herb & Spice Havarti
  • Marin French Cheese Company, Marin CA: Schloss and Goat’s Milk Camembert cheeses
  • Redwood Hill Farm, Petaluma CA: Raw Milk Feta and Smoked Goat Cheddar cheeses.  Also check out their yogurts.
  • Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese: Willits CA: Soft Chevre in various flavors (Basil, Dill, Black Pepper)
  • Winters Cheese Co, Winters CA: Tomato & Basil Cheddar, Gouda, and Garlic & Chive cheeses

Surprisingly, the beer pairings last year were refreshing and delightful. Keep an eye on newcomer St. Florian’s Brewery. A few other favorites include Moylan’s Brewery and Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. All of their beers were tried and all of them liked.

The wine pairings are a bit more expected, and there are certainly some standouts in the bunch. Suggested wine tastings: KoKomo Winery, Russian River Vineyards, Truett-Hurst and Handley Cellars.

Check out all the wonderful artisan cheesemakers, wineries and breweries that will participate in the Festival on their website.

Endive Dish Bell Weather Cheese - Cheese Fest Wine Tasting - Image: Sherrie Perkovich
Endive Dish Bell Weather Cheese – Cheese Fest Wine Tasting – Image: Sherrie Perkovich

The big winners from last year’s festival were Chef Peter at The Lodge at Sonoma, and Cowgirl Creamery who won the Best Cheese Dish Competition.  Their winning dishes were Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel, Braised Short Rib and Crème Fraiche Mini Ice Cream Cones.

The festival kicks off on March 21. The weekend will be filled with scrumptious cheeses, chef demonstrations and pairings, educational sessions by knowledgeable, talented chefs, cheese experts, authors, cheesemakers, expert panel discussions and more.

Get your tickets in advance.

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