Artisan Cheese Tour of Marin & Sonoma Counties
Photo © Steve Quirt
Tour the heart of farmstead cheesemakers in Marin and Sonoma counties—the Normandy of North California. You can start at the Marin French Cheese right outside of Novato. Take a tour, picnic, and taste their award winning Rouge et Noir brie. Traveling west from there, make a quick detour to the quaint village of Nicasio. There you'll find Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. The Lafranchi family produces fantastic farmstead cheeses in the artisanal tradition of their Swiss-Italian cousins in Northern Italy.Then travel through the rolling hills of buccolic West Marin, home to the cows, goats and sheep that produce some of the finest cheeses on the West Coast to Point Reyes Station.
You’ll find Tomales Bay Foods where you can taste delicious cheeses made right up the road or right there at Cowgirl Creamery. A few miles north on Hwy 1 takes you past the Giacomini Ranch and home of Point Reyes Blue. See their website for more details on events and continue on past Nick’s Cove where they serve local cheeses to Tomales. Turn east towards Petaluma where you can make your way into town and home of Cowgirl Creamery where you can tour their plant on Wednesdays (April-Sept: reservations required 866.433.7834) and leave with generous cheese samples.
Other award winning local farmstead cheeses include Redwood Hill Goat Cheese that can be found at Cowgirl Creamery and at Tomales Bay Foods. They are located outside of Sebastopol in West Sonoma County, you can read about their products and where to find them.
If you're game, head up to Sebastopol to the Joe Matos Cheese Factory that is open to the public to sample their St George, a buttery semi-hard cheese made in the style of the Azores. Call ahead. 707/584-5283.
Length of Byway or Route: Approximately 50 miles
Start at the Marin French Cheese Company right outside Novato, where you can tour, picnic, and taste their award-winning Rouge et Noir brie. Then travel west on the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, make a quick detour onto Nicasio Valley Road to the quaint village of Nicasio. There you'll find Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. The Lafranchi family produces fantastic farmstead cheeses in the artisanal tradition of their Swiss-Italian cousins in Switzerland. Then retrace your steps to the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road and into the town of Point Reyes to Tomales Bay Foods (also known as Cowgirl Creamery) where you can watch cheesemaking through the window or take a more formal cheese tasting (reservations required). At the cheese counter taste Cowgirl cheeses and other local artisan cheeses.
You pass through lush agricultural grazing lands with many acres protected by Marin Agricultural Land Trust through historic villages with nearby Point Reyes National Seashore, along beautiful Tomales Bay past several oyster operations such as Hog Island and Point Reyes Oyster Company and returning back to Highway 101 in Petaluma, a historic agricultural town along the Petaluma River.
See websites for questions about hours and accessibility.
www.CheeseTrail.org (for all cheesemakers in the region) or go to the specific cheesemaker websites: Marin French Cheese www.marinfrenchcheese.com Nicasio Valley Cheese Company www.nicasiocheese.com Tomales Bay Foods www.cowgirlcreamery.com Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company Bellwether Farms www.bellwethercheese.com Cowgirl Creamery www.cowgirlcreamery.com Redwood Hill Farm www.redwoodhill.com Laura Chenel www.laurachenel.com