Just south of the famous Sonoma wine country you will find gently rolling foothills that look like they are covered in a lush green blanket. These hills are dotted with dairy cows grazing on the dense pastureland. The cows are the first signs you will see that you have entered one of the finest cheese regions in the country, and, many would argue, in the world.
Marin’s temperate Mediterranean climate not only gives the area nearly perfect weather all year round, but it also provides the perfect conditions for creating fine artisanal cheeses. True to the spirit of Marin County, the cheese is organic, locally grown, and the cows are free ranging.
Most of the cheese is produced near small towns like Point Reyes Station, Tomales, and Marshall. These local craftsmen take their cheese seriously. You will not find mass-produced, individually wrapped, pre-packaged cheese slices at any of the dairies, creameries, and farmer’s markets that populate the West Marin region between Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay. You will find lively debates about who produces the best Brie and why more Americans won’t try something beside cheddar.
The cheesemakers at the Cowgirl Creamery are particularly proud of their famous Red Hawk triple cream. Native Point Reyes bacteria help create the signature red rind. They also have an outstanding triple cream called Mount Tam that is lightly flavored with a hint of white mushroom.
Cheese, like wine, only gets better with age. Few understand this as well as the Marin French Cheese Company. They are the longest continually operating cheesemakers in the United States, with over 150 years of history. They are also the most highly decorated cheesemakers in the area, including boasting several gold medal cheeses from the World Cheese Awards.
Many of the dairies host regular cheese tastings as part of the California Cheese Trail. Depending on the season, many of the small operations also give visitors behind the scenes tours that can include everything from bottle-feeding calves to watching how hand patted cheese wheels are made.
It wouldn’t be Marin if some of the artisans didn’t take an unusual approach to their craft. You can also visit Toluma Farms where the cheeses are made from goat and sheep milk. If you want a truly unique cheese tasting experience you will need to visit Ramini Mozzarella where the cheese is made from rich water buffalo milk collected from the creamery’s own herd.
If you are a foodie in need of an artisanal cheese fix, or you are just looking for a fun family-friendly outing, visit Marin’s Cheese Corridor. You will not only learn something about the way cheese is made, you will also never settle for plain mass-produced cheese again.
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