For a week in March the focus of Sonoma County turned slightly away from alcohol (wine and beer) to cheese, with the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival (CACF). Part of CACF is holding cheese education and tasting events at various creameries in the area. Lori and I decided to attend the event at Pennyroyal Farm in Anderson Valley (Mendocino County). Yes, not quite in Sonoma County, but only about an hour drive from our house.
Here’s the agenda we had for the event:
10:45 – 11:00 check in
11:00 – 12:00 tour of the farm
12:00 – 1:15 lunch in the creamery
1:15 – 2:45 cheese tasting/pairing
Pennyroyal Farms makes cheese and wine, and raises the goats (lots of goats) and sheep for their wine. They also grow some of their own grapes. They’ve got a great backstory: two young women meet in the Fermentation Science major at U.C. Davis, one interested in wine, the other in cheese. A few years later some land becomes available in Anderson Valley, and they join together as partners, realizing both their dreams together.
The tour is fun and educational: vineyards, the goat barn for both the mature and baby goats, the milking shed, the cheese-making operation. They’re not making their wine on site right now, but there are plans to expand the current buildings to add the winery facilities.
For a change of pace I had pre-ordered the vegetarian meal for lunch, and it was delicious. They served their Sauvignon Blanc and one of their Pinot Noirs with lunch, for a nice accompaniment. Then we had the cheese tasting, and pairing with various drinks, including hard cider, wine and beer. Their cheeses were all wonderful, but especially notable was the Laychee, a fresh cheese with a soft, spreadable texture that is hard to stop eating. (They only gave us enough for the tasting, but we bought more and brought it home, and it was hard to stop eating it!)
If you can find their cheese in the store or restaurant, don’t hesitate to purchase. And if you’re in Anderson Valley for the wine or the beer (Anderson Valley Brewing Company is one of the best microbreweries around), take a break and go for the cheese. Or bring a picnic lunch and buy a bottle of wine there. You’ll enjoy your time at Pennyroyal Farms.