The nation’s premier cheese and wine event, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its eighth year, March 21–23, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. Celebrating all things cheese, the Festival brings together artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, brewers, wineries, and enthusiastic guests for three days of cheese tasting, learning and celebration. Throughout the weekend, guests will have the opportunity to experience new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses and learn about the art of making cheese, while supporting California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. The weekend will include seminars, pairings, tastings, farm tours, hands-on cheese-making classes, and cheese-focused demonstrations. Tickets are now on sale.
“California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is a much-anticipated, cheese-lover’s paradise that allows guests to see every step of the farm-to-table process of cheesemaking,” says festival executive director Judy Groverman Walker. “From farm tours where people can interact with the animals and meet the cheesemakers to tastings, hands-on classes and culinary demos, there truly is something for everyone.”
The 2014 schedule includes the following events:
Friday, March 21:
- Farm Tours & Lunch
- Back by popular demand are five intimate farm tours where guests are guided on walking tours of various area farms to meet the cheesemakers, see how the cheeses are made and, of course, taste the fruits of their labor. The tours allow guests to observe every step of the cheesemaking process and interact with cows, sheep, water buffalo, and goats in their natural environment. Each tour includes round-trip transportation from the Sheraton Sonoma County, cheese tastings, and lunch. A three-course, sit-down lunch is included in Tours A and B at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s The Fork with guest chef Louis Maldonado, executive chef at Spoonbar in Healdsburg and Top Chef Contestant; Tour D will stop for an adventurous farm-to-table lunch at Zazu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow in Sebastopol; and Tour E, an exploration of Petaluma-based cheese talent, will conclude with a beer and cheese-pairing lunch on the patio of Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. All other tours will include a delicious box lunch to be enjoyed on site. Cheese is available for purchase on the farm tours.
- Meet the Cheesemakers Reception
- Guests meet the cheesemakers in person at this evening reception and cheese tasting. More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products, along with artisan wineries and breweries at this informal walk-around reception to kick off the weekend. There is also a “Fantasy Cheese Table” featuring a spectacular cheese display for guests to sample as much as they like.
Saturday, March 22:
- Seminars, Cooking, and Pairing Demonstrations
- The 2014 event presents a variety of seminars from which to choose, giving guests the opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, cook with different cheeses, experience diverse wine, cider, and beer pairings and much, much more.
- Grand Cheese Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition
- In the ultimate culinary challenge, guests taste their way around this event, sampling dishes from 25 of the Bay Area’s best chefs and caterers, each incorporating their favorite locally made cheese into a dish for attendees. Guests cast their vote for their favorite “cheesiest” dish and the winner is announced on-site during this lighthearted and festive competition. Artisan wineries and breweries will be on hand to provide beverages to complement each dish.
- Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef
- Join a surprise celebrity guest chef for Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course along with a live cooking demonstration. Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine, and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11 a.m. before it opens to the public at 12 p.m.
- Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace
- The grand finale of the Festival, the Marketplace brings together more than 75 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers, and chefs to sample and sell their products directly to attendees in this feast for the senses. Guests can discover the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as interesting cheese products, books, and recipes. Each ticket includes entry to the Marketplace, an insulated cheese tote bag, and a signature wine glass.
- Complimentary Cooking Demonstrations
- In between tasting and buying cheeses at the Marketplace, guests are invited to watch several cooking demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts.