Sonoma Herbs Cheese, Bellwether Farms

Santa Rosa Ranks Among Top Cities for Cheese Lovers; Here's Where to Get Some of the Best

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Santa Rosa is officially a cheese lover’s paradise. We knew this already, of course, but in case there was any doubt before, we now have a survey from a rather unlikely source to back it up.

A questionably scientific but undoubtedly delicious curd-to-curd survey of 200 U.S. cities by lawn care services company Lawn Starter (yes, you read that right) ranks Santa Rosa a respectable eighth in the country when it comes to cheese access, quality, affordability and community interest.

The judging rubric, according to Lawn Starter, includes the number of cheese factories and plants (Santa Rosa ranks second) in the area, total points for past U.S. Championship Cheese Contest Awards, average per-pound price of cheese and the number of cheese-related events and festivals.

Picolo cheese, Andante Dairy
Picolo, Andante Dairy: Dairy scientist Soyoung Scanlan created this firm cow's milk cheese with the unique addition of crème fraîche. It has a musical name and the delicate flavor of the Sonoma Hills. At Oliver's Markets. (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

The kudos come as no surprise to anyone who’s put together a gourmet cheeseboard in Sonoma County. The North Bay wrote the book (or at least the Cheese Trail Map) on delicious, artisanal cheesemakers along the North Coast, including Sonoma’s Vella Cheese, Sebastopol’s Joe Matos Cheese Factory, along with nearby Bohemian Creamery, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, Petaluma Creamery, Valley Ford Cheese Co., Bellwether Farms and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.

McKinley Cheddar, William Cofield
McKinley Cheddar, William Cofield: "Proper British Cheese for Sonoma County and the Rest of the World" is the tagline for this newish Sebastopol cheesemaker focused on British-style cheeses. Sharp, nutty, and properly delicious. (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Laura Chenel practically invented goat cheese (not really, but she popularized it with chefs in the 1980s) here in Sonoma County. Cowgirl Creamery, now in Petaluma, brought small-batch sustainable cheeses to the forefront in the late 1990s and continues to produce exceptional cheese.

The list goes on and on, especially when we include our nearby friends in Marin (Marin French Cheese, Point Reyes Farmstead), and our neighbors to the north (Pennyroyal Farm, Cypress Grove).

Mike's Firehouse Jack, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese
Mike's Firehouse Jack, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese: This party pleaser won't set your tastebuds alight, but there's a little kick of heat to it. Excellent with a bitter IPA and a few toothpicks. (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

No matter how you slice it, Sonoma County (and Santa Rosa) have some Edam good cheese, and that’s the whey we like it.

Don’t miss: The annual California Artisan Cheese Festival will take place March 24-26, 2023 at the Sonoma County Event Center and Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. The event includes a cheese crawl and an artisan cheese tasting and marketplace. 

Written by Heather Irwin