Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cheese Country Tours ~ Cowgirl Creamery

Cowgirl Creamery MT Tam Cheese in Brine
A herd of MT Tam cheeses float in brine
At every cheese-related event I’ve attended, at least one person has said that they fell in love with cheese on a Cowgirl Creamery Tour. Every time I take a tour there myself, I understand another aspect of why that happens.

There is the lovely cheese that can be experienced in all stages of its development.  There is the rare glimpse of people who so love their work, they plan to spend a lifetime perfecting their ability to do it. And there is the serendipitous yet thoughtful story of how Cowgirl Creamery came to be. All in all, there is a bit of magic in the Cowgirl air that infuses more than award-winning cheese molds.

Making MT Tam at Cowgirl Creamery
Making MT Tam at Cowgirl Creamery
Vivian Straus Leads Cowgirl Creamery Tour
Vivien Straus begins Cowgirl tour
Vivien Straus, whose family has historic roots in both the dairy industry and in Marin county, led our tour at Cowgirl. The Straus Family Creamery was the first certified organic dairy in the United States and Vivien’s mother, Ellen Straus, founded the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) which has inspired similar preservation efforts across the country.

Straus Dairy was also the first milk producer for Cowgirl cheeses and remains its principal provider. Vivien began the tour with a history of Sonoma/Marin agriculture and its direct influence on the success of San Francisco during the Gold Rush era.  Then she demonstrated the basic process of cheesemaking (video below) before we saw it done by artisan professionals.  We completed our experience by tasting MT Tam at various stages of ripeness, starting with samples that had been produced that day.

Cowgirl conducts regular tours of its Petaluma creamery and the original facility at Point Reyes Station where Red Hawk cheese is produced. For families and groups with young children, the Point Reyes tour is recommended as best for those visitors.

The Point Reyes Creamery has plenty of seating area and is also home to Cowgirl’s Tomales Bay Foods Company which offers a variety of specialty foods and dry goods.  If you aren't smitten already, though, be prepared to fall in love with cheese!