California’s Trail of Cheese

The new Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail winds about a hundred miles through the redwood canyons, pastures, and oak-covered hills of Marin and Sonoma counties just north of San Francisco. It links more than two dozen artisans who make distinctive cheeses using local milk from grass-fed cows, sheep, and goats.

“The milk’s just sweeter,” says Gabe Luddy, great-grandson of Vella Cheese Company’s founder in Sonoma. “Our climate and temperature make a difference.”

The area looks nearly unchanged since 1865 when Marin French Cheese Company began making semisoft breakfast cheese for San Francisco’s dockworkers. Now the company crafts 20 varieties in its factory near Petaluma. Visitors can tour the plant, buy savory wedges on-site, and picnic overlooking a duck pond.

At Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, the Fork education center offers an all-day, hands-on cheesemaking class. Nick’s Cove in Marshall serves Point Reyes Farmstead cheeses so guests can indulge without putting on that apron.

In Point Reyes Station, Cowgirl Creamery provides cheese classes, tours, and tastings (try the vermilion-rinded Red Hawk) and runs a tempting deli counter.

This piece, written by April Orcutt, appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.


  1. Nikole Fairview - ExploringLifesMysteries.Com
    Washington, DC
    August 12, 2012, 9:17 pm

    I didn’t know California had so much to offer in the way of cheese. This is quite interesting and though I’m not that interested right now in making my own cheese on my own, I think this would make a great date or family activity. I also think that some of the cheeses that come out of these places have got to be delicious, just from the descriptions here.

    I really like how you called the people that are making the cheeses, artisans. I think we discount the basic work that people do every day. Some people go to work and do amazing things every day and never get the recognition they deserve.