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Sniff and Slice: Annual Cheese Festival Returns

Cowgirl Creamery display
Derrick Story

Cheese worship has long been sanctioned in the Bay Area where varieties like Humboldt Fog, Mt. Tam, and Red Hawk have earned a national fan base. For the eighth year, local cheesemakers and passionate cheese-eaters will meet in Petaluma for a weekend of learning, nibbling and drinking at the Annual Cheese Festival.

Parties, like Saturday night’s Grand Tasting occur at the Sheraton in massive outdoor tents. More than 20 restaurants, catering companies, breweries and wineries pair with cheesemakers to create a signature h'orderve, which guests will ultimately judge to declare a winner. On Friday morning, tours of local farms and creameries provide lessons in production along with guided tastings. Especially exciting this year are the “Meet the Cheesemakers” reception, Saturday's seminars, and the Grand Marketplace on Sunday.

"Meet the Cheesemakers" unites attendees with a herd of producers, including Nicasio Valley Cheese Co, Bohemian Creamery, Negrante Dairy, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co, and Vallery Ford Cheese Co., who’ll share their newest and best-selling wedges and wheels.

On Saturday, morning and afternoon learning sessions have topics that range from how to pair different cheeses with sparkling wines, beers and pinots to demonstrations for making dreamy fondue to a course in rinds. Led by industry professionals like Cowgirl Creamery owners Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, master sommelier Tim Gaiser, and author Laura Werlin, each seminar promises plenty of bites.

For the Grand Marketplace on Sunday, over 70 cheesemakers, wineries, breweries and artisan food producers will sample and sell their wares. Expect snacks from Potter’s Crackers and Rustic Bakery, chocolate from Poco Dolce, ice cream from Three Twins, and candy from R&J’s toffee. Potents come from Half Moon Brewing Company, Lagunitas Brewery, Crispin Cider, Russian River Vineyards, and Navarro Vineyards amongst others. Specialty shops like ILeoni, which sells kitchen decor, and Leafewar, makers of eco-friendly dinnerware based in Folsom, will also attend.

The festival runs from March 21st-March 23.
Tickets are available à la carte and must be purchased in advance.
Go online to see a list of all events.

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