Forget Skiing, It's Cheese This Weekend

Karen Preuss
Guests Tasting Redwood Hill Farms Cheeses in the Grand Tasting Tent
This weekend, it's Disneyland for cheese, expect instead of rides there are tours of cheese making facilities; instead of performances and plush, strolling characters there are cheese seminars, authors, and producers; and instead of crappy food at the end of long lines it's all cheese.

Yes, California's Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma is in its sixth year, and if cheese is your thing, this is your weekend.

We went to the first one, so we can vouch: It's an impressive event of and for caseophiles and/or turophiles. (Where else would you even use those words, let alone debate which one best applies?) Events range from educational to just simply enjoyable. You can focus on pairing, tasting, making, or cooking with cheese, and meet eminent Emmental authors. Both Janet Fletcher and Laura Werlin are leading sessions and signing books.

The weekend long cheese-fest breaks down into three courses.

Friday: Behind-the-Scenes Cheese Country Farm Tours.

This would have been your chance to stomp the dirt and tour the facilities of the farms and cheese producers of the area, but with one exception: These are sold out. Still, the Artisan Cheese Loves Craft Beer tour is still available. It's a special five-hour beer and cheese extravaganza with a brewery tour, six-course dinner and cheese pairing, all paired with Lagunitas artisan brews.

Saturday: Seminars & Workshops

The heart of the "educational" events, but this is education in a glutenous way. Even six years later I have vivid memories of Annie Rush and Gary Danko taking us through a dozen or more exceptional cheeses in a U.S. vs. Europe cheese taste-off.

There are cheese-making workshops, wine and beer paring classes, author-driven events, and the obligatory session with local cheese's matron saints, Peggy and Sue from Cowgirl Creamery. Lunch is free on the festival and provided by Peteluma Market.

The evening's "Grand Tasting & Best in Cheese Competition" brings together more than 20 Bay Area restaurants, each creating cheese-inspired dishes paired with local wine and beer.

Some sessions are sold out but most are still available here.

Sunday: Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace

The heart of any food and wine event is the "Tasting." We'll be going. Over 65 artisan producers will sample and sell their local cheese, wine, beer, and specialty foods. There are chef demos and author book signings. You even get an insulated cheese tote bag and obligatory wine glass with your $45 ticket.

California's Artisan Cheese Festival

Where: Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma
When: March 23-25
How Much: Varies by events. Tickets available here.

Contact Ben Narisin at . Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.

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