Artisan Profile: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese

Since 1904, when Tobias and Celestina Giacomini arrived in Point Reyes, Calif., from the Northern Italian Alps, this family has farmed in the western Sonoma County and Point Reyes Station areas. Their son Waldo became one of the region’s most respected and important dairy men. In 1959, grandson Robert Giacomini and his wife Dean bought a farm north of Point Reyes Station in west Marin County.

In 2000, after thirty years of dairying and with a 700-acre farm with 250 Holsteins, Bob and his wife Dean, wanted to retire and turn it over to their children – Diana, Jill, Karen, and Lynn. While not desiring to run a dairy, the women did not want to lose the farm or its traditions and valuable working landscape. After much research, debate, and careful consideration, they resolved to make cheese.

The decision to make one cheese-Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue-was truly inspired; the family could take advantage of its outstanding milk, harness their entrepreneurial skills, share a passion for food, and showcase one artisan product not found elsewhere in California. At the same time, they hired Monte McIntyre, who had arrived recently from Iowa where he made cheese for Maytag Blue. Since 2001, under the leadership of daughters Jill Basch, Karen Howard, and Lynn Stray, Point Reyes Farmstead has grown steadily and the cheese can be found nationwide.

Although the family roots are Italian, the cheese is not styled after Gorgonzola. Original Blue is grounded in western Marin County terroir-good pastures, seasonal variation in grasses and plants, coastal fog, and salty ocean winds. The region is blessed with abundant winter rain and cool temperatures, while summer sees a diurnal fluctuation with cool fog and hot daytime temperatures. Monte and the other cheesemakers guide the milk through each key step; the cheese ages a minimum of six months and the resulting farmstead, Kosher-certified wheel is magnificent. With clean, spicy aromas, the paste is a firm, dense, grayish-white alabaster color. The moist flavors are complex, buttery, tart, and lightly salty.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company

• 14700 Highway 1Point Reyes CA 94956
• Cheesemaking established 2000
• Visitors: No
• Telephone: 415/663-8880
• Internet sales and national distribution