Marin County Cheese Makers Recognized by Food and Wine Magazine and Good Food Awards

January 28, 2022

Cheese makers from two Marin County properties with MALT agricultural conservation easements will be in San Francisco March 4 to accept coveted Good Food Award medals for their delectable entries in the Good Food Foundation’s 12th annual competition. The awards recognize “the contributions of American craft food producers in creating a tasty, authentic and responsible food system.”

Tasty, authentic and responsible most certainly describe Seahaven Cheese from Bivalve Dairy and TomaRashi from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., whose offerings were singled out this year from among 2,000 award entries.

The accolade for Seahaven Cheese is particularly rewarding for Bivalve, which only recently started producing its own branded dairy products. John and Karen (Bianchini) Taylor run the dairy on ranchland originally owned by Karen’s parents. In 2006, the couple began selling certified organic milk locally to Clover Sonoma. After partnering on Red Hawk cheese with the famous Cowgirl Creamery, the couple started their own cheese-making operation in 2019.

“I had never made cheese before. It’s amazing what you will do to save your family’s farm,” Karen told the Point Reyes Light newspaper at the time.

What the pair proudly call a buttery-textured brie-style “big cheese, shining among its competitors,” Seahaven is made from organic whole milk from Bivalve Dairy’s pasture-grazing cows.

While Seahaven is its first Good Food Award winner, Bivalve’s Mendonça, an Azorean-style cheese, achieved finalist status in the competition in 2021.

East Meets West in Point Reyes

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.’s TomaRashi is a new version of Toma, a style of cows’ milk cheese that has been a fan favorite of the company’s hand-crafted product line since 2010. The Good Food Award-winning TomaRashi combines the rich creamery butter notes and superior melting quality of Toma with the spicy-umami-nutty flavors from shichimi togarashi, a Japanese spice blend.

Sisters Jill, Lynn and Diana Giacomini own and run Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Together with their parents, Bob and Dean, and sister Karen, they evolved the operation from producing milk on their dairy alongside Tomales Bay to making artisan cheese more than 20 years ago. Their focus has remained steadfast, to deliver customer happiness, employee well-being and environmental sustainability through making and selling delicious cheese.

“We had a lot to learn about agriculture from our parents’ four decades on the property as we launched the cheese company,” said Jill Giacomini Basch. “In order to produce award winning products like TomaRashi (among others) we continue their legacy of land stewardship. It is very clear to us that great cheese starts in the pastures, with healthy animals raised responsibly and farming practices that respect the native environment.”

Marin County Cheese Makers Among Top 50

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.’s “very good” Toma cheese was one of the reasons that Food and Wine magazine recently named the company one of the 50 top cheese makers in the United States. And in the December 2021 issue of the magazine, senior editor David Landsel called Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.’s Bay Blue “one of California’s best blue cheeses, a fudgy, Stilton-style number.”

Not surprising to anyone who knows Marin County cheeses, Cowgirl Creamery, Marin French Cheese and Tomales Farmstead Creamery were also tapped for the Top 50 list.

Protected Land in Marin

“Marin is such a special place, with its rolling grasslands spilling down to the sea and its rich agricultural land so close to the Bay Area’s dense population of San Francisco, the East Bay and Silicon Valley,” said Jennifer Carlin, acting CEO of MALT. “The ability of our county to support so many world-class cheeses and other agricultural products starts with the commitment of Marin County residents to support the protection of our agricultural lands.”

Follow the California Cheese Trail

For cheese lovers who’d like to experience first-hand the delicious products of many of these award-winning cheese makers, we highly recommend taking a day trip along the Marin County leg of the California Cheese Trail. But even if you live far from West Marin, you can use the Cheese Trail online retail store to purchase cheese “collections” that can be shipped anywhere in the lower 48 states.

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