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California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is Ramping Up For March

California's Artisan Cheese FestivalThe nation’s premier cheese and wine event, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its eighth year, March 21-23, 2014, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. Celebrating all things cheese, the Festival brings together artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, brewers, wineries and enthusiastic guests for three days of cheese tasting, learning and celebration. Throughout the weekend, guests will have the opportunity to experience new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses and learn about the art of making cheese, while supporting California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. The weekend will include seminars, pairings, tastings, farm tours, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations. Tickets are now on sale and available through www.artisancheesefestival.com. Additional details and events will be added in the coming weeks, so check back frequently for updates.

“California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is a much-anticipated, cheese-lover’s paradise that allows guests to see every step of the farm-to-table process of cheesemaking,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker.  “From farm tours where people can interact with the animals and meet the cheese makers to tastings, hands-on classes and culinary demos, there truly is something for everyone.”

The 2014 Artisan Cheese Festival Events Schedule:

Friday, March 21:

Farm Tours & Lune

Sonoma Farm Tours and Lune

Back by popular demand are five intimate farm tours where guests are guided on walking tours of various area farms to meet the cheesemakers, see how the cheeses are made and, of course, taste the fruits of their labor. The tours allow guests to observe every step of the cheesemaking process and interact with cows, sheep, water buffalo and goats in their natural environment. Each tour includes round-trip transportation from the Sheraton Sonoma County, cheese tastings and lunch. A three-course, sit-down lunch is included in Tours A and B at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s The Fork with guest chef Louis Maldonado, executive chef at Spoonbar in Healdsburg and Top Chef Contestant; Tour D will stop for an adventurous farm-to-table lunch at Zazu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow in Sebastopol; and Tour E, an exploration of Petaluma-based cheese talent, will conclude with a beer and cheese-pairing lunch on the patio of Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. All other tours will include a delicious box lunch to be enjoyed on site. Cheese is available for purchase on the farm tours.  (Tickets $75/$135, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Meet the Cheesemakers Reception

Guests meet the cheesemakers in person at this evening reception and cheese tasting. More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products, along with artisan wineries and breweries at this informal walk-around reception to kick off the weekend. There is also a “Fantasy Cheese Table” featuring a spectacular cheese display for guests to sample as much as they like. (Tickets $35, Sheraton Sonoma County, 5 – 7 p.m.)

Saturday, March 22:

American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP); Janet FletcherSeminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations

The 2014 event presents a variety of seminars from which to choose, giving guests the opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, cook with different cheeses, experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Judy Creighton, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP); Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle; author and cheese expert Laura Werlin; training and merchandising manager of Atlanta Foods International and American Cheese Society CCP Michael Landis; Mission Cheese owner Sarah Dvorak; Master Cicerone Rich Higgins; and the San Francisco Milk Maid, Louella Hill. The seminars include a catered lunch by Petaluma Market. During the lunch break and after the afternoon seminars authors will be available for book signings. (Tickets $65-95, Sheraton Sonoma County, Seminars 9:30 -11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., with lunch provided at 12 – 1 p.m.)

Grand Cheese Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition

In the ultimate culinary challenge, guests taste their way around this event, sampling dishes from 25 of the Bay Area’s best chefs and caterers, each incorporating their favorite locally made cheese into a dish for attendees.  Guests cast their vote for their favorite “cheesiest” dish and the winner is announced on-site during this lighthearted and festive competition. Artisan wineries and breweries will be on hand to provide beverages to complement each dish.  (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6 – 9 p.m.)

Sunday, March 23:

Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef

Join a surprise celebrity guest chef for Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course along with a live cooking demonstration.  Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11 a.m. before it opens to the public at 12 p.m.  (Tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County, 9:30 – 11 a.m.)

Artisan Cheese Tasting & MarketplaceArtisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace

The grand finale of the Festival, the Marketplace brings together more than 75 artisan cheese makers, winemakers, brewers and chefs to sample and sell their products directly to attendees in this feast for the senses. Guests can discover the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as interesting cheese products, books and recipes.  Each ticket includes entry to the Marketplace, an insulated cheese tote bag and a signature wine glass. (Tickets $45 for adults; $20 for children 12 and under, Sheraton Sonoma County, 12 – 4 p.m.)

Complimentary Cooking Demonstrations

In between tasting and buying cheeses at the Marketplace, guests are invited to watch several cooking demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts. (Admission is free with a Marketplace ticket; Sheraton Sonoma County; demonstrations are at 1 – 2 p.m.; 2:15 – 3:15 p.m.; and 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)

Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers.

Generous sponsors of the Artisan Cheese Festival include All American Printing, American AgCredit, Bank of Marin, Beehive Cheese Company, Casitas Valley Creamery, Central Coast Creamery, Clover Stornetta Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Culture magazine, Cypress Grove Chevre, Donald & Maureen Green Foundation, Exchange Bank, Edible East Bay, Edible Marin and Wine Country, Ellipses Public Relations, Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese, John Boos, Keller Estate Winery, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Laura Chenel Chevre, Leafware, Marin French Cheese Company, Mike Hudson Distributing, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Pennyroyal Farm, Petaluma Market, Petaluma Post, Pisenti & Brinker, Pt. Reyes Farmstead, Redwood Hill Farm, Relish Culinary Adventures, Rustic Bakery, Sheraton Sonoma County, Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Valley Ford Cheese Company, Willapa Hills Cheese and World Centric.

About California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheese making community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheese makers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond.  In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival donates 10% of all ticket proceeds to Sonoma Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Petaluma Future Farmers of America, California Artisan Cheese Guild and Redwood Empire Food Bank. To date the Artisan Cheese Festival has contributed more than $55,000 to these non-profit organizations that work to support the artisan cheesemaking community and its infrastructure in California.  For more information, visit www.artisancheesefestival.com.

CL Editor

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