Heading to Sonoma? Say Cheese!

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Head to Sonoma County and explore the California Cheese Trail. You can spend a weekend tasting cheese and visiting with some of the local farmers. Here are our top choices for exploring the California Cheese Trail. 

When you say you are going to Sonoma, it is assumed that you are heading there to taste wine. But drive to the western part of wine country, and instead of driving by rows of vines and vineyards, you will see rolling hills dotted with cows, sheep, and goats. Sonoma is home to over 22,000 acres of land dedicated to making cheese and dairy products. And that means you can spend a weekend tasting Sonoma cheese while traveling along the California Cheese Trail.



Cheese aging at Achadinha Cheese Company on the California Cheese Trail.

Cheese aging at Achadinha Cheese Company. Photo by Allison Levine

Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California are known for their thriving dairy industry and cheese production and are part of the California Cheese Trail. This western part of wine country offers a hundred miles of canyons, pastures, and rolling hills, linking more than two dozen farms and creameries. The region’s Mediterranean-like climate, fertile soil, and abundant high-quality grasses provide ideal conditions for dairy farming, resulting in delicious artisanal cheeses.

Petaluma, located within Sonoma County, sits between San Francisco and wine country and is home to several renowned cheesemakers. Like many of the wineries in Sonoma, many cheese producers are family-owned, and two are available for visits.

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Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company on the California Cheese Trail

One of those is Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes Station. The Giacomini family has been in Point Reyes for three generations. Waldo Giacomini moved the family to Petaluma in 1938, and in 1959, his son Bob purchased the dairy to sell milk to the local creamery. Bob and his wife, Dean, raised their four daughters (Karen, Diana, Lynn, and Jill) on the property.



The view at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. located on the California Cheese Trail.

The view at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Photo by Allison Levine

For the first forty years, they produced milk from up to 500 milking animals. They sold the milk until Bob had a dream to make cheese. In the late 1990s, all four daughters returned to the farm, and in 2000 they began producing cheese. And in 2020, Jill and two of her sisters took over the farmstead. The first cheese they produced was Original Blue, a classic blue cheese. They have added Toma, Gouda, Cheddar, Quinta, and more.

A selection of cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. on the California Cheese Trail.

A selection of cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Photo by Allison Levine

Taking the Sustainable Approach

Point Reyes Farmstead had always taken a sustainable approach before it was trendy. Twelve families live on the farm, with 440 Holstein cows on 720 acres. The herd is closed, meaning it is genetically closed, and 300-400 cows are being raised from birth. Byproducts, including spent grains from brewers and husks, combined and mixed with ryegrass grown on the property, is fed to the cows. And all byproducts from the cows contribute back to the farm. They trap the CO2 from the manure and water and make methane gas, providing electricity for 55% of the farm’s needs.

The Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co Marketplace.

The Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co Marketplace. Photo by Allison Levine



Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company welcomes guests with a Marketplace and The Fork, their culinary and educational venue offering cheese tastings and farm tours.

California Cheese Trail Takes You to Achadinha Cheese Company

Jim and Donna Pacheco, along with their four children William, Daniel, Elizabeth, and David, run the family-operated Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company.

The view at Achadinha Cheese Company.

The view at Achadinha Cheese Company. Photo by Allison Levine

The family tradition began three generations ago. Jim’s grandfathers—one from Achadinha, Portugal, and one from Vallejo, California—milked cows. Jim’s parents ended up in Petaluma by 1969, and when Donna married Jim, she also acquired the family farm. In 2002, Achadinha Cheese Company entered the American Cheese Conference and won Best in Show.

Donna Pacheco talks about her family dairy farm at Achadinha Cheese Company.

Donna Pacheco talks about her family dairy farm at Achadinha Cheese Company. Photo by Allison Levine

The Pachecos have 230 acres with 125 dairy cows and have also had goats. And they make all their cheeses. As a small dairy farm, the whole family is involved. As Donna explained, “It is a lifestyle, not a job.” The business is their home, and everything they do is about creating a lifestyle for the next generation. Everyone works together to keep the farm working, and their children are encouraged to have their own business within the family business. For example, one owns dairy cows, while another hauls livestock, owns cows, and runs the ranch.

Cheeses from Achadinha Cheese Company.

Cheeses from Achadinha Cheese Company. Photo by Allison Levine

Achadinha Cheese Company offers tours on Saturdays or by appointment. It is also possible to take a cheesemaking class. 50 farmers’ markets sell their cheese each week.

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On the California Cheese Trail

So, next time you are heading to Sonoma, instead of visiting a winery, stop by one of these dairies and say cheese! Let Wander With Wonder be your guide the next time you visit Sonoma or other parts of California.

Head to Sonoma County and explore the California Cheese Trail. You can spend a weekend tasting cheese and visiting with some of the local farmers. Here are our top choices for exploring the California Cheese Trail. 

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Heading to Sonoma? Say Cheese!



Written by Allison Levine

Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry. With over 20 years of experience in communications, marketing and event planning, Allison is passionate about the world around her and the diverse people in it. Allison holds a Master’s Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. She also holds a WSET Level 3 Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), an Italian Wine Specialist Diploma from the North American Sommelier Association, a Certified Meeting Professional Certificate (CMP), and is BarSmarts Wired certified. Prior to launching Please The Palate, Allison worked at The Tasting Panel Magazine/Blue Lifestyle, running the marketing and events division and focusing on organizing over 75 trade events each year across the United States. Always passionate about wine and serious about making her passion her career, she started out at LearnAboutWine where she built and ran the start-up wine education business, organizing classes and private events throughout Los Angeles. After that, she was in the trenches as a sales rep at importer/distributor Chambers and Chambers where she learned about the wholesale aspect of the industry. As an industry expert, she works with wine regions around the world, organizing trade and media events around the United States. She has traveled extensively and has lived abroad in Italy, Spain and Mexico where she developed her passion for food and wine. Her work allows her to live life to the fullest and, as a freelance writer, Allison communicates her experiences into articles, as well as in her blog (pleasethepalate.com/blog). She is a columnist for the Napa Valley Register, as well as a regular contributor to California Winery. She is the host of the podcast WineSoundtrack USA where she interviews winemakers and winery owners who share their stories, insights and some humorous anecdotes. Her work has also appeared in ATOD Magazine, Wine Industry Advisor, Drizly, WineTouristMagazine, Thrillist, LA Weekly, LAPALME Magazine, BIN (Beverage Industry News), FoodableTV, Drink Me Mag, WeSaidGoTravel.com, Wine Country This Week and The Tasting Panel. Allison sits on the Board of the non-profit Vintage Hollywood and is the Wine Committee Chair for its annual food and wine charity event.

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