The Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference takes place Sunday, Feb. 23, through Friday, Feb. 28, at various locations
in Sonoma. The public is invited to
the cheese tasting on Sunday,
Feb. 23 at Ramekins Culinary Center. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. $55. 1pm. 707.935.7960.
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Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
Second-generation farmer Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery is a gifted cheesemaker who helped start the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference with Ig Vella and Sheana Davis. "At that time, artisan cheesemaking was small, and we wanted a way to network with colleagues and provide education," says Bice. In just 11 years, the industry has blossomed trememdously.
"[The artisan cheese movement] really started in the '80s with goat-cheese makers," says Bice. "California cuisine was up-and-coming, and chefs put it on their menus, giving it exposure and creating a market." Now there are cheeses made locally from the milk of sheep, cow and even water buffalo, as well as entire magazines about cheese.
Bice has been a contributor to this growth with her popular and award-winning goat's milk cheeses. From the tart, fluffy chèvre to the raw-milk feta, Redwood Hill's products consistently win medals at the major competitions. In 2013, five different varieties won gold at both the Sonoma County Harvest Festival and the California State Fair. Not one to rest on her laurels, Bice hinted that some new products are in the pipeline. "We are working on a couple new cheeses, but it's too early to say."
This year at the conference, she will be on a panel discussing the emergence of the natural food market, and is looking forward to the camaraderie of the gathering.—Brooke Jackson