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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Valley Ford Cheese Co.
The Bianchi family has operated Mountain View Jersey Dairy in Valley Ford since the early 1900s. Now, about a hundred years later, with the price of milk plummeting, many dairy operations are going out of business. Fourth-generation rancher Karen Bianchi-Moreda decided to try her hand at cheesemaking with Valley Ford Cheese Company, and finds the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference a helpful networking event.
"It's fantastic," she says. "I attended my first year and sat in the audience. The next year I was on the panel as a new cheesemaker, and have attended since then, meeting all kinds of great people." Her first cheese, Estero Gold, was inspired by an alpine-style version her grandparents used to make; it won a gold medal at the California State Fair in 2012. Next came Estero Gold Reserve, which is aged for 16 months; it won Best of Show in 2012 at the State Fair.
Karen's son, Joe, joined as cheesemaker in 2010 with a freshly minted degree in dairy science from Cal Poly. Together they created a fontina-style cheese called Highway One, which won awards at the State Fair, the Sonoma Harvest Fair and the Cal State Cheese Competition. Karen Bianchi-Moreda is proud that the next generation is getting involved in the family business. "We were able to add a value added product with milk we are already producing and allow a full time position to the fifth generation," she says. "Doesn't get any better than that."