A Cheese That's Equal Parts Land, Beast, and Man


It is hard to imagine a better place to be a cow this time of year than in the thick, knee-high rye grass that blankets the hills east of Tomales Bay. Here, cows graze and lounge around on the lush, green shag, returning to the dairy twice a day for milking. “To us, that’s cheese,” says Kuba Hemmerling, head cheesemaker at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, which churns out the only classic style blue cheese made in California.

It was in this place 15 years ago that a salty dairy farmer, Bob Giacomini, contemplated retirement. To diversify the family farm, his four daughters hatched a plan to make cheese. They released Original Blue in 2000, and the assertive, pungent raw milk cheese went the yesteryear equivalent of viral.

But it wasn’t until nine years later that the sisters found their ultimate cheesemaker, someone who could expand their repertoire beyond the famous blue and appeal to cheese lovers not fond of its moldy striations. “We wanted somebody cocky, creative, and adventurous,” says Jill Giacomini Basch. They found their guy in Hemmerling. After mastering Original Blue and creating an addictive Dutch-style Toma (despite the naysayers who said it would be impossible to make a non-blue in a blue cheese facility), he began to develop a mellower, natural-rinded blue in the Stilton style.

Two years later, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is selling Bay Blue, made with the same milk and strain of Penicillium Roqueforti (blue mold) as Original Blue. But with modified preparation and aging processes, and unique cultures and enzymes, Bay Blue is an entirely different cheese—one that is nutty, slightly sweet, and, at room temperature, has the texture of fudge.

FROM SCRATCH | Point Reyes Bay Blue from Eric Wolfinger on Vimeo.

This article was published in 7x7's April issue. Click here to subscribe.

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