The arrival of San Francisco's first urban cheesemaker, Daily Driver, has driven us absolute cheese crazy.
It is with ooey-gooey, nutty, creamy dairy on the brain that we present to you our list of the top cheesemakers from San Mateo to West Marin. Here's who to know, and where to find their exquisite ripe blues, creamy bries, and mouthwatering semi-hards.
Daily Driver's aged sheep-and-goat's milk Atika cheese.
Daily Driver's bagels have been getting plenty of attention at both the brand's 7,000-square-foot Dogpatch headquarters and their new Ferry Building pop-up. And while we're here for a legit bagel (Daily Driver's are made in a wood-fired oven), it's the creamery side of this venture that's making us—and many a local restaurateur—hungry.
Opened in 2019, Daily Driver is a project of Tomales Farmstead Creamery owners Tamara Hicks and David Jablons, who've partnered with their longtime cheesemaker, Hadley Kreitz, and her husband David (an industrial designer responsible for finishing out their space) to put bagels and cheese together in an ambitious urban setting. So while Kreitz has been making the creamery's signature delights—including the aged sheep-and-goat's milk Atika, and the soft ripened goat's milk Kenne—up in West Marin for years, the opening of Daily Driver marks the first time she's made them in San Francisco; in fact, it makes her the city's first local cheesemaker.
Grab a bite off the cafe menu, which includes homemade cultured butters and cream cheeses, or take our advice and pick up a wedge of the organic Teleeka—a soft ripened cheese made with sheep's, goat's, and cow's milk—to take home for your own restaurant-worthy cheese board—Quince, Delfina, and Rich Table are among the acclaimed local eateries currently serving it up.
// 7am to 3pm Wednesday through Monday at 2535 Third St. (Dogpatch), and 6am to 5pm weekdays, 7am to 5pm weekends at the Ferry Building, Stall 21 (Embarcadero), dailydriver.com
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Since 2000, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company has been a model of sustainable agriculture in cheesemaking, tending to their herd of Holstein cows on the foggy pastures of Giacomini Ranch overlooking Tomales Bay, raising them organically and doing the milking in a parlor just steps from the creamery next door.
There, and in a second facility close by in Petaluma, Point Reyes Farmstead crafts their prized blues. The Original Blue took gold at the 2019 California State Fair, and the semi-hard Toma, a buttery table cheese with a grassy tang, is always a favorite.
Point Reyes Farmstead cheeses can be found at markets around the Bay Area, but to get the full experience, head out to the farm where you can take a tour ($25), a hands-on class ($105), or eat your weight in delectable dairy at dinner or brunch ($75-$85). // 14700 Hwy. 1 (Point Reyes Station), pointreyescheese.com
Cowgirl Creamery needs no introduction: Based in Point Reyes Station, the Bay Area's most recognized cheesemaker is beloved for its fresh, organic, and often seasonal creations that are rich and pungent, nutty and creamy, and nothing short of heavenly.
From the iconic and award-winning triple cream Mt. Tam with its hint of white mushroom to their newest semi-firm 45-day-aged Hop Along, Cowgirl Creamery holds its own among the world's best cheesemakers.
To get your cheese-grubbing hands on the full range of varieties in the Cowgirls' corral—including fromage blanc, crème fraîche, and cottage cheese—head to their retail space in the Ferry Building. To see the magic firsthand, take a day trip up to the Point Reyes National Seashore where you can visit the visit the creamery, enjoy a $5 tasting and, on Fridays, enroll in the popular Cheese 101 class.
// 10am to 5pm Wednesday through Sunday at 80 Fourth St. (Point Reyes Station) and SF Ferry Building, 1 Embarcadero, No. 17, cowgirlcreamery.com
Acadinha Cheese Company
Three generations ago, Jim Pacheco's two grandfathers were both milking cows—one in Achadinha (pronounced Osh-a-deen-a), Portugal, the other in Vallejo, California. Today, Pacheco and his wife Donna, along with their four children, are at home on the family farm in Petaluma.
On Achadinha's 230 pastured acres, fifty goats and one hundred cows live in harmony and produce the milk for beautifully blended cheeses that change from season to season based on natural variations in the environment. Stars include the hand-rolled, six- to 12-month aged goat-and-cow Cowpricious, a Greek-style feta, and fresh curds.
Achadinha cheeses are sold primarily at farmers markets, including the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland. Craving more? The farm hosts tours most Saturdays at 11am ($30) as well as occasional cheesemaking classes ($120).
// 750 Chileno Valley Rd (Petaluma), achadinhacheese.com
Marin French Cheese Co
For over 150 years, Marin French Cheese has worked with Marin and Sonoma farmers, all within a 15-mile radius of their Hicks Valley Ranch, to produce the Bay Area's best French-style bries.
Their rich, elegant cheeses—including at traditional brie, a triple creme, and a camembert—are slow-aged and soft-ripened for unbelievable velvety creaminess. But Marin French Cheese outdoes itself with the washed-rind Schloss, a savory triple cream they began making in 1901.
While you can pick up Marin French cheese at Whole Foods, a drive to their "cheese factory" and cafe in Petaluma is well worth it—grab some cheese and sundries from the shop and enjoy a picnic on the grass by the pond.
// 9am to 5pm daily, 7510 Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd (Petaluma), marinfrenchcheese.com
Harley Farms Goat Dairy
In just a decade, Harley Farms has evolved from derelict dairy to thriving cheese producer with a herd of more than 200 American Alpine goats, thanks to the resuscitative efforts of Dee Harley. Today the farm turns out around 200 pounds of cheese a day at the height of the season and holds two World Cheese Awards.
An organic operation, the creamery's farmstead cheeses are silky and rich and just sound like heaven: case in point, the honey lavender chevre, a delicate balance of floral and citrus with soft vegetal notes. In spring and summer, the farm is open for public tours, but you can drop by anytime (except in January) to meet the goats and fill up on cheese.
// 11am to 4pm Friday through Sunday, 205 North St. (Pescadero), harleyfarms.com
Nicasio Valley Cheese
In 2019, Nicasio Valley Cheese dominated the California State Fair, taking home four gold ribbons, a silver, and two bronzes, plus a Best of Class award for its washed rind San Geronimo, a bold fontina-meets-raclette.
Drawing from ancestral Swiss alpine traditions, the Lafranchi family's farmstead cheeses come straight from their own herd of more than 400 organically raised cows pastured on more than 1,150 acres in West Marin. Among the creamery's most beloved creations, find the distinctive washed-rind Nicasio Square (similar to a taleggio), mild aged Formagella (similar to a brie), and pungent soft-ripened Tomino.
Nicasio Valley welcomes visitors daily to its bucolic ranch; you can also find their cheeses at Whole Foods and various artisanal markets. // 10am to 5pm daily, 5300 Nicasio Valley Rd (Nicasio), nicasiocheese.com
Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery
At the heart of dairy country, approximately where Western Sonoma and Western Marin meet, the family-run Valley Ford Cheese and Creamery is producing award-winning farmstead Italian cheeses.
It all began with Estero Gold, a complex and nutty semi-hard cow's milk cheese that won in the California Cheese Competition back in 2012 and has twice earned the double gold at Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Valley Ford doesn't produce a dozen varieties, but what they do, they do so well.
In addition to the Estero and an extra-aged Estero Reserve, pick up a wedge of creamy Highway 1 fontina or their newest creation, Grazin Girl gorgonzola. Eat in at their creamery/cafe or pick some up in SF at Rainbow Grocery or Good Earth Natural Grocery in Fairfax.
// 7am to 3pm Wednesday through Thursday; 7am to 6pm Friday; 8am to 6pm Saturday; and 8am to 3pm Sunday; 14390 Valley Ford Rd (Valley Ford), valleyfordcheese.com
Belfiore Cheese Company
Berkeley's last-standing cheese company, Belfiore has been making luscious Italian-style fresh mozzarella since 1987. Though their cheese can be found in stores all over the state, Belfiore is still very much a small-scale, local operation that uses traditional techniques and milk from California dairies.
In addition to mozzarella, the creamery also churns out a mean burrata—that rich and creamy mozzarella cousin made from the milk of Sacramento Valley water buffalos—plus a Russian-style farmer's cheese, ricotta, and feta. // belfiorecheese.com