The California Cheese Trail

The North Bay isn’t just home to world famous wine country. You can also find some of the Bay Area’s finest cheesemakers here. Whether you’re interested in planning a weekend that combines those two delicious items, or simply visiting a few gourmet cheese companies, Novato is the perfect base for a foodie getaway.

Mark Day

Mark Day is a content writer and videographer who thinks Mount Tam cheese is the perfect treat.

The Cowgirls know all about great cheese

Point Reyes Station is home to the Cowgirl Creamery, one of the most notable names in Bay Area cheese making. Located at Tomales Bay Foods, the cheese shop offers a take-away deli, featuring coffees, a milk bar, sandwiches, hot lunches, and of course a great selection of cheeses, including many of their signature offerings, like Mount Tam and Red Hawk. You can book a tour of the Creamery online (tours take place on Fridays, and a reservation is recommended). Note that the Creamery is open Wednesdays through Sundays only. The Tomales Bay location is close to Point Reyes National Seashore and Drakes Bay, making for not-to-be-missed picnicking opportunities.

Practice your French with a picnic

Point Reyes is also home to the Marin French Cheese Company, the longest, continually-operating cheese company in America, where the traditional French styles of Brie and Camembert are crafted using only the freshest milk from neighboring family dairies. Another great picnicking spot, the Marin French Cheese Company is open every day from 8:30am till 5pm. In addition to cheeses, visitors can buy sandwiches, soul and other tasty snacks to enjoy. You can also experience the unripened Brie known as “breakfast cheese’, which is a Marin French specialty.

You can find good things in the fog

West of Novato,you’ll also find Nicasio Valley Cheese, offering cheeses made from 100% organic farmstead cow's milk. Nicasio is home to Foggy Morning, a four-time awarded Fromage Blanc style cheese, and a number of other notables. They’re open seven days a week, from 10am till 5pm, and offer complimentary cheese tasting of all their varietals.

Spring cheese, at any time of year

Towards Petaluma, you’ll find Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, and the Creamery Store, which offers free cheese tasting, along with pizza, sandwiches and more available for purchase. In addition to a variety of cheddar, jack and mozzarella cheeses, they also offer housemade ice cream, and organic butters. Sounds like another potential picnic waiting to happen.

You can find these and other North Bay cheese makers on the California Cheese Trail, which connects people to artisanal cheesemakers and family farmers throughout California. Visit the Cheese Trail website, which features their interactive map, to see where cheesemakers are based. You’ll find links to various cheesemaker websites there, where you can check on opening hours for tours, tastings and cafes. Should you choose to plan your own cheese adventure, Novato makes for a great central base as you set out on your connoisseur journey. The proximity of artisanal cheesemakers, craft brewers (as featured on our guide to great beers) and wineries like our own Trek Winery and nearby Ram’s Gate Winery make Novato a perfect base for anyone with gourmet sensibilities.
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