When you see Rouge et Noir brand cheese in gourmet groceries around Wine Country, you may think you’ve come across some nice French cheese. But actually, the artisanal goodness is Sonoma County born and bred, even if the company that makes it keeps things still a bit more confusing with its name: Marin French Cheese.
Still, it’s true, for what is the longest continuously operating cheese company in America. Back when it was founded in 1865, Marin French Cheese Company was essentially its only neighbor at its original Hicks Valley Ranch location. Slow, surrounding development now places it between downtown Petaluma and Pt. Reyes, but the chateau still stands in contrast to rolling hills and meadows, like an oasis on its 700-acre dairy ranch.
Known to locals as the Cheese Factory, the fromagerie is celebrating their 150th Anniversary on Sunday, June 14, 2015. Everyone is invited, too, for an open house picnic party from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., on the lawn next to the pond. Bringing more fun, local historian and author Dewey Livingston will emcee the story-telling on stage, interspersed with music performances by local SSU graduates’ band, the Dixie Giants. There also will be cheesemaking demonstrations plus a close-up look at beekeeping by Bonnie Morse of Bonnie Bee Company, with a sampling of honey from the Marin French hives.
To keep everyone fueled, there will be a market selling cheese, sparkling mead, cheese beer, cheese, cider, cheese, pickles and preserves, more cheeses from the California Artisan Cheese Guild and a variety of small lunch plates.
For even more connection, customers are encouraged send in stories of their best cheese memories to be shared at the event.
Topics should focus on “the generations of family traditions, working, playing, romancing and hanging out at the Cheese Factory,” says Marin French marketing director Lynne Devereux, but really, there are no rules. Stories can be short or long, recent, or cherished memories of long ago. And while there are no prizes, contributors can be proud that their stories will be on display or told on stage at the party.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, write your story on a card with your name and phone contact, and mail to: Stories at Marin French, 7500 Red Hill Road, Petaluma, CA 94952.
Or, stories can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. As another option, people can call Devereux for a phone interview: 925-872-6691.
Marin French has quite the story of its own. In the beginning, cheese was delivered via horse and wagon to a schooner called Steamer Gold, which took it to docks for San Francisco’s saloons. The dockworkers called it “Breakfast Cheese” because they consumed it before going off to work unloading cargo from around the world, rounding it out with pickled eggs, salted meat and a mug of steam beer.
By 1926, largely because of its still existing Rouge et Noir brand, Marin County became the largest producer of cheese in California.
Tip: Don’t take a horse and wagon to the party, instead pile in with your friends in a private Pure Luxury Transportation limo or Town Car.