Mar 19, 2012

There's really nothing new about artisan cheese...

Historic Vella Cheese Company is run by Chickie Vella (right) and her son, Gabe, the third and fourth generations to be involved in the family enterprise. (Photo: Jeff Kan Lee/Press Democrat)
Sonoma, California, where I live, is definitely on the forefront of the sustainable/organic/artisan food trend. That's one of the reasons it was named in 2009 as the first Cittaslow ("slow city") in the United States by Cittaslow International.

It's the kind of place where people have been hand-crafting foods in the same way for so long that their methods had time to go out of fashion and circle around to being trendy once again.

For instance, Sonoma's award-winning and family-owned Vella Cheese Company has produced hand-crafted cheeses for more than 80 years in a gorgeous stone building--a former brewery--that dates back to 1904.

“They call us artisan cheesemakers now,” third-generation owner Chickie Vella told me. “But we’re just doing exactly the same things we were doing in 1931. People’s perceptions have changed, but we haven’t.”

Vella's father, who died last June, won more than a hundred gold and silver medals throughout his long career as a cheesemaker. He was so esteemed by cheesemakers throughout the United States that, in 2006, he was honored with the first-ever lifetime achievement award by the American Cheese Society.

Read the story of Vella Cheese Company here.

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