It was my first California Artisan Cheese Festival, and a good one it was! With the sun shining extra bright and the show floor absolutely teeming with deli, dairy, and bakery connoisseurs and enthusiasts, the 12th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival left me feeling warm and fuzzy, and not just because of the wine tastings.
If the number of consumers vying for a spot front and center at the various booths, ready to try some of the best goods the region has to offer, is anything to go by, the show was a success, and I’m not the only one who thought so.
“We’re a California event with vendors from all over the state, but we draw 70-80 percent of our guests from outside of our area. Our goal is to get better every year and always reach out as far as we can in order to showcase California-made products to the best of our ability,” Judy Groverman Walker, Executive Director of the California Artisan Cheese Festival, told me. “We had record attendance, all of the vendors had good sales and sold out of their product, and vendors were able to talk with retailers and get their product into new stores, which for us means success.”
Attendees who have been going to the event for years might have noticed the new location. This year, the festival was held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Event Center, which Judy attributes to the California Artisan Cheese Festival accommodating more vendors as the event continues to grow.
“There are only a few of these events in the United States, and we want to continue to ensure we’re the best in how we showcase local cheese,” Judy continued. “In terms of next year, I expect us to make huge changes that will help us tighten our festival and outreach to do just that.”
The weekend-long event kicked off with seminars, artisan tours, and tastings to attendees’ hearts content. Saturday was chock full of interactive seminars and pairing demos all about my two favorite things: cheese and bubbly.
"The California Artisan Cheese Festival is one of our absolute favorite events,” Christy Khattab, Marketing Director, Cypress Grove, said. “We not only have the opportunity to have memorable, meaningful interactions with consumers; we also get to catch up with our fellow cheesemakers and share in cheesy camaraderie. It's a celebration of everything we love about this industry.”
Sunday opened with the sold-out Bubbles and Brunch, which included a three-course cheese-centric brunch, culinary entertainment and live cooking demonstrations by Chef Sergio Monleón, and all the sparkling wine attendees could get their hands on.
"We had a great time hanging out with our California cheesemakers and our local community,” said Zackary Pass, National Sales Director, Laura Chenel’s and Marin French Cheese. “The event was extremely well-attended–we were busy from start to finish–and we just loved the new space."
Afterwards, the event we all were waiting for opened its doors and the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace started with a bang. Running into familiar, friendly faces and meeting new ones we can’t wait to run into next year, the Sunday Marketplace was the place to be with almost 2,500 guests and vendors galore.
"It is great to have direct interaction with about 1,800 attendees at the market place event. The trip from Utah is well worth it. We love to catch up with and support our California cheese friends," said Founder of Beehive Cheese Tim Welsh.
With such a good show behind us, I’m already counting down the days until next year’s California Artisan Cheese Festival. To stay in-the-know on all things deli, dairy, and bakery, stick with us at Deli Market News.