The California Artisan Cheese Festival, California’s premier cheese event, announces the participants and details for two of its most popular events: The Best Bite Competition on Friday, March 23, and Cheese & Cocktails on Saturday, March 24. The events offer a unique opportunity to experience new and limited-production artisan cheeses with dishes made by Bay Area chefs and judged by first responders, and cocktails created by local craft distilleries, respectively. The competition and artisan cheese and cocktail tasting will take place at the Festival’s new location, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Event Center in Santa Rosa. The popular weekend festival, taking place March 23-25, features an array of seminars, tours and tastings, and is expected to attract more than 2,500 guests. Tickets are now available at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
The Best Bite Competition – A Tribute to First Responders - Friday, March 23
6 to 9 p.m.
Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Hall of Flowers
Cheesemakers, chefs and cheesemongers share the stage with California’s first responders at Friday night’s Best Bite Competition. This year’s competition, which showcases more than 20 cheesemakers, 20 chefs and 20 mongers, pays tribute to the brave men and women who risked their lives during California’s destructive fire storms in October 2017. Attendees will meet these local heroes as they take on the role of judges during this light-hearted yet energetic competition to see who can create the best bite using artisan cheese. Each cheesemaker is paired with both a cheesemonger and chef. These professionals will create a delectable bite featuring their cheesemaker’s cheeses, all accompanied by regional artisanwine, cider and beer. This interactive, fun night of great cheesy nibbles culminates in guests voting for their favorite cheese creation and an exciting awards ceremony. Everyone is encouraged to bring their appetites to this not-to-be-missed event.
Participants include A La Heart Catering, Achadinha Cheese Company, AppleGarden Farm, Barber Cellars, Bear Republic Brewing, Beehive Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, Bennett Valley Cellars, Bistro 29, Blue Sage, Chevoo, Cookie…take a bite!, Costeaux French Bakery, Cowgirl Creamery, Cowgirl Creamery Cantina at Point Reyes, Cypress Grove, Fiscalini Cheese Co., Gordian Knot Winery, J. Rickards Winery, Jimtown Store, Chef Jodie Rubin, John Ash & Co., Joseph Jewell Wines, Kelley & Young Wines, Korbel Champagne Cellars, Korbel Delicatessen and Market, La Marcha Tapas Bar, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Lassen Traditional Cider, Merriam Vineyards, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Nick's Cove, Nicolau Farms, North Coast Brewing Co., Orland Farmstead Creamery, Paul Mathew Vineyards, Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co., Pierce Ranch Vineyards, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Red Branch Cider Company, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Sonoma Portworks, Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., The Gables Wine Country Inn, the girl and the fig, Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Trione Vineyards & Winery, Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese, Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, Willapa Hills Cheese, and zazu kitchen + farm.
All ticket sales are final, and the event will place rain or shine. Parking is complimentary.
Cheese & Cocktails - Saturday, March 24
5 to 7 p.m.
Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Saralee & Richard’s Barn
$45 per person
Start off the night with two hours of fun artisan cheese and cocktail tasting. Cheesemakers showcase some of their favorite cheeses while local craft distilleries share samplings of their best spirits, both as straight pours and mixing them into cocktails, for guests to discover and enjoy. Cheesemakers will be on hand sampling their favorite cheeses to pair with spirits and discover the legendary Fantasy Cheese table – a plethora of artisan cheeses, bread, crackers and accoutrements assembled and manned by the Certified Cheese Professionals at Whole Foods Market. This event presents the perfect opportunity to sample, compare, and pair some of California’s best cheeses and spirits.
Participating cheesemakers include Achadinha Cheese Company, Beehive Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, Central Coast Creamery, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove, Fiscalini Cheese Co., Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Nicolau Farms, Moonside Creamery, Orland Farmstead Creamery, Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co., Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Schoch Family Farmstead, Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese, Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese, Vintage Cheese, Willapa Hills Cheese and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.
Participating spirits producers include Alley 6 Craft Distillery, American Craft Whiskey Distillery, Golden Bear Bitters, Griffo Distillery, Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery, Monarch Bitters, No. 209 Gin, Siddiqui Rum, Sonoma Coast Spirits, Sonoma County Distilling Company, Spirit Works Distillery, Venus Spirits and Young & Yonder Spirits.
21 and over only, no children will be admitted. All ticket sales are final, and the event will place rain or shine. Parking is complimentary.
Generous sponsors of the California Artisan Cheese Festival include American AgCredit, Beehive Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, Central Coast Creamery, City of Santa Rosa, Clover Sonoma, Cowgirl Creamery, Culture Magazine, Cypress Grove, Donald and Maureen Green Foundation, Edible East Bay, Edible Marin & Wine Country, Exchange Bank, Fiscalini Cheese Co., Flamingo Resort Hotel & Conference Center, Hotel Petaluma, John Boos/Boos Boards, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Mike Hudson Distributing, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Oliver’s Markets, Pennyroyal Farm, Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Pure Luxury Transportation, Real California Milk, Rustic Bakery, Seismic Brewing, Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma, Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, Sonoma County Tourism, Tahoe Kitchen Co., Tony’s Fine Foods, Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, Visit Santa Rosa, Whole Foods Market, Willapa Hills Cheese, and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.