Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Moo.

That was the word of the day when I attended the grand opening of the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s spectacular new Culinary and Educational Center and cheese-making facility, dubbed “The Fork at Point Reyes” in Marin County, Calif., recently.

What, you ask, does cheese have to do with wine? Come on, wine and cheese go together like, well, like cheese and wine. Both are artisan products made by farmers using chemistry and passion to create things that make you go “mmmmm.” And it so happens that the pairing of the two products, when done well, makes each of them better. The alchemy of a great blue cheese combined with the magic of a perfect Pinot Noir can take one to a heavenly place.

In addition to all that, I was impressed, as I toured the new tasting room, by just how much the experience shared in common with the high-touch, high-tech tasting rooms found at wineries. It struck me as a revelation.

Some background. Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese is the natural extension of a dairy farm that was purchased in 1959 by the Giacomini family. It is on a hill, hard by the San Andreas Fault overlooking the Point Reyes Peninsula. If there is a prettier place on the face of the earth I have yet to see it. The Giacominis, patriarch and matriarch Bob and Dean, raised happy cows and four daughters on these bucolic hillsides just north of the town of Point Reyes Station. As a family they provided milk to a local creamery.

But the desire beckoned to produce something more, something special. And the four daughters, Karen, Diana, Lynn and Jill, returned from full lives elsewhere to the family farm to help turn an idea into a reality. The idea was to produce a high quality, artisan cheese from the milk the cows produced on the farm. In 2000, the dream was realized and first wheels of what has become the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s signature cheese, “The Original Blue,” were released. All natural, gluten-free, kosher-certified and delicious, this cheese has become an amazing success and can be found nationwide. Here in Aspen, check out Roxy’s and City Market.

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A few years ago the girls began to think big. What if they could construct a building on the farm where they could not only increase production (they have expanded from the Blue to include a classic Italian-style Toma and an authentic, small-batch Mozzarella) but also provide an opportunity for visitors to see how cheese is made and taste it at its point of origin?

Earlier this month the Giacominis threw an opening party to share the results with friends, family, customers, suppliers and just about everybody they know. It was a big event.

The building is tucked away behind a hill above Highway 1. It houses both the cheese-making facility and The Fork at Point Reyes, which they describe as a “Culinary and Educational Center.” It is a beautiful building, one that straddles the line between working factory and high-end tasting room. It spills out onto a patio that overlooks rolling hills dotted with cows before falling away into Tomales Bay.

As the family welcomed guests for the afternoon barbecue and party, one could see people scurrying around in T-shirts that read “Fifty years later … 350 cows, 8 grandchildren, 4 daughters/4 outlaws (a reference to the girls’ husbands), 3 cheeses, 2 bulls and 1 wife.” Nothing could have told the story better.

At the party on a glorious sunny day, everyone noshed on Hog Island Oysters from just down the Bay, wild venison that had been taken within sight of the patio where it was served, and of course, cheese. And not just the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, but cheese from other local producers as well, like Cow Girl Creamery. These were people who share in each other’s successes and it was clear everyone present could not have been happier for the Giacomini family.

And about that Moo. This was a dairy farm after all, and there were cows everywhere. But right in front of The Fork, there were small huts that housed maybe 10 new arrivals, calves born in the last month. In the first little hut was a calf that had been born mid-morning, just hours before the party had begun. Still wet behind the ears, this little one was trying to make sense of her new surroundings. She should live a healthy life in Point Reyes, making milk for a living.

I have to admit, I was a little envious.