I love it when I get to try or sample the merchandise before making the purchase. This is why I enjoy going to farmers markets to buy produce and to wineries for wines.
Recently, I've discovered cheese tasting by going to the source of the cheese - the cheese factories. While in Sonoma, Mijo and I visited the Vella Cheese Co. and absolutely enjoyed the cheeses and the experience.
Thanks to my Sonoma Cheese Trail map, my second cheese tasting was another fun experience and a tasty one as well. I've seen cheeses made by Vella Cheese Co. not only in grocery stores but also in a few wineries I've been to but I had never sampled one before. I was told they are famous for their Monterey Jack cheeses. Vella Cheese Co. is just walking distance from Sonoma's main square. The building where the cheese company is housed was original built as a brewery.
When we opened the main door, a pungent smell greeted us right away. Ahhh. The smell of little angels' feet, I thought to myself. This is definitely a cheese place.
A couple of friendly cheese company staff were by the counter who helped us with questions and assisted us in sampling the cheeses we were interested in. Unlike in other cheese factories where visitors are free to sample cheeses that are pre-cut and placed in plastic containers, Vella staff are their to slice a sliver of cheese for you.
In the end, we decided to get two from their Bear Flag brand - one moist and one dry Monterey Jack cheeses.
Here is their Bear Flag brand Original High Moisture Jack Cheese with Rosemary upclose. This one is pale yellow and super creamy.
Here is their Bear Flag brand Dry Monterey Jack cheese. It is crumbly sort of like a Pecorino or Parmesian much creamier. The brown rind is aged mixture of unsweetened cocoa powder, vegetable oil and pepper.
Here, I enjoyed the cheeses at home with slices of foccacia bread from Acme Bread Company. I also enjoy both cheeses as snacks without breads.
I'll try their other cheeses the next time we are in Sonoma downtown.