Do you think you might want to be a professional cheese maker? Maybe you’ve taken workshops and read books, but now you want to know what it’s really like in the “real world…” It might be time to take some tours – the kind where you visit the make room, the caves, the barn, etc. to see what it means to make cheese for the marketplace.
There are many individual cheese making factories (creameries) where tours are available (whey too many to list here). Some are more thorough than others, but you will always learn something from them.
Examples of tours:
Cabot Visitor Center & Tours in Cabot, Vermont
Widmer’s Cheese Cellars Factory Tour in Theresa, Wisconsin
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese in Point Reyes Station, California
Lively Run Goat Dairy Farm & Creamery Tour, Interlaken, New York
Cheese Tour of ADARRAZPI Sheep Farm in San Sebastian, Spain
There are also a certain amount of cheese tasting tours, and they are fun, especially when they include wine or beer, but they won’t usually teach what you (as a cheese maker) want to know.
Examples of tasting tours:
Wine & Cheese Tour of Chicago
The Wisconsin Cheese Tour
Amsterdam: Henri Willig Cheese Tasting Tour with Wine
Cowichan Valley (British Columbia) Wine & Cheese Tasting Tour
Italy: Bologna/Parma Food Tour
Ideally, there would be a national directory of creameries with tours, so you could easily plan a vacation going from one to another. It would also help if there was a directory of cheese making tour groups to join. (Or, how about a cheese making travel agency?!)
It’s fun to dream, but, really, there just aren’t that many cheese making tours (of more than one creamery) around. The American Cheese Society usually has a cheese tour before every summer’s conference where you ride in a bus from creamery to creamery, and it’s always sold out well in advance of the conference. Many cheese festivals also feature tours as important events on their schedules.
It’s strange that there aren’t more tours, when you consider that agri-tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism business. It’s rare to find a brewery or distillery that doesn’t have a tasting room and a tour as part of it’s overall marketing strategy. Yet, cheese makers rarely tap into this aspect of the business.
One reason for the dirth of tours might be the problem of unwanted bacteria in the make room. Most cheese makers do not want the public traipsing across their floors and breathing into their vats!
There is a solution to this problem, however, and it is probably well worth the expense – to build large viewing windows all around the make room. An example of this is Plymouth Cheese in Vermont which has a viewing window. Buses pull up and tourists flock into their little store to buy their cheese. The window is right next to the cheese vat, so you can watch the action as the cheese makers stir the curds, etc.
You wouldn’t think that would be too exciting, but it really is. Cheese makers work very hard and fast when they are cheddaring curds, for example, and to watch it being done is nothing less than thrilling!
Here’s a brief survey of the current cheese tour situation (aside from the above mentioned individual tours):
Maps of Individual Creameries
There are several states with websites where you can go to see maps of cheese tours- a few include Vermont, California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. These maps are invaluable because if you want to plan your own tour, you have a list to call and you can easily plan your itinerary. It would be great to see more states participate in this.
Other useful directories:
Scheduled, Self Guided Tours of Several Creameries in a Particular Area
We know there are lots more of these than we can find online. Most organizers apparently do not include websites in their marketing strategies.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
This year (2016) is the third annual tour of 3 artisanal cheese makers who open their doors to the public for the day. There are farm tours, demonstrations, cheese samples, prepared food, farm products for sale and more. Farms will be open from 10am to 4pm for self-guided visits and you can tour the farms in any order.
Saturday & Sunday, September 10 & 11, 2016, 10am-4pm
This year there are 4 creameries, 1 vineyard and 1 brewery, all within a 20 mile radius, north of Albany
Scheduled, Guided Tours of Creameries in a Particular Area
Note: The listings below may have passed by the time you read this, so go to the individual websites for updates.
Cheese Lover’s Tour of West Marin County, California
10:30am-3:30pm, available Wednesdays-Fridays and Sundays
This includes transportation to 3 well-known creameries, tastings and a lovacore picnic with wine. It advertises “Learn all about cheese making…”
Cheese Country Farm and Creamery Tours at the California Artisan Cheese Festival in Sonoma, March 24-26, 2017
These tours depart from Petaluma and go to various locations in Sonoma County. They are designed to be educational for cheese makers. See more when the events are posted for 2017.
San Francisco, Sonoma & Marin Counties by Cheese Journeys
June 16th – 22nd, 2017
More info available soon at their website
CHEESES OF OREGON TOUR by Cheese Journeys – (The listings below may have passed by the time you read this, so go to the Cheese Journeys website for the latest listings.)
March 10th – March 19th , 2017
Amsterdam Tour by Cheese Journeys and Co-Hosted by Boska Holland Cheesewares®
April 20th – 28th, 2017
More info available soon at their website
This tour is given by Anna Juhl (founder of Cheese Journeys) along with French Chef Sylvain Jamois, well-known cheese and wine educator Max McCalman, Stephen Catania, owner of New Jersey’s The Cheese Cave and David Gibbons, cheese columnist and co-author with McCalman of three award-winning books.
This is a tour of northern Italy, hosted by Emily Acosta, Cheesemonger Invitational winner and cheese educator, and David Gibbons, award-winning cheese book author and cheese columnist for Wine Spectator magazine. Food orchestrator is Cheese Journey’s in-house chef, Sylvain Jamois. The tour begins in the Bra/Alba area and proceeds to Lago Maggiore near the Swiss border.
If you have a tour you would like to add to this article, (or would like people to know about) please let us know in the comments below.