s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Churning a page in history

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Nestled quietly in the picturesque Hicks Valley between Petaluma and Point Reyes lies a creamery that’s been a favorite pit-stop for picnickers, bicyclists and tourists on their way out to the coast for generations.

This month, the Marin French Cheese Company celebrates its 150th anniversary of churning out some of the world’s most noteworthy cheeses. Known as the oldest continuously running cheesemaking company in the U.S., Marin French Cheese celebrated the milestone with Marilyn and Robert Thompson, descendants of the creamery’s founder Jefferson Thompson, who were inducted on Jan. 10 into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, Conferie de Saint-Uguzon, the International Guild of Cheesemakers, as Compagnon D’Honneur (companions of honor).

They were honored along with other auspicious local contributors to the making and promotion of cheese — Robert Giacomini of Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.; Sondra Bernstein, chef-owner of Glen Ellen’s Girl and the Fig; Santa Rosa chef-restauranteur John Ash; Sonoma Valley radio host and food ,wine and travel writer Kathleen Hill; Culture Magazine publisher Lassa Skinner; and Alex Borgo, Marin French Cheese’s own cheesemaker.

The awards were presented during a Jan. 10 ceremony led by Roland Barthelemy, president of the Guilde Internationale and himself a 2014 honoree of the World Cheese Awards for exceptional contributions to the promotion of excellence in cheese making and production.

Barthelemy traveled to Petaluma from his home in Provence, France to bestow the awards on these American cheesemakers and promoters in recognition of their history and work in the industry. Barthelemy travels the world to bring the Guilde’s knowledge to others and says that it is important for cheese mongers within the industry to share their processes and ideas.

Though the cultures, styles of cheese and processes around the world vary, they all find unity in the simple fact that, “they all speak cheese,” said Barthelemy.

He also works closely with the American Cheese Society, presided over this year by Peg Smith of Petaluma’s Cowgirl Creamery. The American Cheese Society, Barthelemy said, substantially raised the bar of quality in American cheeses, now providing much more distinction to domestic products before they come to market. And, he observed, Northern California’s long history with cheese and wine enables it to challenge the Gallic belief that France is “the best.”

Barthelemy added that Marin French Cheese’s long history of cheesemaking excellence has helped put Petaluma, and the North Bay, on the worldwide map of fine artisan cheeses.

Marin French Cheese was founded in 1865 as Thompson Brothers Creamery. It remained owned and managed by the Thompson Family until the 1990s under the brand name “Rouge et Noir,” making French style camembert, brie and neufchatels.

The company was sold in 1995 to rancher-entrepreneur Jim Boyce, who modernized the cheese plant and aggressively marketed the brand.

“He was competitive,” said Marin French Cheese marketing director Lynn Devereux. “His efforts led the company to win a number of awards and help attract international attention.”

In 2005, Rouge et Noir became the first U.S. cheese to be awarded gold at the prestigious World Cheese Awards. After Boyce passed away, his estate sold the business to the French Rians Group in 2011, which further modernized the plant with state of the art production equipment and aging rooms.

In 2013, the Rouge et Noir packaging was changed to “Marin French Cheese,” to reflect the brand as one from a tradition of American artisan cheese. Marin French Cheese continues to get world wide recognition, garnering a Super-Gold Award for its newest Supreme Brie at the 2014-15 World Cheese Awards in London and a Good Food Award for its Petite Breakfast cheese at the 2015 San Francisco Fancy Food Show.

According to Deveraux, the entire year of 2015 will be dedicated to celebrating the 150th anniversary. In addition to beginning the year with the Guilde’s induction ceremony, the retail shop at the creamery (familiar to many Petalumans simply as “the Cheese Factory”) will host a series of tastings and promotions of local Bay Area foods beginning in March.

There will also be three public weekends at the creamery; June 13 to 14, August 15 to 16, and October 17 to 18.

All events will offer similar formats of picnic themed celebrations with educational emphasis on activities that occur at the 700-acre Marin French property, featuring beekeeping, cheesemaking, and dairy farming, and have a seasonal focus.

In addition, readers who have stories or memories of the Marin French Cheese Company that they would like to share for its 150th anniversary year, contact Devereux by email at lynne@laurachenel.com or call 925-872-6691.

Additionally, Marin French will dedicate its legacy Breakfast Cheese, now known as Petite Breakfast, as a commemorative cheese, packaged in a vintage “1865” label to reflect the 150 year old recipe. It will be available at the creamery’s retail shop and at special promotions nationally.

Starting in March, the retail shop at the creamery will host a series of tastings and promotions featuring Bay Area foods including olive oils, chocolates, cheese-friendly crackers and accompaniments, highlighting the assortment of products sold in the shop.

A schedule will be released soon.

For additional information on upcoming events, visit the website at marin frenchcheese.com.

(Contact Lynn Haggerty King at argus@arguscouri er.com)