Artisanal cheesemakers are struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a 50 percent drop in cheese sales and forced some farmers to dump milk instead of turning it into heavenly curds.
To help, and in honor of California Cheese Month this May, leaders in the industry are coming up with ways to help cheesemakers reach customers directly, from virtual cheese tastings with cheese luminaries to custom cheese board delivery. Here are three Bay Area options:
Cheese O’Clock: Every Thursday in May, cheese experts Janet Fletcher and Laura Werlin are partnering with top California wineries to host this free online tasting. Taste along by purchasing each week’s themed cheese collection from igourmet (they’re donating a portion of sales to the American Cheese Education Foundation) and purchase the wines from the participating wineries. Or simply listen in as they dish and riff on cheese and wine.
The first tasting, on May 7, “American Rock Stars,” featured Jasper Hill Farm cheesemaker Mateo Kehler (of Bayley Hazen Blue fame) and Roederer Estate winemaker Arnaud Weyrich. Coming up May 14: “Hidden Gems” featuring Shepherd’s Way’s Shepherd’s Hope, Tulip Tree Trillium, Goat Lady Providence and Milton Creamery’s Flory’s Truckle.
Tastings are at 4 p.m. Thursdays. RSVP to receive an e-mail invitation on the morning of the tasting with a link and password to join the session. www.janetfletcher.com
Board at Home: From Willows-based Rumiano Cheese Company and available in two sizes, these kits feature a rotating selection of small-batch wine, hand-crafted cheeses and accompaniments sourced from local farmers, artisans and orchards across Northern California. Newly-launched, “The Little Guy” ($65) includes two wedges of cheese, crackers and a bottle from Sonoma’s Schug Winery.
“The Big Fella” ($125) includes three wedges of cheese, two types of charcuterie, two crackers and two bottles of Schug wine. No-contact delivery is available Monday through Friday throughout the Bay Area. Orders placed by noon are available for same-day delivery. People can also schedule a future delivery date or send a Board at Home kit as a gift to friends and family. https://boardathome.org
DeVine Wine and Cheese Shop: This family-owned San Jose shop has moved its pre-COVID wine and cheese classes online. Zoom in on May 17 for “Old World Cheese, New World Wine” with four 4-ounce tastings of domestic wines and six cheeses from Europe in addition to crackers, olives, nuts and more. Class is $105 with free delivery in parts of the South Bay and $10 delivery throughout the Bay Area. Pick-up is also available. Just want the cheese? They’ll put one together for $65 plus $10 local delivery. They also offer cheese-only online classes for $75. Mother’s Day boards, too. www.devinecheeseandwine.com