Valley Ford- Sonoma Hills, Baby Cows and Cheese
1. The cheesemakers. Whether they devote their lives to tending animals and making cheese, or focus primarily on making cheese and leave animal husbandry to others, they make our delicious, daily lives possible. Plus, if they weren't making cheese, I'd have to write about... beans... or .... radicchio.
2. The animals. They're beautiful, even when they're being a pain in the butt and not going into the right milking stall. They give us glorious milk. And they're soooo.... cute when they're babies (even, I recently found out, when they blow snot rockets that have a three-foot projectile).
3. Friends. I love having other people who are also passionate about cheese attend my cheesemakers trips. Because I love them, sure, but another reason is because when they're in the car with me, they become official navigators. This is priceless because I get lost quicker than a child left alone in a supermarket. But even better- when my friends come along, they serve as photographer while I pester cheesemakers with questions. In the case of my professional photographer friend, Molly DeCoudreaux, this is the best news possible for everyone. All photos featured on this post are by her.
Recently my pal MollyD and I drove up to say hello to cheesemakers Karen Bianchi-Moreda and her son Joe Moreda at Valley Ford on possibly the prettiest day ever. Do you remember Valley Ford? They were the cheese company that I wrote about in the LA Times this October that switched from being "just" a dairy farm to also making cheese to be able to cope with the ridiculous pressures of the milk market.
We found Karen pressure-hosing the barn when we arrived. Now, even though I was already impressed by her ambition and passion, I'm now also impressed by her guns. But back to the farm. Karen also introduced us to her cheesemaker son, Joe Moreda, who graduated from Cal Poly with an emphasis on cheesemaking and decided to return to the farm to join the family business. He and Karen are a two-person mean cheese machine.
Then, she showed us her cheese room, and let us sample a bite or too from tasty wheels, like Estero Gold, Highway One, and the future release, Grand.
Next, with eyes lit up like a kid in Willi Wonka's Chocolate Factory, Bianchi-Moreda told us that she wanted to show us something. She led us towards a green and brown barn, the only original structure left from the first of the five Bianchis generations to live on the farm, and paused to glance at us with a wide smile. She slowly slid open the heavy door. Inside was around twenty stalls of calves. After waving us in, she introduced us to a two-day old Jersey that I like to call Ginger. When Karen opened her gate so we could scratch her a little under her chin, Ginger suckled. After a minute or two more of shyness that faded away with every chin scratch, Ginger got her visitor legs on and started polka-ing around her stall. Then she tried to prance out of her pen. "Oh, not so shy anymore are you?," said Bianchi-Moreda, shaking her head and laughing. "Tthis is why I do this."
All hail the baby cows.
All photos on this post are by DeCoudreaux. Note to readers- she is a rockin full-time photo professional, and this sort of photo excellence is only linked to Molly navigating my cheese trips. But, if you want her to navigate your own photo trips, weddings, portrait sessions, food shots, you can contact her here.