The Cheese Factory

Nestled in a valley outside of Petaluma, stands the landmark where the well-loved cheese Rouge et Noir is made. Known locally as The Cheese Factory, its real name is the Marin French Cheese Company, and it has produced hand-crafted, soft-ripened cheeses in this same location since 1865, making it the oldest cheese manufacturer in the USA. I’ve passed it many times on the way to Point Reyes, always promising to stop next time. Last week I finally took the time to visit and I’m glad I did.

The moment I stepped into the cheese shop, I was invited to taste. I delighted in the various aromas, textures and flavors of brie, Camembert, and bleu cheeses, before taking a mini tour of the facility. Through a window I watched as workers poured warm milk into containers with added culture. From here, the natural process of converting milk to cheese only takes a few hours. Once the curds have thickened, the whey is allowed to drain away and the new cheese is formed into molds. Each cheese is aged for a specified period of time depending on its type, and then finally packaged for sale.

As lunch time approached, I headed back to the shop and picked out a Petite Creme Rouge et Noir, a packet of crackers, and a drink. Resting outside by the duck pond, I savored my snack, along with a view that encouraged me to pull out my watercolor paints. This area of northern California, known for its artisan cheeses, is especially beautiful in late autumn, after seasonal rains have begun to fall. Rolling grass-covered hills that were sere and golden just last month are now a brilliant emerald green. The cows that dot these hillsides are no doubt happier of late, eating newly sprouted grasses.

6 thoughts on “The Cheese Factory

  1. Thanks Peter. Yeah, I noticed those poles right away and liked how each were leaning in s different direction. I had to include them in the sketch.

  2. I love your use of color – this scene really glows. I’m curious about your technique – do you draw with pen first and then add paint, or do you paint first and then add ink?

  3. Thank Cheryl! I mix it up, actually. To start with, I layout the larger shapes in pencil then dive in with ink. When I get to a point that I feel comfortable with the ink line drawing, I apply watercolor. But then I usually have to go back in with a thicker black line to tighten it up a bit in the darker areas. Lately I’ve also enjoyed sketching with watercolor alone. Anything to keep the process fun!

  4. Richard, this scene really speaks to me. I could crawl right into the picture and live happily next to the little winding road with its leaning telephone poles. Love your trees!

  5. Thanks Jean. It’s a great place to taste cheese as well as enjoy the scenery. Glad you like the winding road and telephone poles, I like that section too. Right now I’m working on a new illustration that will be put on their Red and Black cheese label.

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