Cheese summit leads the whey

Sonoma becomes the epicenter of the artisan cheese world February 23-27 for the 11th annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference is back in town next week, and organizers say “the movers and shakers of the American artisan cheese movement” will be there.

Produced by Sheana Davis, award-winning cheesemaker and owner of the Epicurean Connection, the series of industry and public events is a showcase for the region’s best and brightest in cheesemaking. Retailers, distributors and food writers will be in attendance as well.

The conference begins Sunday, February 23, at the Sonoma Valley Inn where the work of artisan cow, sheep and goat cheese producers will be presented, along with regional wine and beer and the second annual ‘mac and cheese’ contest. Both the public and conference attendees are invited to the event, 1 to 4 p.m. at Sonoma Valley Inn. Tickets are $55 (full conference registration attendees pay $25). That evening, the public is invited to attend a Cheesemaker Dinner at The Epicurean Connection for $45 a person, featuring cheeses from Redwood Hill Cheese, Roelli Cheese and Valley Ford Cheese Company.

The conference continues with speakers and breakout sessions on Monday and Tuesday, February 24 and 25. Keynote speakers include Judy and Charlie Creighton, discussing the evolution of the American artisan cheese movement, and Glenda Humiston, USDA, providing information on future opportunities. In addition, Amy Thompson, of Lucy’s Whey, will focus on retailing artisan and farmstead cheeses, while Vermont cheesemaker, Peter Dixon will focus on the past, present and future of artisan cheese in America. Cost is $150 a day, or $250 for both days.

Additional speakers from the world of cheese making, marketing and retailing include: Al Baylacq, Good Earth Natural Foods; Jacquelyn Buchannan, Laura Chenel’s Chevre; David Breeden, French Laundry; Jeanne Carpenter, Wisconsin Cheese Originals; Judy Creighton, California Artisan Cheese Guild; Colette Hatch, Oliver’s Market; and Ari Weinzweig, of Zingerman’s, who will lead an individual session on Thursday, February 27 ($750).

To register, contact Sheana Davis at 935.7960 or

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