Cheese Appreciation Month: In honor of the 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival, coming up at the end of March, Nick’s Cove will celebrate four local cheese companies this month.
DeBernardi Dairy of Two Rock will be featured from March 10 to March 16
Executive Chef Austin Perkins will create a variety of classic and innovative offerings each week.
From the SF Chronicle by Janet Fletcher
Don De Bernardi has been in the milk business in Petaluma for more than five decades. His enterprise, the De Bernardi Dairy, milks 700 Holsteins and a few Jerseys for an organic-milk cooperative.
You might think that, at 74, De Bernardi would be cruising toward retirement. Instead, he has become one of the state’s newest cheesemakers, producing an aged raw-milk goat cheese that is selling faster than he can make it.
Like several American cheesemakers’ stories, this one started with pet goats – a pair of does (female goats) that Don’s wife, Bonnie, bought to amuse her grandsons. That was 15 years ago. Eventually Bonnie bred the does and began milking them. The herd grew, and the milk supply along with it.
About a half dozen years ago, Don and Bonnie went to Switzerland to visit Don’s numerous cousins. Both his father and his maternal grandparents immigrated from the Ticino, one of Switzerland’s Italian-speaking cantons. None of those cousins makes cheese today, but the prior generation did, so Don and Bonnie spent some time in the high Alps watching the local people make goat cheese.
That’s when Don had the epiphany: We have goat’s milk, he said to Bonnie. Why aren’t we doing this?
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese is Don’s attempt to re-create the aged goat tommes that are typical of his ancestral region. Bonnie looks after the goats – 35 milkers, with 21 more in the pipeline – and Don makes the cheese, sometimes with assistance from a grandson.
An Italian immigrant neighbor who knew the old alpine cheese methods guided De Bernardi initially, and a professional consultant has helped him refine the procedures. Cal Poly’s short course in artisan cheese making also boosted De Bernardi’s skills, but his credentials are otherwise slim.
Even so, my recent encounters with Two Rock Valley make me think he is on top of his recipe. The 9-pound wheels receive anywhere from two months to a year of aging, with fans at every stage, according to Don.
I haven’t tasted a young wheel, but the more mature wheel appeals to me greatly. It has a thin, hard rind with no mold in evidence; inside, the paste is firm and dry, although not granular, with a deep golden hue rarely seen in goat cheese. The aroma is nutty and meaty, with caramel notes and a suggestion of smoke, and the flavor is sweet and lingering.
De Bernardi also takes cheeses in a range of maturities to the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.
A younger, moister wheel might work with white wine, but I prefer a substantial red wine, such as Syrah, with the aged cheese.