Cheese Please during the Holidays

What better gift to give or receive, than Marin French Cheese. I recently received a gift box filled with different varieties that I have been enjoying nightly for the past two weeks.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

California is known for many contributions to the world, including cheese. Since 1865 the 700-acre Hicks Valley Ranch has provided fresh cow and goat milk cheese. Located in Sonoma, this cheese company was fortunately untouched by the nearby California fires.

Marin French’s Cheeses are handcrafted in small 20-pound batches and come in a variety of types and styles. Since the days of the Gold Rush, Marin French has practiced time- honored cheesemaking techniques, using only fresh milk and cream from neighboring family dairy farms. It has grown from a small family business to an expanded, state-of-the-art facility, producing cheeses that are sold nationally and regularly earn top honors in national and international cheese competitions.

In 2011, Marin French Cheese was purchased by Rians, the respected French family of cheese producers. Rians also owns Laura Chenel’s Chèvre in neighboring Sonoma County.

Here’s some fun facts about cheese:

  1. In France, Brie is the ultimate New Year’s Eve gift (maybe with a bottle of sparkling too).  Brie was once thought of as a dessert cheese, and in 15th Century France, Brie was a festive present to exchange around New Year’s Day. Marin French Cheese’s Triple-cream Brie is sold in its wooden vessel, and they make four different Brie cheeses. The traditional Brie is buttery, rich in texture and golden in color. The Triple Creme Brie is slightly sweet, creamy and elegant with a velvety rind that offers a delicate finish. The award-winning Supreme Brie is aged 9-14 days to produce a snow white rind. The lush milky aroma and lemony sour flavor add layers to this flavor profile. The Triple Creme Brie with Truffles is rich and smooth, speckled with Black Truffle to offer an earthy, mushroom balanced creamy goodness.

    Photo by Jill Weinlein

2. Let Them Eat Cheese!: Just as Marie-Antoinette’s roots were Austrian, Marin French’s Schloss is fashioned after an Austrian-style washed-rind cheese, Schloss-kaese or Castle Cheese. Originally thought of as “a man’s cheese,” because it is very aromatic, Marin French Cheese created Schloss in 1901, for a loyal following of cheese lovers who craved its hearty aroma, robust flavor, and rich smooth texture which melts beautifully. It develops its distinctive taste and visibly orange-hued rind thanks to being washed in brine several times. This stinker cheese pairs well with a hearty California red wine, or an aromatic dark beer.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

3. Chabis is a creamy and fluffy goat cheese. Laura Chenel’s makes five different varieties: Original, Herbs, 4-Peppercorn, Dill and Chabis Garlic. This type of cheese retains moisture longer than the log varieties. Serve this cheese with a dry rose’ or Rhone Valley red.IMG_33284. Spice up you life with the Petite Jalapeno triple cream made from fresh cows milk. It’s a soft-ripened and creamy Brie that offers hints of spicy red and green jalapeno peppers that are bold and full of flavor. The cheese is smooth in texture. It pairs nicely with beer and white wine. This cheese also has a 75-day shelf life.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

5. Instead of cream cheese on a bagel, The Petite Breakfast is an everyday cheese that enhances a bagel and elevates a green salad with a crumble on top. The cheese melts easily in omelets, or a grilled cheese sandwich and soup. Sip a glass of crisp California Sauvignon Blanc, a pint of wheat beer or hard cider with this cheese.

6. The Laura Chenel’s Pure Goat Cheese is a premier American Chèvre collection since 1970. The cheese is packaged in small, disk-shaped medallions and logs. These are ideal on a cheese board with some grapes, honeycomb and fruit spread. Cut pieces of French bread for an ideal appetizer. There are five different goat cheese flavors, starting with an Original that is rich tasting with a bright citrus-y tang. Next is a Poppy Seed & Peppercorn that brings a nutty flavor and hot, yet sweet profile. The Fig & Grapefruit is sweet with a bright tang from the grapefruit and goat cheese. There is a Sun-dried Tomato & Basil with subtle basil and green pepper notes. Last is a Chives & Shallots offering a herbaceous profile.IMG_3327

7. Visitors are welcome to the Hicks Valley Ranch, known to locals as ‘The Cheese Factory.’ The retail shop has handmade cheese tastings and everything you need for a picnic. They sell warm soup, sandwiches, wine, local cider and soft drinks. Store hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. To learn more about Marin French Cheese and the gift boxes they offer all year round, visit


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