The tiny village of Nicasio could easily be mistaken for an Alfred Hitchcock movie set with its quaint white church and honky-tonk bar overlooking a scruffy baseball field that doubles as the town square. Instead, it is a great starting place to explore Marin County’s storied rural history. In 1919, Swiss immigrant Fredolino Lafranchi and his wife, Zelma, herself a product of a long line of California dairy owners, established their own spread here. After their oldest son, Will, passed away in 2002 the Lafranchi clan decided to branch out into cheese and in 2006 began converting their dairy into an organic operation. Family influence remains strong. On our stop, Lynette Lafranchi was on duty at the small tasting room. “Yes, I married the dairyman,” she quips, but when asked why the family moved into the cheese biz, Lafranchi is blunt: “Money,” she says. “If you have a dairy, you need to diversify or else you won’t survive.” The decision was a good one. “We’re doing pretty well,” Lafranchi says, adding that the operation just added Safeway to its list of retailers, which already includes Draeger’s and Whole Foods. 68 South Bay Accent Nicasio also ships to all 50 states and does holiday gift baskets. Nicasio’s tasting room and store are housed in a small building, which features a center table piled with delectable samples and a window looking into a cheese-making parlor. A small patio with chairs, tables and umbrellas sits out front. The Lafranchis have approximately 400 cows and 1,150 certified organic acres. As inhabitants of a pastured-based ranch, the cows derive a fair amount of their diet from the grass underfoot, which might help explain the exploding popularity of the family’s cheeses. Nicasio is best known for Foggy Morning, a fresh, soft and mild cheese that also comes in a seasoned basil and garlic variety. But on display for tasting are a number of others, such as semi-soft Halleck Creek or Nicasio Reserve, a classic Swiss-Italian mountain cheese aged at least 90 days. Just this past year, Nicasio started offering a mixed goat/cow cheese in the spring and summer. CHEESY BITES Organic, farmstead cow’s milk with an occasional bit of goat milk. VIBE Serene Swiss farm stand. BOOTS OR HEELS Stilettos all the way since it’s a quick walk from the parking lot. TOUR/TASTING OPTIONS No tours, but drop in for tons of free samples. MICHAEL WOOLSEY ‘IF YOU HAVE A DAIRY, YOU NEED TO DIVERSIFY OR ELSE YOU WON’T SURVIVE.’ 3 NICASIO VALLEY CHEESE COMPANY 5300 NICASIO VALLEY ROAD, NICASIO; 415/662-6200; NICASIOCHEESE.COM Award-winning Nicasio Reserve, a classic Swiss-Italian mountain cheese, is aged at least three months.
South Bay Accent - Dec 2014/Jan 2015
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