Cheese overload at California’s artisan festival

Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery arranges the array of cheeses to be sampled at the seminar she and Sue Conley presented.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? At California’s Artisan Cheese Festival this weekend, the answer, happily, was a resounding yes.

Over a period of five and a half hours, I tasted 24 excellent cheeses and sampled 14 wonderful wines, the best the Golden State has to offer. But by then it was still only 3:30 in the afternoon—and there was an eight-course feast still to come!

My only choice was a nap, and a long walk through the wetlands south of the Sheraton Sonoma in Petaluma, about an hour north of San Francisco, venue for the fourth annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.

I came to the festival in search of ideas for the first Great Canadian Cheese Festival that Cheese Lover Productions will produce in June 2011. (The formal announcement will be made this June.)

All along I’ve known that a successful cheese festival would be a mix of educational seminars, entertaining speakers, social events and a vendor marketplace–with lots of great cheese, wine, beer and food to sample. Here in Petaluma I’ve seen all the ingredients at play in a first-class event. For an event promoter, it’s been downright inspirational.

Getting to meet the icons of California cheemaking, Peggy Smith and Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery, was simply icing on the cheesecake.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at

Cooks, Curds & Cuvées was the grand finale of a day featuring too much of a good thing. Click on the image for a clearer view of the menu.