Above Tomales Bay there is a hidden valley in the rolling hills and tucked out of sight is the homestead of the Bob Giacomini family. But the story didn’t start there; over 100 years ago his ancestors were producing farmstead dairy products in Italy. Bob and his wife Dean began farming their Tomales Bay ranch in 1959 and all four of their girls—Karen, Diana, Lynn and Jill—grew up there.
The mild temperatures on the coast and easily rolling, rich grasslands are the perfect place for cattle. The herd at the ranch is closed, meaning that it has grown only from calves born on the ranch. The cows feed on the grass of the ranch eight months of the year and on farm-grown silage the remaining months. A nutritionist monitors the all-natural feed of each cow, making sure that her diet is suited to her specific needs. The result is the superior quality, hormone-free milk that the Giacomini Dairy has always been known for.
A few years ago, Bob and Dean convened a family meeting with their daughters to talk about diversifying and making a new, all-natural dairy product. The daughters did a lot of market research. “There is no California-made blue cheese available,” Lynn reported. The family decided they would fill that niche.
So in August 2000 Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company was founded to produce their trademark Original Blue. The designation “farmstead” means that all of the milk that goes into the cheese comes from the Giacominis’ own cows and the cheese is made right on the ranch. It is still the only classic-style blue cheese made in California.
“We’re a family that shares a passion for all things gourmet, so blue cheese was a natural because of its versatility in the kitchen and its ability to stand alone as a table cheese," says Jill.
The cows are milked at 1:30 am (and again at 1:30 pm) and by 3:00 am, cheese maker Monte McIntyre is beginning the process of turning the milk into blue cheese. Each step is taken with care. The milk only travels about 50 yards from milking parlor to cheese plant, so that the fresh milk is agitated as little as possible, an important factor in making superior cheese. The wheels of cheese are hand-salted and set to cure for a minimum of six months to develop their full flavor and creamy texture.
The Giacominis are clearly a family with strong ties to each other and to their home ranch, and they have a great sense of humor. Dairy farming involves hard work and long hours, so the love of what they are doing is vital. “You’ve got to love this life,” laughs Bob, “and it helps to love blue cheese.”