Northern California in the 1850s had a booming human population and very few dairy cows. Butter and cheese had to be shipped from Boston and New York at great expense. Inspired by the high prices, a few enterprising farmers imported dairy cows and the California cheese industry was born.
The cool temperatures and long grass-growing seasons of the northern coastal areas proved to be particularly bountiful for dairy owners. In Monterey, a businessman named David Jacks became the first to commercialize a soft white cheese that would gain popularity in the 1880s and come to be known as Monterey Jack.
Over time, that inventive spirit would become a hallmark of the California cheese industry. From Petaluma to Point Reyes, Northern California has more artisanal cheese producers than anywhere else in the country.
They continue to experiment with new flavors and styles, tinkering with mold-ripening and curd coagulation. From farmhouse cheddar to petit marcel there are over 250 distinct varieties available, a little something for cheesemonger and novice alike.