In the craziness of last year, I just realized that I never wrote about judging for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Despite the fact that Sonoma County is a dairy hub, thanks to Sheana Davis this was the first year in a long time that they included a cheese category in their yearly, local awards.
They have an interesting way of judging at the Sonoma Harvest Fair. Since I put off writing this entry for 4 months, I now can’t remember what is was called… Swedish judging? Scandinavian judging? It’s called Danish Judging and it’s the staple of 4-H contests. Thanks Sarah Shevett!* Anyways, the judges sample the cheese — then before talking to each other — provisionally rank the cheese gold, silver, Bronze or no award. If there is disagreement, you take a couple of minutes to re-taste and try to convince the other judges to raise or lower their scores. Finally, judges give their final rank. With three judges, two votes out of three carried the award. In the case where all three judges award gold, the cheese gets awarded ”Double Gold”. From there we chose the best of show.
Here we are:
I was skeptical of this method because I had never used it before. At most cheese contests, a point system for different attributes is used, judges are not encouraged to lobby each other, and the total points carry the award. First, second, and third are usually limited to three cheeses (except in the case of ties).
By the end though, I kind of liked this system. Generally we agreed right off the bat and only once did we have a gold/silver/bronze split. Of course, we did have over 50 years of professional cheese experience among the three judges.
Amusingly enough, the Best in Show is a cheese that is no longer available. It is the Petaluma Creamery Dry Goat Jack with Peppercorns
We actually carried this cheese for a couple of years, but I guess they lost their goat milk supply and this, including the winner, was cheese made awhile back and aged a long time.
I screwed up my picture of one of the runners up, Cameo, a soft-ripened goat cheese from Redwood Hill Farm, but I’ve written about it previously. I will just substitute the video by Cameo instead because I really can’t listen to this song enough:
The other runner up was from the Valley Ford Cheese Company for their Highway One.
Highway One is a very nice Fontina-style cheese from a farmstead family dairy that is only getting better and better.
Let me note first that Redwood Hill Farm is producing some of their best cheese ever. The last batch of Camellia we got was stunning, unlike any I had eaten previously. They were pungent, onion-y, and tasted French. I know this because for some reason we had a lot of French tourists in the store and most refused to believe it was made in California.
In addition, they are making a bigger version of Camellia called Cameo: about double the size and with decorative stuff on the outside. The Cameo we have gotten — while less strong than this last batch of Camellia — has been better than any Camellia of the last couple of years, texturally much oozier and with a tastier rind.
The Cameo has been in short supply, however. Because of this, yesterday our distributor made a point of telling me that they they had a couple of cases for our order today. She said, “We have Cameo.”
I said, of course “Word up!”
Silence made me realize that the person taking the order was much younger than me and I just sounded like an old guy trying to sound hip. I said, “Uh, you don’t know that song, do you? It’s probably a little before your time… Search for Cameo and “Word Up” on youtube… Let’s just move on”
I’ve been listening to it ever since. So here it is, the unofficial California goat brie anthem: