One of the hottest culinary tourist trends is the “culinary trail.” Regional culinary trails draw tourists, foodies and others looking for a unique and fun experience and offer a variety of unusual, unique, or hard to find fresh farm and food products and beverages.
Most culinary trails offer visitors a map, or a phone app, that makes it easy to navigate to each nearby participating business.
Here are three California culinary trails to delight the senses.
California Cheese Trail in Sonoma County
The California Cheese Trail is a California-wide map of artesian and specialty made cheese. Travelers can craft their own “cheese trail” by using the map at www.cheesetrail.org/trail-map#5.02/37.3/-119.98.
In Sonoma County you can experience the delights of western Wine Country’s distinctive, hand-crafted cheeses by following the California Cheese Trail in Sonoma County which winds through about a hundred miles of canyons, pastures and oak-covered hills, linking close to 30 farms and creameries.
Visitors can reserve full tours, cheese tastings and cheese-making classes, then visit with the farm’s goats, cows, sheep or even water buffalo. Here are some of the top stops in Sonoma County:
Achadinha Cheese Company, Petaluma
Jim and Donna Pacheco’s 900 goats graze year-round on verdant pastures at the Pacheco Family Dairy, with grass supplemented with alfalfa and brewers’ grain from local breweries. Donna handcrafts all cheeses and makes her own smoked summer goat sausage.
Bohemian Creamery, Sebastopol
Bohemian Creamery lies on a hilltop overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Mayacamas Mountains. It is here that the spring clover enriches the goats’ milk, the wild blue rye molds powder natural rind cheeses and the salty marine layer infuses in aging rooms.
Vella Cheese Company, Sonoma
Founded in 1931, Vella is among the oldest of Sonoma County’s cheese makers. Using hand-crafted methods, Vella is known for its dry jack cheeses made entirely from the milk of grass-fed cows and aged for anywhere from seven months to two years.
Joe Matos Cheese & Farmstead Co., Santa Rosa
Joe and Mary Matos grew up in the Portuguese Azores on the lush volcanic island of Sao Jorge, noted for its delicious cheeses. They relocated to Sonoma County in the 1970s, carrying the recipe for their native cheese with them.
William Cofield Cheesemakers, Sebastopol
The first British-style cheesemaker in Sonoma County, William Cofield is your go-to for aged cheddar, Stilton-inspired Bodega Blue cheese and squeaky cheese curds that, unsurprisingly, make an excellent wine snack.
Artisan Cheese Festival
The Eighth Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival will be held in Sonoma County March 22-24.
Santa Rosa Beer Passport
Every FeBREWary, breweries collaborate to create the Santa Rosa Beer Passport, a guide to explore the world-class craft beer scene in Santa Rosa. FeBREWary promotes brewing heritage and showcases artisan craft beer. To date 15 breweries have joined the Beer Passport event in 2024. The event extends beyond February. Once you enable your digital Beer Passport, you will have 90 days to check-in at participating breweries and redeem a prize.
Russian River Brewing Company
Established in 1997 by Korbel Champagne Cellars among the majestic redwoods in West Sonoma County. After six years, Korbel decided to get out of the beer business and agreed to transfer the brand and all recipes to their head brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo. Vinnie and his wife, Natalie, were excited to pursue their passion for craft beer together and opened their first brewpub in Santa Rosa in April 2004.
Iron Ox Brewing Company
Established in 2015 Vince Ferracuti and Kevin Robinson have partnered to create Iron Ox Brewing Company. The name is a representation of that partnership. Vince is the Iron and Kevin is the Ox.
Fogbelt Brewing Co.
Founded in 2013 in Santa Rosa, Fogbelt was named after the area along the Northern California coast where the coast redwood trees grow, from Big Sur to the Oregon border. Fog from the coast fosters a unique ecosystem known as the fog belt. Founders Paul Hawley and Remy Martin both grew up in Sonoma County where the redwoods meet the vineyards. They come from winemaking families. These long-time friends have been brewing together since 2004.
Almond Blossom Cruise
Modesto makes it easy to see the almond blossoms in peak bloom with the Almond Blossom Cruise. Visit the website to find entertainment, restaurants, activities and a map.
For just four weeks each year, Mother Nature delivers over 120,000 acres of white and pink almond blossoms around Modesto. From the comfort of your own car, or in a motor coach on Saturdays, enjoy the Wayfarer audio tour, or take your own “cruise” with a map through the countryside with fun stops along the way.
The Wayfarer App will pace directions with you, traveling to Rodin Farms, where you can see the blossoms up close with a picnic in the orchards and Knights Ferry, where you can take a stroll along the Stanislaus River.
On the way you learn about almonds, George Lucas, a local boy, experience an almond butter milkshake at Roberts Ferry Gourmet, find the best photo stops around and even visit the oldest olive oil producer in the United States for a tasting at Sciabica Olive Oil.