It’s spring, the hills of northern California are smoothed over with a sheen of bright, electric green, and when that happens, thoughts turn to sheep and goats. Well, at least mine do, I guess because the baby goats and lambs look so cute silhouetted against that neon backdrop.

A time-honored spring ritual in Sonoma is touring — and tasting — at the valley’s incredible artisanal cheese farms and at local farmer’s markets. My personal favorite is Spring Hill, because the farm is so beautiful and in the fall they serve amazing pumpkin ice cream at their annual pumpkin patch. I cannot get enough of their soft teleme, which they often sell out of at farmer’s markets so you have to get there early.
Redhill Farm specializes in goat cheese; their fresh chevre is to die for. Their annual spring farm tours are a highlight of the season, but sadly they’ve postponed them until fall this year because of the late rains and construction. I also love their rich, creamy yogurt, which reminds me of the homemade yogurt my dad used to make in the groovy ’70s. The good news? Their website allows you to order online.
Also amazing is Achadinha goat cheese company, a relative newcomer, located southwest of Petaluma on gorgeous Chileno Valley Road. They don’t offer farm visits, but sell their cheese at both the San Francisco and Marin Farmer’s markets, as well as at numerous gourmet grocery stores.
Take a country drive through the Sonoma valley some spring weekend and sample the local cheeses and you’ll never be a snob about European cheese again.