Lafranchi Brothers at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company
Nicasio Square, State, National and Good Food Awards
Foggy Morning, our most honored cheese
Nicasio Reserve, 3-Time Gold Medal Winner at California State Fair
5300 Nicasio Valley Road
Nicasio, CA 94946
Biography and Photos by Ben Davidson:
A century ago, LaFranchi patriach Fredolino (Fred) Lafranchi immigrated at age 17 from Maggia, Switzerland to the US and eventually to Marin, where he met his wife Zelma (Dolcini). They raised their five children on this beautiful ranch and Fred's eldest son, Will, continued in the family business, eventually passing it along on to his six children, who run it today.
Randy Lafranchi is one of the partners and the manager of the La Franchi Ranch dairy. "I oversee the (dairy) operation and make sure all the cows are healthy and producing fine milk." "I always loved the ranch life and being around the cows, being outside on our property. It's always what I wanted to do. It's a wonderful way of life."
Rick Lafranchi, second oldest of six siblings, is in charge of sales and marketing for the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. "When we first got idea and started thinking about making cheese," says Rick, "Bob Giacomini (a local dairy farmer) told us he thought cheese could be to West Marin what wine is to the Napa Valley." Rick adds "this region is regarded as having some of the richest pasturelands in the world. Conventional milk production isn't as viable an option in Marin as organic is because it's all pasture-based. That went hand-in-hand with us developing an organic cheese company."
Scott Lafranchi is in charge of the creamery, the cheese-making part of the business. He says "we use morning milk, the very freshest, to make our cheeses." "When we decided to make cheese, the best cheese we've ever had was the cheese we tasted in Switzerland. (Their father Will LaFranchi had visited his ancestral homeland a number of times and developed a special bond with his numerous Swiss relatives and a deep appreciation for Switzerland's fabulous artisan cheeses.) Scott and his siblings made contact with a cheese-maker, Maurizio Lorenzetti, from their ancestral Swiss village in the Valle Maggia and invited him to come to California to show them how to make these wonderful traditional cheeses. "I learned how to make six different cheeses in three weeks," says Scott. "It took a lot of trial and error to get the cheeses where they are today but we now produce ten different cheeses."
The current generation of Lafranchi dairy farmers paid homage to their Swiss heritage with the establishment the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and Tasting Room in 2010. The family's Swiss heritage, a rich West Marin pastureland, and a herd of happy cows ensures their cheeses are as magical here in Marin as they are in Switzerland.
West Marin’s grassy hills are home to happy herds of Jersey, Guernsey and Holstein cows who produce some of the finest dairy milk in the country. Dotting this bucolic landscape are several artisan cheese factories who use this rich and creamy milk to craft pungent rounds of award-winning cheeses whose quality and taste can only be described as "out of this world." Marin's cheese scene is a must for true fromage aficionados. And there's no better place to start an exploration than the Nicasio Valley Cheese in the tiny, old-fashioned burg of Nicasio.
The Nicasio Valley Cheese Company offers 100% organic, farmstead cheese from milk produced from nearly 500 dairy cows who roam 1,150-acres of pastureland owned by the local Lafranchi family. Their small retail shop offers free samples, including their aged, brie-like Formagella, washed-rind Tallegio, and award-winning Foggy Morning—a four-time national award winner. In 2015, Foggy Morning was named the best Fromage Blanc style cheese made in North America
All of our cheeses can be purchased at our farm's retail shop, open 7 days a week from 10:00am - 5:00pm.