For years, Barber Cellars, a small, family-run winery in the Sonoma County town of Petaluma, has offered patrons cheese boards with their wines.
So it’s not a big surprise that their downtown wine tasting room has pivoted its focus from wine tasting to cheese tasting, with their launch of The Petaluma Cheese Shop, a European-style cheese market.
There, visitors and locals alike can try a variety of cheese tastings from local and internationally made products, complete with full tasting experiences and a retail cheese market. Locals, never fear, as the small-production, estate-grown Barber Cellars wines the community has come to love are still available at the shop, and make a great pairing with the new cheeses. This shift from a wine to cheese focus is a natural progression for the Barbers.
“Our local-focused cheese boards have always been the biggest and best deal in Sonoma County,” notes co-owner Lorraine Barber. “We’re just seriously expanding a part of our business that we really love, and offering the cheese lovers of our town an experience they can’t get anywhere else.”
Bringing the focus to cheese is a welcome approach to the traditional wine and cheese pairing, which typically emphasizes the wine.
“A group of friends can dine-in, share some bottles or glasses of wine, have way more cheese and food than they can handle, and split a pretty affordable check,” co-owner Mike Barber says. “Everybody leaves fat, sassy and happy, with hopefully a new understanding of what Sonoma County wine country is really all about: good friends, good times, and great wine and cheese!”
And when one has had their fill, they can purchase favorites to take home.
“When we first moved to Petaluma, we looked around and saw that there were limited wine tasting options in what is arguably the gateway to wine country,” explains Lorraine Barber. “So we opened our downtown tasting room, a place where you could feel comfortable asking questions about wine without feeling like you were being judged for not knowing something already. We want to do the same with cheese. Many people come through that are curious about cheese but don’t really have a place to explore what’s out there. We want to change that.”
And they have. It’s a new frontier and a traditional one at the same time. With the heritage dairy industry in Sonoma County, it’s an experience truly specific to this area. And because there are abundant cheeses and a lot to learn, it’s akin to wine tasting, where one can try diverse varieties and discover new favorites from the knowledgeable and comfortable guides at the shop.
Petaluma Cheese Shop is located at 112 Washington St., Petaluma. 707.971.7410. petalumacheeseshop.com.