Taste of Sonoma and Cheesemaking Class

Last month I had the pleasure of attending Taste of Sonoma, a popular food and wine event that takes place at gorgeous MacMurray Ranch in the Russian River Valley.

Taste of Sonoma is part of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Sonoma County’s biggest annual charity event. Proceeds from this benefit go to local Sonoma charities with over $20 million raised since it began.

With over 200 wineries pouring their wines and over 60 local chefs presenting their creations for attendees to savor, it’s a must-do for the wine and food lover!

taste of sonoma

To say Taste of Sonoma is a well-attended event is putting it mildly. People flock from all over to attend this festival of wine and food.

taste of sonoma

MacMurray Ranch is such a beautiful setting for this event. Famed actor Fred MacMurray bought the ranch in 1941. Now his daughter, Kate MacMurray, who grew up on the ranch, took over the vineyard and ranch property, which is known for its award winning Pinot Noir wines.

taste of sonoma

Before I started exploring, I wanted to have a taste of some Sonoma County wine!

taste of sonoma

First I visited the marketplace area that featured many different purveyors of local Sonoma County foods. I stopped by tables full of  teas, honey, cheeses, jerky and even gourmet locally grown mushrooms.


I loved seeing all the fresh and colorful summer produce.

taste of sonoma

There were also samples of beer, cider and limoncello too! I stopped by Prohibition Spirits to say hello to owners, Amy and Fred Groth, and try their special lemonade made with their delicious limoncello. Perfect for a warm September day!

taste of sonoma

Taste of Sonoma isn’t only about sampling Sonoma County’s delicious food and wine, it’s about education too. There are a variety of seminars and demonstrations going on throughout the event. I happened to catch part of Chef Steve Rose’s cooking demonstration while I was there. Steve is a longtime chef, restaurant owner and farmer here in Kenwood, where I live. Hosting the demonstration was another Kenwoodian, Marcy Smothers, who is an author, food and wine expert and TV and radio personality.


More learning opportunities can be found elsewhere at Taste of Sonoma. I came across this display – which was much bigger than pictured here – with real examples of grape varietals. It was so interesting to be able to compare them to one another and see the differences in size, shape and color.

taste of sonoma

I started to head to the wine tents that are separated by regions, when I saw friend Jeff Tyler of Palooza cooking up pizzas for guests. Jeff is also a Kenwoodian! So many talented people in the food and wine business live in our tiny town of just 1200.

taste of sonoma

In each wine tent you will find dozens of wineries presenting and pouring their wines. It’s hard to choose which wines to try!

taste of sonoma

While making my decisions about what to sample, I ran into friends Malia of Style by Malia and Renee Mengali, a Sonoma County CPA.

taste of sonoma

I also saw Arden, on the left, who hosted me and Bill at Pezzi King Estates earlier this year.

taste of sonoma

I made sure to stop by to say hello to Sheana Davis of Epicurean Connection and try her pesto pasta and taste some of her cheese. I will be telling you about Sheana’s cheesemaking class that I took a few weeks ago later in this post.

taste of sonoma

Don’t you love Sheana’s “Cheesecake”?

taste of sonoma

One of the tastiest things I ate at Taste of Sonoma was sausage from TIPS Tri-Tip Trolley. I need to track some down to enjoy at home!

taste of sonoma

There were foods for every palate including paella, which size always astonishes.

taste of sonoma

When you’re not eating and sipping and looking around, you can find a charming place to sit and rest your feet, talk to a friend or eat your treats sitting down.

taste of sonoma

Shortly before I headed home, I ran into Hannah and Edward of Healdsburg Social who interviewed me while I was at the event. It’s a short video and it really gives you an idea of how fun – and tasty – this event is.

A few weeks ago, I took Sheana’s cheesemaking class at General’s Daughter in Sonoma. Bill and I attended with our friends Michelle and Bill.

Along with teaching cooking and cheese classes at General’s Daughter, Sheana puts on workshops and stays very busy participating in local and national culinary events such as Taste of Sonoma.

With over two decades as a chef, caterer and culinary educator, Sheana is known as one of the top cheese experts in the country and is certainly well-known here in Wine Country!


Shana makes her own artisan cheese called Delice de la Vallee, a triple-cream blend of cow and goat milks. It has been added to the menus of several of her customers, including The French Laundry!

When we arrived in the charming and stately General’s Daughter, we were invited to grab a wine glass and pour ourselves a glass of wine – as we often do here in Wine Country – from Sheana’s handpicked selection of both white and red wines.

Cheese Class

We were also invited to sample her other cheeses displayed along with French bread, crackers, apricot muscato and tomato relish. As a huge cheese lover, I did not need any convincing to make my way quickly to the cheese table!

cheesemaking class

Once we had some cheese and sipped on a little wine, Sheana told us we would be making fresh ricotta cheese, which would be ready from start to finish in 90 minutes.

Sheana and fellow cheesemaker for The Epicurean Connection, James Fanucchi, started by showing us what equipment we would need to make our own cheese and what ingredients to buy. All the ingredients needed are easily found in grocery stores.

Sheana breaks down each step in the ricotta cheesemaking process, making it doable for anyone willing to be attentive and gentle because timing, temperature and the way you handle the ingredients are very important.

Cheese Making Class

The class is interactive and students are encouraged to stir, ladle and sample!

Cheese Class

It’s a simple process but you must pay attention. Little things like being sure to ladle the curds into the colander gently can be the difference between a great cheese and a not so great cheese.

how I wear my yellow

Cheese Making Class

Sheana’s cheesemaking classes are ideal for couples, a group of friends, family members, corporate team-building or as a gift for a friend.

Cheese Class

Once the cheese is ready, you can serve as is…..

Cheese Class

Or make a mold out of it, add seasonings or simply top with a sauce like Sheana did. She poured some of her delicious homemade pesto sauce on top of this mold.

Cheese Class

You can also use the leftover whey to make soup! Sheana loves to use her whey to make her special Whey & Potato Soup with herbs, garlic, onions and leeks.

Sheana gave each student the flour sack towel she recommends using and a stainless steel skimmer. And we all went home with a copy of the recipe for fresh ricotta cheese, which includes very detailed instructions. Now I have no excuses for not making my own ricotta!

See the current schedule of classes on Sheana’s website, The Epicurean Connection.

Have you ever made your own cheese?

I hope you have enjoyed this food and wine-centric post!



Make it a rich day!



Disclosure: My ticket to Taste of Sonoma was given to me in exchange for media postings. Our two tickets to Sheana’s cheesemaking class were also complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 


  1. Jill
    October 9, 2016 / 10:31 am

    What a great post! I hope I get a chance to take a cheesemaking class some time. Glad you wore that beautiful scarf to the event! xx

  2. Linda Salazar
    October 10, 2016 / 9:22 am

    Looks like Taste of Sonoma was a fun event! The cheesemaking class sounds wonderful…I’ve thought of making my own ricotta but haven’t gotten around to it. No time!


  3. October 16, 2016 / 11:39 am

    I JUST took a cheese class with Sheana also (and posted about it on my blog)! I was so nervous, but left feeling inspired to try my own hand at it. Sheana is smart as a whip and knows so much, it really satisfied my foodie and geek side. Cool to hear you enjoyed it, too! 🙂

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