Located in Nicasio, California, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company is owned and operated by the Lafranchi family. Founded by Fredolino Lafranchi in 1919, Lafranchi Ranch, was a dream come true for the Swiss immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at the age of 17. The ranch became a family operation years later when Will Lafranchi, Fredolino’s eldest son took over running the business. Throughout this period, family connections to Switzerland remained strong and Will, along with his family, visited many times. These visits were filled with locally produced food, including artisanal cheeses at every meal. Inspired by his experiences in the old country, Will dreamed of producing great cheese on his ranch. Unfortunately, Will was unable to achieve this dream during his lifetime, but his children who now run the ranch, founded Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Nicasio Valley Cheese focuses on bringing cheeses inspired by their family heritage to the U.S. Using rotational grazing for their herd of 400 cows and sustainable practices throughout the ranch, 100% of their herd is certified organically raised and their milk is used for the production of cheese. The creamery is located in a converted milking barn and recycled shipping containers are used as the aging rooms. Inspired by the classic Italian cheese Taleggio, Nicasio Square is Nicasio Valley’s first washed rind cheese. The cheese was named after the main square of Nicasio, the town in Marin County where the dairy is located. The square in turn, was named in honor of Will Lafranchi, the second-generation owner of Lafranchi Ranch and father of current owner of Nicasio Valley.
Cheeses have a slightly sticky bright orange-gold rind, a product of the brine solution used to wash the cheese over the course of its month-long aging. Nicasio Square has a heady aroma of bacon and sautéed garlic with an earthy undertones and a slightly crunchy texture near the rind. The strength of the aroma belies the milder caramel flavor of the supple butter colored paste in the young cheese. As it ages, flavors develop and become more intense.
This is a cheese that is destined to pair well with beer. It also will go nicely with rich white wines that have some oak in them. Nicasio Square is outstanding as a melting cheese, especially when it is used over roasted potatoes and other root vegetables, or in a Gratin recipe.