San Joaquin Gold
Fiscalini Farms is located near Modesto, in California's Central Valley. The Fiscalini family, along with cheesemaker Mariano Gonzalez, produce a small range of farmstead cow's milk cheeses, including a traditional, cloth wrapped, English-style cheddar, and San Joaquin Gold, which is another aged cheese made to their own recipe.
Fiscalini is relatively large-scale in terms of its herd size, although not all the milk is used for cheese production. The farm is home to some 3,000 Holstein cows, of which 1,500 are milked. The remainder are heifers (youngsters) waiting to join the main herd. Cows are housed in, and roam freely around well-ventilated barns that are designed to catch cross breezes. The cows stand on thick, rubber floor mats that are softer on the their legs, and create a buffer between the animals' feet and the concrete floor. They are fed a total mixed ration (TMR) of various grains and hay rather than feeding on pasture.
John Fiscalini and his staff pay a great deal of attention to the welfare of their cows, which results in good quality milk.
Mariano was formerly head cheesemaker at Shelburne Farms, and developed his first cloth wrapped cheddar there. Now in Modesto, Mariano makes his raw milk cheddars using traditional methods, and ages them for at least 16 months before they are released in limited quantities.
Cheese production takes place five days a week, using around 1,000 gallons of milk for each batch.
San Joaquin Gold is named after the San Joaquin Valley of Central California. Naturally, the climate is extremely dry, but the valley was brought to life with the arrival of irrigation in the early 1900's, which has allowed for the explosion of agriculture in the valley.
Produced from the milk of Fiscalini's herd of registered Holsteins, San Joaquin Gold is made in 32lb. wheels, with a cow imprint stamped into the top rind of each wheel.
Made in the style of a Fontina, but with more salt and a firmer texture, the flavors are mild and buttery, with notes of earth, caramel and salt. With age, these flavors intensify and become sweeter and nuttier.
Wheels have a natural, thin rind which is the color of butterscotch, and cheeses are aged for about 16 months before release.