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Festival Maps the Artisan Cheeses of Washington

This September, 20 cheesemakers will converge on Seattle to celebrate the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival. In preparation, the festival released this awesome map showing where artisan cheese is made throughout the state. Nothing beats a good map, and there is plenty to love about this one apart from the easy aesthetic.

Cheese is a blooming industry, and its growing from the ground up—there are 68 cheesemakers in Washington State alone! Who are these cheesemakers? According to the map, the increase is coming from the Puget Sound. More people are making cheese in cities, which means smaller operations and a greater diversity of flavor and style. It also means that cheese is traveling shorter distances from monger to mouth. Fresher cheese, environmentally friendly: what’s not to love?

Don’t worry about quality either. Sheri LaVigne, a sponsor of the festival and owner of the Calf and Kid, said in an interview with the The Seattle Times that newcomers are embracing the challenge:

“When you look at some of the styles of cheeses that have been (introduced) in the past 5 years, we’ve got a lot of hand-molded soft-ripened cheese, and those are very finicky, they’re difficult to make, they require a lot more loss and waste because you’re doing more trial runs. It really elevates the commitment and the level of skill and craft that is evident in what our cheesemakers are doing now.”

Many of these finicky delicious cheeses are tough to find outside the Evergreen State. Of the 78 cheeses represented last year, 30 were not available at the five major cheese retailers listed (Whole Foods, PCC Natural Market, Metropolitan Market, The Calf and Kid, or Beecher’s Handmade Cheese). So come early and come hungry.

For those of us not lucky enough to live in this cheese paradise, we can only dream of the day when cheese maps are posted alongside bus routes. Who knows what is possible as cheesemaking keeps growing in popularity across the country. In the meantime, check out the WA map in full below and make your own local version with our Retailer Directory!

Washington Cheese Festival: Saturday, September 26, 1–5 pm

Seattle Design Center: 5701 6th Avenue S., Seattle, WA 98108

$35 advance tickets or $40 at the door. Ticket sales start mid-June. Admission includes all cheese samples and 3 drink tickets.


Cheese Map 2014 Inside

This post was updated to reflect that 20 cheesemakers will be attending the festival, not 68, and that Sheri Lavigne—though an active supporter of the festival—is not a member of the festival staff.

Photo Credits: Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival

Robbie Herbst

Robbie Herbst is a summer editorial intern and an undergrad at Dartmouth College, where he enjoys access to the unimaginably quaint cheese-makers of the upper valley. When he isn’t writing or playing violin, he likes to take bricks of Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar on long hikes through the White Mountains.