Cowgirl Creamery’s washed rind Red Hawk was originally produced by accident. Cheesemakers followed the triple cream recipe for the creamery’s Mt. Tam, a mold-ripened triple cream. But they soon discovered that during the summer months, a natural strain of Brevibacterium linens moves down the coast of West Marin when a few batches of Mt. Tam were subjected to the bacteria.
The cheesemakers washed the cheese with a brine solution—which promoted, instead of eradicated, the B. linens. Instead of trying to resist nature, the cheesemakers embraced West Marin’s natural flora and let it thrive. Quickly, Red Hawk was born, and it has since become one of the creamery's most popular cheeses.
Cowgirl Creamery, based in Marin County, California, is the vision of owners Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. Friends since their college days in Tennessee, the two moved to California in the 1970’s—where they both made careers in the restaurant industry. In Berkeley, Peggy Smith worked at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters, while Sue Conley co-owned the famous Bette's Ocean View Diner.
Decades later, in the 1990s, Conley and Smith formed Tomales Bay Foods, a distribution company designed to provide an outlet for Marin County’s agricultural food products. They found that the new company filled a tremendous local need, so they expanded operations to include a storefront to sell locally-made food products, as well as a cheese making operation that became known as Cowgirl Creamery.
Today, Cowgirl Creamery has shops around the Bay Area and its larger operations and warehouse are still based in Petaluma. Cowgirl Creamery produces a range of award-winning fresh and mold-ripened cheeses using organic cow's milk from small local dairies. Through their community-building and promotion of quality cheese, they have encouraged the growth of artisanal cheesemaking throughout Northern California.
A triple cream, washed-rind cheese, Red Hawk is complex and full-bodied. Expect aromas of chalk and hay and a full, savory flavor that's almost beefy but with a lingering creamy finish. On the palate, it's well-balanced: A slight tang holds the salt in check for an experience that alerts but doesn't overwhelm.
Pairs well with bold red wines, sweet dessert wines, or rich, malty beers like Belgium's Rochefort 10.