Marin French Cheese Co. is built on a foundation of history, time-honored techniques, and a passion for quality. Our story begins in 1865, when a dairy family purchased a 700 acre farm amidst the rolling hills of West Marin County in Northern California. Our classic French-inspired, California-crafted cheeses have been continually made for over 155 years in the same historic creamery that is Marin French Cheese Co. We use only the freshest local milk from Holstein, Jersey, and Guernsey cows to produce cheese in small batches using traditional cultures that coax a distinctly coastal California character and flavor into every wheel.
The care of the dairy cows is reflected in the quality of milk, which ultimately impacts the flavor and consistent quality of the cheese. We receive milk only from neighboring NorthBay dairies that prioritize the health of the animals and that practice respect for the land. Together, we practice sustainability in order to protect the future of dairy farmers and cheesemakers in Northern California.
The creamery remains dedicated to combining traditional techniques with care for the land we call home through methods such as sourcing and filtering water from the property’s man made ponds for use throughout the creamery. We are home to a local fire station, built near our creamery’s main pond to protect our terroir and that of our neighbors. The remaining 700 acres of the ranch are leased to local sustainable farmers who raise cattle, pigs, chickens, bees, and grow vegetables. Practices like these ensure our heritage cheeses will be available for generations to come and the history of the land is respected. Learn more about our location and come visit for yourself!
Artisan Cheese Making
At Marin French Cheese Co. we make small batch, soft-ripened cheeses that are handmade with care using time-tested techniques that go back centuries. Traditional French Brie and Camembert recipes form the basis for our artisan cheeses. The addition of ingredients like mustard seeds, truffles, and jalapeños appeals to the adventurous tastes of the contemporary customer, but their foundation honors the work of those who came before us and will always remain rooted in tradition.
We make small
cheeses that are
handmade with care
THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY'S OLDEST CHEESE COMPANY
The History of the
Country's Oldest Cheese
Marin French Cheese Co. has a rich history that we are proud to share. Our company was founded in 1865, which makes us the oldest cheese company in the United States. We are proud to use the same cheesemaking techniques first used by our founders, and to carry on their traditions at our beautiful creamery in West Marin.
Breakfast Cheese is Born
Jefferson Thompson purchased a 700 acre “rancho grande” dairy ranch after migrating west from Illinois on the wagon train. He began making a type of “bar cheese” using what was left after making butter. Following the Gold Rush, the San Francisco Bay saw a dramatic increase in the population of failed miners turned dock workers, which led to an egg shortage. To meet the sudden and growing demand for a morning protein alternative, Thompson responded by creating a unique fresh cheese. The cheese was shipped on the Steamer Gold and distributed by “wagon men” who came to the ranch to cart it in to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Petite Breakfast is still enjoyed today at any time of day.
Thompson’s two sons, Jefferson “Jeff” and his brother, Rudolph, took over management of the creamery. Jeff learned cheesemaking techniques from Petaluma Camembert maker Louis Cantel, the first French cheese maker in the United States.
Jeff Thompson went to the University of Connecticut at Storrs to study cheesemaking. To make the most of surplus milk, the federal government suggested that American cheesemakers learn to duplicate foreign cheeses, which led Thompson to make Camembert, Brie, Neufchâtel, Double Cream, and his family’s signature Breakfast Cheese, all under the Yellow Buck brand.
Rouge et Noir
Friends of the Thompson family suggested that French-inspired cheeses should have a French-inspired brand name and so, in 1906, Yellow Buck was changed to "Rouge et Noir" which became an added brand name for the cheeses.
Marin became the county with the largest production of cheese in California, largely due to Marin French Cheese Co.
More Thompson family members became involved in the business. Jeff Thompson’s son Peirce and his cousin Ed Thompson took over management of the creamery. Ed had grown up on the ranch and Pierce was born and raised in Petaluma, before studying dairy at U.C. Davis. His children grew up working at the creamery in the summer and after school, packing cheese and slicing wood for packaging. A true family affair!
Soldiers came back from World War II having tasted Brie, Camembert, and other soft ripened European cheeses, increasing the demand for those styles of cheese in the States.
The Cheese Factory
“The Cheese Factory” was listed in the phone book and quickly became Marin County’s #3 tourist attraction, behind Muir Woods and the Marin Civic Center. The Thompsons began to actively promote Rouge et Noir Camembert, Brie, and Schloss.
The creamery was enlarged three times to accommodate the growing demand for soft-ripened cheese.
The Thompsons sold Marin French Cheese Co. to organic cattle rancher and cheese enthusiast Jim Boyce. He had such a strong belief in the cheese that he invested in the expansion and modernization of the creamery while never sacrificing quality, care, or traditional cheesemaking methods. He played a strong role in the rebirth of cheesemaking in Northern California, believing in “terroir,” a sense of place where grass is grown, what cows eat, ambiance, and milk they produce. Boyce developed the iconic Marin French Cheese Co. Petite collection, the uniquely shaped and sized 4oz cheeses that remain distinct to the company.
Best of Show
Marin French Cheese Co.’s Triple Crème Brie won Gold and Best of Show in the Brie category at the World Cheese Awards in London, shocking the cheese world and marking the first time a U.S. cheese bested in a European competition. This great feat was repeated in 2010.
Prior to his death in 2010, Jim Boyce made the decision to sell Marin French Cheese Co. to Laiteries H. Triballat, a family of fourth generation French cheesemakers. The sale was finalized in April of 2011 with the Triballat’s promise to continue the philosophy of quality and care of Marin French Cheese Co. products into the future.
Marin French Cheese Co. celebrated our 150th Anniversary.
We have a fresh new logo and design that makes it easier for
food lovers to find their favorite soft-ripened cheese.