This story’s gonna sound pretty cheesy. But, as Ryan Davis knows, that’s not always a bad thing.
Davis, one of the newest farmers to host a farmers’ market booth, was once a high school economics teacher in Visalia. But he eventually decided to go on a different career path – one that replaced teen students with cows, goats and sheep.
For six years, he ran the day-to-day operations at Bravo Farms. Then, in 2011, he launched the Vintage Cheese Company, which offers cheeses from cows, sheep and goats.
“We have our own animals,” he said, while tending his booth at the Arroyo Grande farmers’ market on a recent Wednesday morning.
Davis, who moved his family to Los Osos about a year and a half ago, said the operation is split between the Central Coast and the Central Valley. And he has help from fellow cheesemakers, including Flavio DeCastilhos, who co-founded the popular WebMD website in another career. (“You’ve got to go where life takes you sometimes,” Davis explained.)
Earlier this month, Vintage Cheese Company acquired DeCastilhos’s Tumalo Farms, known for its nationally recognized cheese in Bend, Oregon. The companies have been working to move Tumalo operations to California for the past several months.
That will help Vintage expand. But the Vintage line of cheeses already has 32 different flavors, including a 500-year-old Netherlands recipe for Dutch-style gouda. While that gouda fits right in with the “Vintage” name, these old school cheese makers don’t shy from new ideas.
“We play around with flavors all the time,” Davis said, noting that they once experimented with a coconut chocolate chip cheese. “You can put just about anything into it.”
Their cheese offerings include chipotle and jalapeno cheddar, peppercorn manchego, classic romano and many more. The variety of textures include smooth & creamy, herbal & earthy, peppery & spicy and bold & buttery.
That Vintage name also relates to how they make the cheese. Often aged or ripened to create a complex, old world European flavor, each cheese is carefully monitored in small open vats, from beginning to end.
“We make all the cheeses by hand,” Davis said.
Currently, they make 5,000 pounds of cheese a week. And their stable of local milk providers include 950 cows, sheep and goats, making Vintage cheeses a nice blend of Europe tradition made in California.
In addition to selling cheese at farmers’ markets, Vintage sells to restaurants.
Find Vintage Cheese Company’s booth at the Arroyo Grande farmers’ market (Wednesday, 8:30-11 a.m., at the Smart & Final lot) and Thursday in Morro Bay (2:30-5 p.m., at the Spencer’s Fresh Market lot).