Hispanic Heritage

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

The Davis Food Co-op would like to use Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to show our appreciation of Hispanic/Latinx culture and its contributions to our store and community. This page is meant to be a constantly growing set of information and resources.


As you will notice throughout this page, both Hispanic and Latino/Latinx are terms that are used. While they are often used interchangeably in popular culture but they actually mean two different things. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, while Latinx refers specifically to people who are from (or directly descended from) people from Latin America (most commonly known as the regions of Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rica, and the rest of South or Central America). Latinx is a non-gendered form of the word Latino and is typically more appropriate for the demographic we are referring to. However, the term Hispanic is still tied to much of how we discuss these populations (as it is in Hispanic Heritage Month) and thus is why it will continue to be used on this page.

In an effort to build a more equitable and inclusive Co-op, our buyers actively seek out diverse brands to share with our community. We’ve compiled a list of those brands owned and operated by groups such as the Latinx community. These brands are identified by shelf talkers in our store and can be found on our website here.



Hispanic Heritage Month Staff Recipes

Hispanic Heritage Month Staff Recipes Chilaquiles Recipe by Marketing Specialist Christine Ciganovich’s Mom Chicken Fajitas Recipe by General Manager Laura Sanchez Beef Chile Colorado Recipe by General Manager Laura Sanchez Sopa de Fideo Recipe by IT Manager...

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month as the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores (1810), which marked the start of the Mexican War of Independence. It was this moment that eventually led to independence for the Spanish colonies that are now recognized as the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Today we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success.


For a great list of resources related to Hispanic Heritage Month, we encourage you to visit this page here from the National Museum of the American Latino.


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Back to School Mental Health Tips

Tips for Parents of Students

Establish school day routines early in the year (meal times, homework time, bedtime, etc.). It may help to maintain these routines, like what time lunch is, on the weekends too. Practice any new routines with your student before the year starts. No need to be nervous biking to a new school if you’ve already traveled the route. 

Give children a safe space to share their feelings. Mirroring, or reflecting back a child’s experiences, is an important parenting skill. If your child seems troubled, pick a quiet moment and say, “I’m noticing a different vibe lately. I feel like there’s more going on than you’re sharing.” Engaging children in creative activities, like playing and drawing, can help them express any difficult feelings in a low-key, supportive environment. 

Children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives, so it’s important to remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them. Let your child lead the conversation. 

Acknowledge that anxiety is completely normal. Point out that everyone feels down now and again. Learning to tolerate uncertainty is a developmental skill. Remind your kids that when they have a problem you are there to help them work toward a solution.

Tips for Parents

Model healthy stress management whenever possible. When you feel overwhelmed, share that information with your kids. Say, “I’m not handling my stress well right now.” Remind them that emotions change, and it’s okay not to be okay all the time.

Tag in a trusted partner. This could be your child’s sibling, therapist, guidance counselor, teacher, clergy, family friend, or another parent. It’s okay to say, “I’m noticing that my child is really struggling, but I’m having a hard time connecting with them because of how overwhelmed I am. Can I ask you to play a game with them or take them for a walk?”

Set boundaries around energy zappers. Determine what drains your emotional, physical, and mental energy on a daily basis and change or limit the behavior. For example, limit doom-scrolling your favorite breaking news feed to 15 minutes a day or put your phone in a drawer when you’re with your kids, or maybe swap your afternoon coffee with a big glass of water. These small changes can make a big impact.

Tips for College Students

Create a bedtime routine that you really enjoy. Whether or not you have trouble falling asleep at night, creating a bedtime routine will help relax you and get you ready for sleep. This can be something small, like changing into pajamas, brushing your teeth, and washing your face (and going to bed at basically the same time everyday). It can be more involved with incense, moon milk, reading a chapter, taking a batch, etc. Give the practice a few weeks and you should have an easier time falling asleep. 

To a similar end, don’t do homework or work in bed. Working in bed can make getting to sleep harder. Keep your work space separate from your sleep space to keep insomnia at bay. The author of this blog doesn’t allow jeans or work clothes in bed to keep the space extra sleep-sacred. 

Cut back if you need to. Sometimes students overwhelm themselves with everything they have going on. If you’re feeling like you’ve got too much on your plate, cut back work hours, drop a class or cut out some extracurricular activities to make your schedule more manageable.

Keep in touch with family and friends. You can help ease feelings of homesickness and loneliness by keeping in touch with friends and family members. 

Expect things to change. Things will change both at home and in your school life, so expect things to change over time. You will grow with the changes and so will the people around you.

Tips for Educators

As life returns to “normal” for many of us, don’t pressure yourself to provide the same learning experiences as the pre-lockdown period. You are one single professional and doing your best to adapt to change. 

Create clear boundaries between home and school. Set a reasonable time for leaving school each day and stick to it. Create a ritual to help you transition from teacher mindset to home mindset. This ritual may include changing your clothes when you get home, listening to your favorite podcast on the way home, taking an afternoon walk, or playing a quick board game with friends or family.

Make self care a part of the classroom to benefit yourself and your students. Mindfulness Mondays or Thoughtful Thursdays are a great way to introduce students (and you!) to self care practices like belly breathing, rainbow relaxation, or laughing yoga

Express gratitude. Practicing gratitude is a great way to give yourself a more positive outlook. Try to name three things you’re thankful for each day. I like to start my day thinking about that list before I’ve even opened my eyes and gotten out of bed. Thank your coworkers when they do something to help you out or make your day a bit easier and let your students and their parents know you appreciate their hard work and flexibility. This kind of gratitude practice will boost your mood, make others feel appreciated, and help you all feel more connected to your community. 

Normalize caring for each other. There is a lot of power in shared experiences. People need social connection, and mutual feelings of vulnerability and stress often create some of the strongest social bonds. Start a weekly support meeting or video chat with friends, grade-level teachers across your district, or all teachers at your school. Planning for this makes it a priority and gives you all a safe space to vent, listen, and problem-solve together.

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In the Face of “Extreme Drought”

In May my partner, Jonny, and I drove to Ashland, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. It was a hot May, with eight days above 90 degrees and we were grateful to escape to cooler Pacific Northwest temperatures. Dry creek beds broke up fields in shades from green to yellow as we drove north through the valley. Orchards stretching endlessly away from the highway baked as California experienced its driest spring on record.

Bridges carrying us over Lake Shasta revealed a pale “bathtub ring” around the lake, in some places hundreds of feet thick as water levels drop. Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, is currently holding 36% of its total capacity, which is 56% of the historical average for this time in August, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Closer to home, things look similar. All 200,849 (100%) of Yolo County’s residents are affected by drought. 94.73% of the county is experiencing “Extreme Drought” (the remaining 5.27% are experiencing “Severe Drought”). During extreme drought conditions, the state’s second extreme drought in ten years, livestock need expensive supplemental feed; cattle and horses are sold; little pasture remains; fruit trees bud early; producers begin irrigating in the winter; fire season lasts year-round; water is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs; reservoirs are extremely low; and hydropower is restricted according to the National Integrated Drought Information System

For Yolo County, who’s 2019-2020 agriculture outputs represent 711.8 million dollars, extreme drought conditions are especially hard on our farmers and farm workers. 2021’s drought conditions saw California’s agriculture industry shrink by an estimated 8,745 jobs and shoulder $1.2 billion in direct costs as fields were fallowed and growers were forced to pump more groundwater, the LA Times reports.

Additional environmental impacts of drought include losses or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, lack of food and drinking water for wild animals, increase in disease in wild animals, migration of wildlife, increased stress on endangered species or even extinction, loss of wetlands, wind and water erosion of soils, and poor soil quality. 

And although we measure rainfall and pass water restrictions by county and state, drought knows no borders. In fact, it may be more useful to put our current drought conditions and experiences in the greater context of our watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall and snowmelt into creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. The watershed is also the air we breath, animals we raise and animals we don’t, our food crops, and our communities.

BriarPatch Co-op in Grass Valley defines “local” as products coming from the Sacramento River Watershed because of the deep, central role it plays in shaping our local environments and everyday life. They made an excellent video explaining the interconnectedness of communities within the watershed.

Davis, along with most of Northern California, is a part of the Sacramento River Watershed. Within the Sacramento River Watershed is the Cache Creek Watershed, draining Clear Lake in Lake County into the Sacramento River before it flows into the Delta and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. Davis is located inside the Cache Creek Watershed that is a part of the larger Sacramento River Watershed system. Lands within the Sacramento River Watershed are diverse, with snow-covered peaks, low-lying agricultural lands, large areas of forested mountains, many small urban areas, and the Sacramento metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the watershed. Human activity, mainly 19th century gold mining and transforming grassland to agriculture, has significantly modified flows within the watershed.

In truth, my drive north this last spring was a tour through the Sacramento River Watershed, starting in the valley’s wetlands and low agricultural lands and climbing to its snowy peaks in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, although I didn’t think of it that way then. Dry creeks in Yolo County, low lake levels in Shasta County, and fresh burn scars in Siskiyou County all show the watershed as a whole is hurting.

Of course, we cannot talk about extreme drought and watershed sustainability without acknowledging the role climate change plays in amplifying the frequency and severity of drought. Climate change, like drought, is uncaring of borders and requires collaboration and cooperation to begin reversing. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities as well as poor and migrant communities feel the effects of climate change more deeply (read the EPA’s report published last year examining climate change’s effects on four socially vulnerable groups: people with low income, minorities, people aged 65 and older, and people without a high school diploma).

Watershed management and sustainability should be a collaborative effort between individuals, community organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. Action individuals can take include water conservation at home. We can also call on state officials to listen to Indigenous voices – voices carrying expertise gained by stewarding this land for thousands of years. I urge you to read this article about the history of Indigenous water rights in California and this one about the Hoopa Valley High School Water Protectors Club in Northern California.

You can also support local organizations that take care of our watershed like the Cache Creek Conservancy and Yolo Basin Foundation, who were Round Up organizations in May and June of this year. Many of our local wineries, including Great Bear in Davis and Alexander Valley Vineyards, prioritize maintaining riparian habitat on their properties to the greater health of the watershed. 

If you’re like me, confronting the scary realities of climate change causes you a lot of anxiety, stress, frustration, and dread. In fact, more than two thirds of Americans experience some climate anxiety. Since climate anxiety is characterized by feelings of loss of control, the best treatment is to take action. On an individual level, it’s therapeutic to share your worries and fears with trusted loved ones, your therapist, or by joining a support group. You can also make changes to your lifestyle consistent with your values. This may be deciding to take fewer flights, joining a protest, or increasing public awareness about climate change through advocacy.

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Beer and Cheese for Hot Summer Days

Beer and Cheese for Hot Summer Days

Written by Sterling Carlton, DFC Owner and former Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist

Ensuring the health of the environment, as well as that of the goats, is a priority for Cypress Grove and it shows in the decisions they make. Cypress Grove works with specialist small ruminant nutritionists to ensure the goats have the best balance in their diets. The goats are allowed ample space to roam and graze outside with freedom to move indoors as well. Cypress Grove has removed surrounding non-native and invasive vegetation in addition to leaving significant space on the parcel for a riparian easement that helps with flood mitigation, property maintenance, and supports more biodiversity.

Cypress Grove’s story starts in the 1970s when Mary Keehn chased down and wrangled two goats her neighbor graciously gave her. Eventually the herd grew and grew and Mary decided cheese was what would be done with the milk these goats provided. In 1983 Keehn journeyed to the center of the cheese world: France. In France she was able to try so many classic cheeses at the domaines that birthed them and learned from the masters of Brie, Camembert, and more. Mary returned inspired, opening Cypress Grove that same year. It was on the return flight that her inspiration manifested in a dream and the idea for Humboldt Fog was born. Perhaps in homage to the Morbier cheese it so closely resembles (right down to the gray-blue vegetable ash line in the middle), Humboldt Fog is made from goat’s milk as opposed to the classic’s cow’s milk.

Technically a goat milk Brie, Humboldt Fog is often mistaken for a blue cheese thanks to that grayish-blue line running down the middle of it. In truth it is simply vegetable ash that both represents the Humboldt County fog line and perhaps a bit of a play on the Morbier cow cheeses which hail from the Doubs and Jura in France. Aromas of yogurt and lactic dairy notes as well as a faint mold dominate the bouquet, whilst sour cream and citrus present on the flaky crumbly textured cheese that is nestled under the cream line next to the rind. The bloomy rind is more mild than some other strains leading to a bright, salty, slightly lemony cheese that is delightful for summer snacking boards.

To pair with this masterpiece of a cheese we have, on recommendation from Center Store Specialist Charlie, the Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison. With history dating back to 1759 when it was a simple farm, Brasserie Dupont became a farm-brewery in 1844 specializing in saisons. Saison, meaning seasons, is so called because the farmers produced these beers in the winter for consumption in the fields on hot summer days. The farm-brewery operation eventually came into possession of one Louis Dupont who tweaked the recipe for a saison and thus the Saison Dupont was born.

Foret is an organic offering from Dupont and boasts the claim of being Belgium’s first 100% certified organic beer.  The bouquet offers orange peel, coriander, lemon zest, grains of paradise, and some barnyard funk typical in many saisons. Citrusy palette with full flavor, high acid and a nice funky spice on the end make this a fantastic pairing with Humboldt Fog. The salt and acid of the cheese play off the acid and spice in the beer and the carbonation helps cut through and refresh the palate after a big bite of Fog. All in all this pairing is perfect and not too heavy for a hot day of relaxation or a nice easy picnic. Add some cured meats, cornichons, and perhaps some pickled veggies and you have a simple charcuterie board with a beer to pair with a slow, hot day.

Find Humboldt Fog at the Cheese Counter for $29.99/lb

Find Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison in the Beer Cooler for $12.99/750 mL plus tax.

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What to Drink with August’s Cheese of the Month

What to Drink with August’s Cheese of the Month: Nicasio Valley Locarno

Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist

Nestled in the beautiful Nicasio Valley of Marin County lies a sprawling pasture. Green and lush, the valley is full of life and the sweet smell of dairy cattle floats through the air. The pasture is Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s 1,150 certified organic acres where they raise dairy cattle and chickens.  The Lafranchi family have been stewards of this pasture, farming sustainably and raising dairy cattle, since 1919, when Fredolino and Zelma Lafranchi left their home in Maggia, Switzerland. They are one of the very few small scale family dairies to survive the last several decades of upheaval in the dairy industry. 

The drive to the creamery is an easy one and quite beautiful along Lucas Valley road. The last bit of the drive takes you through a lush grove of towering trees. It’s a fairly unassuming facility. So unassuming that I drove past it on my first go as the sign on the road declaring “organic cheese tasting” took me a bit by surprise. 

The dairy has been producing 100% certified organic milk since 2012 and the cheese, being made from an incredible base product, is of exceptional quality as well as delicious. The seed of cheese making was planted by Fredolino and Zelma’s son, Will Lafranchi, who traveled back to Switzerland to learn about cheese from his ancestors’ homeland. His dream was realized after his death when Nicasio Valley Cheese Company opened their doors in 2010. The family has a distinct appreciation for the cheese of their homeland and they present products of the highest quality.

The Lafranchi family achieves this quality through thoughtful management of their pasture from which their roughly 400 dairy cows derive a large amount of their calories for at least 120 days out of the year, a requirement for certified organic pasture-raised cows. The ranch is also home to over 3,000 chickens that produce equally high quality free range eggs. The Lafranchi’s maintain healthy pastures by rotating their herds through different sites and utilizing a significant onsite composting program. This compost program, in conjunction with the thoughtfully managed grazing regime of the ruminant animals, helps create incredibly healthy soil in the pastures and high biodiversity, leading to healthy cows and delicious cheese. Rick Lafranchi, the second eldest of the six Lafranchi siblings, explains it this way: 

“…this region is regarded as having some of the richest pasturelands in the world. Conventional milk production isn’t as viable an option in Marin as organic is because it’s all pasture based. That went hand in hand with us developing an organic cheese company.”

Of their more than half dozen offerings, one of our favorites was brought to market in 2016: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Locarno Brie, a creamy brie aged for at least 5 weeks. A tangy, firm center is sandwiched between a cream layer just beneath the rind that turns to an oozing heap of delight as it warms or matures. Pair a smear of this beautiful cheese on a Walnut, Honey, and EVOO cracker from The Fine Cheese Co. out of England. The combination of the creamy, lactic sweetness of the dairy intermingling with every crunchy bite transforms the cracker into an almost graham cracker like flavor that compliments the cheese perfectly.

I also have two wines I dutifully tasted along with the Locarno. I opened the 2019 Avni Chardonnay and the 2018 Avni Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca in the Willamette Valley.

Founded in 2012, Larry Stone set out to ensure the vineyard was taken care of using the most sustainable agricultural practices they could manage. The use of low impact, biodynamic, and no till farming was only improved through collaboration with one of the heroes of the regenerative ag movement within the wine industry, Mimi Casteel. Permanent cover crops are kept in the vineyards which encourages all kinds of wildlife such as owls, hawks, foxes and coyotes to naturally mitigate pests. Originally planning to only sell fruit, Stone was encouraged to make his own wines by one Dominique Lafon of Burgundian fame (when Lafon thinks you need to make your own wine because you have an exceptional site, simply put, you listen).

The Chardonnay always starts off a little bit closed on the nose. As it opens up, you’ll find layers of lemon citrus, grapefruit, pear, baking spices, with a slight mineral edge and oak in the background. It’s a lean Chardonnay with racy acid and orchard fruit characteristics that play nicely with the creamy richness of the Locarno cheese. 

The Pinot is similarly lean and taught. It is a laser focused wine with aromas of red cherry and blackberry fruit, wet rocks, and forest floor all backed up slightly by an edge of oak and fine grained tannins. Here the fruity aspect plays nicely with the cheese and the acid again functioned to help cleanse the palette and bring me back for another bite. 

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company has a host of other delicious cheeses as well as pasture raised eggs and a nice little house you can stay at on the property that is just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. Be sure to stop by the cheese shop for some eggs and ask their very knowledgeable and cheerful cheesemonger, Melisa, for some of her favorite cheeses.

Find Avni Wines and Nicasio Valley Locarno at your Co-op.

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. Organic Locarno Brie is 10% off during the month of August.

2019 Lingua Franca Avni Chardonnay $29.99/750 mL

2018 Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir $29.99/750 mL

Questions? Feel free to ask our Specialty Department experts! Cheesemonger LaShundra and Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist Sterling can be found in their departments most days.

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Food Scrap Crafts

Food Scrap Crafts

Difficult to say, fun to do. Most of these crafts utilize ingredients and materials you probably already have in your kitchen! 

Homemade Citrus Garland

Commonly associated with the holiday season, citrus garlands add natural beauty and color to your space any time of the year. You can watch our how-to video here or try this version where you don’t even need to turn on the oven.

Incorporate lemons, limes, grapefruit and more to play with color and size.

Vegetable-based water colors

To make these truly non-toxic, safe to pour down the drain water colors, all you need are veggies/veggies scraps, water, and a stove top. Follow the instructions in this post to create water colors of your own. This is an especially fun one to do with kids.


Homemade Dog Treats

Make your good boi treats from kitchen scraps! 

  • 1/2 cup unseasoned mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups finely chopped, cooked turkey or chicken meat (no skin or bones)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, water, and egg and stir until incorporated. Add chicken and flour and stir again until well combined. Batter will be very thick and sticky.

Use a spreader to spread the dough evenly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to form a rectangle at about 1/2″ thickness. Use a knife or pizza cutter to score the dough into rectangles of whatever size you’d like. Consider your dogs size at this point. You can also use cookie cutters to make shapes. If you do this, we recommend spreading the dough on a lightly floured work surface first, then cutting out and transferring to the baking sheet for baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the dog treats are lightly golden brown. Cool completely and then break along the score lines or use a knife or pizza cutter to cut along the score lines.

Store in the refrigerator for a few weeks. For long term (a few months), store in an airtight container in the freezer and thaw before serving.

Potato Stamp Art

Oops, did your potatoes turn green? Don’t eat them, make stamps instead. Adults will need to help younger kids using the knife.

Cut the potato in half with a kitchen knife. Don’t let the potato dry out too much as this will distort the design.

Use a pencil or marker or cookie cutter to draw/imprint the desired shape onto the surface of the potato.

Cut around this shape with a kitchen knife, leaving the design so it is raised on the surface of the potato. Use this method if using cookie cutters.

Using a serrated knife will give a textured surface. Use a fork or skewer to make tiny holes in the potato for added design interest.

Pour paint onto a plate and dab the potato in the paint, ensuring that the surface is evenly coated.

If there is too much paint on the potato stamp it will slip when stamped onto paper. Stamp the potato onto scratch paper a couple of times to remove excess paint.

Press the potato stamp onto the paper, card, or project. You should be able to use the stamp several times before needing to dip it in paint again. The potato can be washed after use and used again with another color.

Let the paint dry completely before decorating or finishing the design.


Quick Pickles

Pickling is a food preservation technique that extends the life & deliciousness of most veggies. Summer is the ideal time to pull quick pickles from the fridge. Make cool, briney, and crunchy quick pickles with kids and maybe they’ll eat a pickled carrot spear at dinner tonight!

  • 1 pound fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, green beans, onions, cherry tomatoes, radishes, or okra
  • 2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whole spices, such as black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced or a few slices of fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Wash 2 wide-mouth pint jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.

Wash and dry the vegetables. Peel the carrots. Trim the end of beans. Cut vegetables into desired shapes and sizes, etc. 

Divide the herbs, spices, or garlic you are using between the jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing.

Place the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using) in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. 

Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more brine if necessary. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings until tight.

Let the jars cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 12 hours before cracking them open, but 48 hours is best.

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What to Drink with July’s Cheese of the Month

Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist

Our July Cheese of the Month, Toma Provence, comes from one of our favorite California creameries, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Tobias Giacomini arrived in the United States in 1904 with dreams of farming California’s fertile soil. In 1959 his grandsons, Bob and Dean Giacomini, bought dairy land nestled in Tomales Bay and started running cattle to sell milk to local creameries. The first wheels of Original Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead and Cheese Company rolled out in August of 2000 marking California’s first classic style blue cheese. The rest is history. 

Now the creamery is certified woman owned, run by the daughters of Bob and Dean. And they place sustainability  high on the list of priorities at Point Reyes. Decisions are made based on what is healthiest for the cows in pasture and what is best for the land. Point Reyes recycles water and captures methane to power roughly half of the farm’s operations. They carefully manage their pastures to ensure soil, air, and water health by minimizing erosion and farming for carbon sequestration. You can read more about sustainability at the farm here.

Now, to the cheese. Toma Provence is a delicious and rich semi-hard cheese. Already rich in texture with a buttery characteristic and mild lactic notes in the bouquet, the added herbs de Provence bring a nice level of complexity and character to the cheese. The blend of herbs consists of rosemary, basil, marjoram, wild thyme, and savory. It’s a standby for summer gatherings where crisp Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc flow freely. 

Well, for me and this cheese there were no free-flowing Rosé parties to be had. Instead, I made my way to the pool armed with a baguette, olives, some cured meats and a thick wedge of Toma Provence whilst juggling a couple wines I was eager to knock back. 

I started with bubbles because, well, bubbles. The bottle that day was a beautiful Crémant de Limoux from Faire La Fête. A rough translation of the name means “to celebrate” or “to have a party” and a party it is once you pop the cork. Limoux is a historic region located in the Languedoc province in the south of France. Although Champagne gets all the credit for sparkling wine, the vignerons in Limoux were bottle fermenting sparkling wines for years while the monks in Champagne were still wearing armor into the cellars trying to figure out why corks were popping each spring.  

On the nose it is expressive, once you get past the bit of sting from sniffing a carbonated beverage too aggressively. Baked granny smith apples, candied lemon and ginger notes with bready, yeasty notes subtly support everything. The crisp acid helps to cleanse the palate after a bit of the Toma while the slight breadiness of the wine compliments the buttery, lactic flavors in the cheese. The herbs are subtle and just mingle with the apple on the palette, drawing out to a delicious and long finish. Needless to say, I am a fair fan of bubbles, and the Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux paired with some Point Reyes Toma fits the bill.

 The second bottle of my wine and cheese bacchanal was a lovely Rosé of Pinot Noir from the village of Sancerre in the Loire Valley, France. This bottle actually comes from the commune of Bué, a bit to the west and south of the town of Sancerre. Domaine du Carrou from Dominique Roger is made from Pinot Noir farmed at 350m, at the highest point in all of Bué. That altitude, along with the clay limestone soils, are ideal for growing this cool climate Pinot. The farming is thoughtful and intensive as herbicides and pesticides are never used and grapes are always harvested by hand to maintain their integrity. The grapes are direct pressed leading to a light blush pink wine and the juice is fermented by indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks. The care in the winery and vineyard shines through on the nose with aromas of crunchy red berries and grapefruit zest. The palette is saline and tight and cuts through the creamy fat of the Toma like a razor. The berry and citrus characters mingle with the Provençal herbs making this a really enjoyable pairing experience.  

Toma Provence is July’s Cheese of the Month. Find it at the Cheese Counter for 20% off all month. 

Domaine du Carrou Rosé of Pinot Noir is on sale for $19.99 (reg. $23.99) and Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux is on sale for $21.99 (reg. $24.99) now through 7/26. 

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What is Natural Wine?

What is Natural Wine? 

Written by Beer, Wine, and Spirits Specialist Sterling Carlton

“Natural wine” has become a very broad term, you’ve likely heard it before. When the subject comes up, I’m often asked, “Isn’t all wine natural?” followed by, “…so it’s organic?” The answer is ultimately a little more complicated than a yes or no and a label from a government agency.

Occasionally you encounter the somewhat snarky, literal interpretation of the term “natural” from someone who says it’s all a fad: there isn’t anything natural about picking grapes, crushing them in a tank, and subsequently fermenting them in a controlled environment. Certainly when we refer to “natural wine” we aren’t asserting that the process employed to make wine is naturally occurring. While it is true fermentation will happen in grapes left unattended, no one in the natural wine space is saying that the planting of vineyards in neat contoured rows or that the actual collection and production is entirely a natural occurrence. Rather, natural wine makers are trying to make wines with as few outside inputs as possible and minimal, if not zero, sulfur use. The grapes are typically sourced from biodynamic, sustainable, or organic vineyards and frequently a combination of all three. A common thread is that people are farming mindfully for the sake of the long term health of the land with particular emphasis in maintaining high biodiversity within those contoured vine rows. 

Now, is this wine organic? Although the grapes are frequently grown in organic, biodynamic, or regenerative vineyards, practices diverge when the grapes hit the winery. First, you have the Zero/Zero camp. These folks believe in neither adding sulfur to their wine nor removing anything from the wine as well. Another cohort believes minimal additions of sulfur for stability are acceptable even if they still avoid manipulating the juice in too many other ways. These additions are just enough to arrest any fermentation and give some marginal protection from oxygen. Because of the sulfur additions, those wines may not be labeled as organic in the United States. This can lead to difficulty for some of the smaller labels who are making their wines in an extremely mindful way, as they won’t be certified organic. 

Winemakers in the United States who use organic grapes have two options for communicating this designation. The first is the USDA Organic certification and the second is the “Made with Organic Grapes” label.

Both labels require grapes be sourced from certified organic vineyards and made in a certified organic winery. However, the “Made with Organic Grapes” label allows for up to 100 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur additions. USDA Organic allows for zero additional sulfur. For comparison, conventional wines contain hundreds of parts per million of additional sulfur. Meanwhile in the European Union, organic red wines are allowed up to 100 ppm of additions, white and rosé wines 150 ppm, and 180 ppm for sweet wines. Canada allows up to 100 ppm of sulfur additions in its organic labeled wines. It is important to note that some folks are seriously allergic to the sulfites used as a preservative in wine, which is one reason why an easily discernible label is necessary, among others. Ultimately, the definition of organic wine and whether or not it currently stunts the growth of the organic wine category continues to be debated.

Given that sustainability is at the core of many natural wine making endeavors, there is a fairly large elephant, or perhaps oil tanker, in the room we must touch on. A question that runs along these lines has made its way around some of my natural wine circles and it is a question that deserves some time and thought: 

“What is sustainable about shipping a product to a warehouse, perhaps one across the world, and then re-shipping that product to another point, whether that be another point of distribution or the end consumer?”

This question is a tough one and perhaps one that doesn’t really have a great answer, at least not an answer that doesn’t make me sound like an apologist to some degree. For me, it comes down to the story behind each bottle. When you look at the level of intentionality some of these producers use in tending to their land you realize two things: one, doing it right takes an unbelievable amount of hard work and dedication and second, that most producers aren’t putting in that work for a wide variety of reasons. The challenge for natural wine producers is being able to tell their stories as they’re important for pushing the category forward.

I reached out to Alice Anderson (pictured below), the owner and winemaker at Amevive Wines in Santa Barbara and the caretaker at the historic Ibarra-Young vineyard, which they lease in the Los Olivos District. Land stewardship is central to many natural wine producers, including Alice. Taking care of the vines and the land that supports them is vital to the long term health of the industry and the planet. Alice is a serious practitioner of biodynamic farming. The care and attention it takes to effectively farm in that style shines through in the wines she makes. 

Here are a few thoughts from her about natural wine:

To me, first and foremost, the wine has to be grown holistically with intention. The vineyard need not be on a systematic spray schedule, but to be assessed and analyzed regularly based on how nature treats it each year. It’s best if you can repurpose what you have on your land to make homeopathic fungicides and foliar sprays; like growing your own herbs and making compost teas. 

In the cellar, nothing should be added other than tiny amounts of pure sulfur if needed. This is to not take away or alter any of the natural nuances coming from the vineyard. 

Wines should be unfined and unfiltered and shouldn’t contain more than 50ppm of total SO2 at bottling.”

 At the end of the day, growing and producing the highest quality wines as thoughtfully as possible is the goal for all of these natural winemakers, whether they can legally market their wines as organic or not.

Sterling recommends checking out these natural winemakers – all available at the Co-op. And he’s always happy to help you pick out the perfect bottle! You can usually find him in the Beer, Wine, & Spirits Department or ask the Customer Service Desk to page him for you.

Amevive Wines 

Martha Stoumen Wines

Haarmeyer Wine Cellars

Florez Wines 

Matthiasson Wines 

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