Best Brie: Historic California cheese maker takes world honors

Issue Date: May 3, 2006
Jim Morris

When news came out that a California entry won honors as the world's best Brie, it raised plenty of eyebrows in France and further validated the impressive rise to prominence of high-end cheese makers in the state. It also left the winning recipient more than a little stunned.

"It didn't hit me right away," said Jim Boyce, owner of Marin French Cheese Co. in Petaluma. "I had to have someone else kind of take a garbage can cover, hit me on the head and say, ?Did you realize what just happened?' It was the first time an American company had won that category."

The award bestowed to Boyce's Rouge et Noir Triple Creme Brie at the World Cheese Awards in London is part of a loaded trophy case on display at Marin French, which attracts about 200,000 visitors each year to grounds that offer a pond, picnic area, fully stocked gift shop and nearby art gallery.

Tourists learn there is much to see and appreciate at America's oldest operating cheese company.

"I just wish I had a way of hearing what these walls could tell us," Boyce said. "There's a lot of history in this product."

Marin French began 141 years ago, when enterprising Petaluma farmer Jefferson A. Thompson made and sold cheese to European immigrants who failed to strike it rich in the Gold Rush and settled in as dockworkers. The breakfast cheese enjoyed in the 19th century is still being produced today and is among about 30 soft cheeses made by Marin French.

"It's a terrific honor to be associated with this business," Boyce said. "It makes all of us feel a sense of history as we work with this living product."

(Jim Morris is a reporter for Ag Alert. He may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.