The start of a new era at Laura Chenel’s new creamery in Sonoma

Laura Chenel

 With a brand that is synonymous with high quality fresh goat cheese in the U.S., Laura Chenel is beginning a new era with the opening of a 30,000 square foot, state-of-the-art creamery in Sonoma that promises new products due to the addition of much-needed space for ageing cheeses.  The building, which was opened to its trade partners yesterday for a preview, is scheduled to be operational on February 21st.  General Manager Marie Lesoudier demurred on the production capacity of the creamery, saying that the goal is not to increase volume, but to introduce new cheeses while maintaining the tradition of quality that Laura Chenel is renowned for. 

After more than 25 years of making artisanal goat cheese for the American consumer, Laura Chenel sold her business in 2006 to another family-owned business dedicated to producing high quality cheeses, Rians, based in France and owned by the Triballat family.  CEO Hugues Triballat’s great-grandparents began ageng cheeses on their farm in 1901 in the same small town where the company is headquartered today.  Rians owns 14 creameries around the world, including 12 in France which make fresh and ripened cheeses including protected-appellation (appellation d’origine protégée fka AOC) products that are sold throughout France as well as in Europe and the U.S.  With this background, Rians adds the expertise, commitment and capital necessary to ensure the continuation of Laura Chenel’s legacy. 

As a family-owned business, Laura Chenel is not only committed to quality with its state of the art facility, but also to sustainability, with goat milk sourced from 16 family-owned businesses located within a day’s drive.  The new facility was designed green with energy efficient light and heat and recycled redwood in the offices.  The premises include showers for its ca. 25 employees so that they can bicycle to work and carpooling is encouraged with incentives.  It is on track for Silver, if not Gold, LEED certification. 

In addition to building design, quality control begins at the source.  Laura Chenel works closely with its producers to ensure quality milk.  According to new fromager aka cheesemaker Jean Prevot, they advise producers on herd selection, raising and feeding the goats.  Prevot prizes the “fresh” and clean taste of the local cheese which reflects our sunny climate. 

Continuing Laura Chenel’s personal efforts for communicating her passion for goat cheese, the company employs a full-time Director of Culinary Development Jacquelyn Buchanan, a well-known Bay Area chef of more than 25 years.  According to Lesoudier, Americans are not as familiar with eating cheese as a separate and distinct course during a meal as the French are, and so Buchanan creates appealing dishes incorporating goat cheese ranging from appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts.  At yesterday’s opening fete, guests were showered with delicious goat cheese dishes including a flavorful roasted hen of the woods (maitake) mushroom and smoked bacon quiche, a savory galette of oven dried tomatoes, oil cured olives and caramelized leeks, and a salad of roasted beets, fennel and arugula with fig vinaigrette. 

Hugue Triballat said Rians is proud to be part of artisanal cheesemaking in Sonoma.  As a shining example of the Bay Area’s culinary influence on the nation’s food scene, it is good to know that Laura Chenel will continue to have a long future here.