May 10, 2023

Reviving Bodega's goat cheese tradition

Omer Seltzer is the man behind Mt. Eitan Cheese, the refreshing new addition to the community. He learned cheesemaking from his father in Israel, where they had a family ranch that was later reclaimed and turned into preserved government land. Seltzer then stopped running the farm of 250 goats. There was an opportunity for something different.

It's a challenging economic industry, especially after the pandemic. In 2020, he and his family flew to California and traveled for a year looking for the ideal place for making cheese, ultimately choosing Bodega. Seltzer honors the historical traditions and brings extensive knowledge about sustainability, land, animals, and "playing with" cheese.

The products he makes from the local goat's milk are reminiscent of Bodega's goat cheese from over 30 years ago. It is the taste of that green coastal hillside, rolling amongst dense fog and wind. It's all about becoming immersed in the local culture, not attempting to mimic a style from somewhere else with its own distinct profile.

Seltzer is very passionate about being "true to place." Location directly affects the taste and fate of a final product. Timelines and outcomes vary greatly depending on the climate. Cultures behave differently based on their environment. For example, the aging room here allows for some varieties to grow faster than other places.

Finished flavors are based on the local and seasonal milk profiles, then the techniques that influence the processing. Flora affects the actual properties of the milk and therefore anything made from it. Cheese makers can draw from characteristics within the same batch to come up with completely different flavors.

Visit Sebastopol's farmers market to try for yourself. Sink your senses into a freshly crafted creation, unlike anything you’ve previously tasted. Seltzer has a very distinguished taste and will not sell anything he does not love to eat. Artisanal cheese is not about a destination, but experiencing the journey.

Patience is inseparable with the heart of cheesemaking. It's an art form engrained with experimenting and releasing expectations. To surrender and try new things often leads to interesting results. Most of the spontaneity comes from outside forces beyond our control. We can only influence maybe half of the process.

Seltzer has made impressive improvements to the farm's equipment. He uses the most energy-efficient machines and tools possible to process the milk. This emphasizes using fewer resources with things like a recirculating water chiller. His goal is to source directly from the farm, with an overall goal for a full-circle closed-loop system.

Luis Morales is the goat shepherd and steward of the land. On site, he has nearly 30 goats, including the new kids. As a grassland restoration practitioner, Morales studies them to aid in fire abatement. Turns out, goats pass down genetic memories of what's regionally good to eat and what's best left alone. This makes them very effective helpers in land management.

Patty Karlin is the owner of the Bodega Goat Cheese property. She fosters an open-minded, goat-forward culture. She leads farm tours, hosts guests at her AirBnB, and makes demonstration batches in her home kitchen. Keep your senses open for goat milk ice cream coming this year, says Morales. You can call Karlin directly to book a visit at (707) 799-6470.

Contact Eva Granahan at [email protected]