Our third morning in Queretaro, Uriel had planned a trip to Bernal and the wine route. But our first stop for the morning was within Queretaro, at the Rancho San Josemaria Cheese factory.
But first, we stopped at La Charamusca, enjoying their terrace and the Mexican sun for some much-needed coffee and pastries. Uriel was back to his usual self that morning, with his allergies under good control. We drove about a half-hour until we reached the cheese farmstead.
Founded by erstwhile Mexico City residents, Martin and Catalina, the homestead has grown from a small milk farm to a full-time cheese producer. A passion shared by both the founders and fully evident in the different awards from across the world that their cheese has won in the last several years.
Martin met us at the entrance to the farm and we were soon introduced to his wife and their dogs. Martin first led us to the small office where we chose and paid for the tour with the cheese tasting at the end. Then, he led us out into the bright morning sunshine to the pens where the sheep are held. First, we came across the lambs, one of which we held and played with for a while. We named her India and she still fondly figures in our conversations on Mexico.
Then came the ewes. While there were many, they were all well-fed and with adequate space for each in the enclosures. There were a few rams as well in their separate enclosure. The sheep are milked once a day in a separate milking area which is automated for efficiency.
The owners believe that taking care of their East Friesian herd of sheep in the best possible atmosphere leads to the production of fine milk. This, in turn, results in the best cheeses. The production and storage of the cheese are undertaken on the farmstead. We were not in time to see the milking process, but we did see two employees in the production room. The farm produces hard, semi hard, and soft cheeses. In addition to milk and cheese, yogurt and ice cream are also made here.
The farm has been designed to be self-sufficient and sustainable. Vermiculture is a big part of the farm and the worm castings from this process make an excellent organic fertilizer. It also helps to enrich the soil with high-quality nutrients. The alfalfa grass used to feed the herd is grown here.
After enjoying a tour of the farm, we sat down in the shade of a large tree, on the picnic bench, to a cheese-tasting with bread. The soft cheese, the Vino Milagro, and the spicy cheese were my favorites. Uriel told us that the soft cheese was a particular favorite among many visitors.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, if you are planning a visit:
- Make an appointment ahead of time
- Bring your own drinks to enjoy with the cheese tasting.
- Visitors are encouraged to wear jeans with boots or tennis shoes
- Leave your pets behind.
If you are in the Queretaro area, plan a trip to this family-owned and run farmstead. Its worth the time and the effort!