Smile and Say……”S” is for Sonoma Jack



Based on a reader’s suggestion, I’m returning to a domestic cheese.

“S” is for SONOMA JACK

Sonoma Jack with habanero - Photo from Vella Cheese Company
Sonoma Jack with habanero – Photo from Vella Cheese Company


Today, there are several varieties of Monterey Jack cheese made in California, but the superior versions are produced by certain cheesemakers.

The Vella Cheese Company, a Sonoma-based company making cheese since 1931, produces a Jack cheese that’s rubbed with a mixture of oil, pepper and unsweetened cocoa to give its signature brown rind. The rind protects the cheese but doesn’t have any effect on the flavor. Original Monterey Jack is the most popular variety of Jack cheese, but the same creaminess and texture can be found in Jacks flavored with jalapeños, rosemary, habañero chilies and garlic.

Dry Jack is made like fresh Monterey Jack, then aged for another seven to ten months. The texture is firm, dry and becomes increasingly brittle with age. The flavors of Jack cheese may range from mild and mellow in high moisture Jacks to spicy, delicate and buttery in peppered versions. Dry Jack tends to produce a distinct sweet, mushroom and earthy flavor. Jack cheeses pair excellently with Pinot Noir, Rose, Shiraz, Zinfandel or Riesling.