Family tradition behind the excellence of Vella Cheese

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Vella Cheese’s building in Sonoma dates from 1904. The cheese the company makes is timeless.

Developed into one of America’s premier fromagers by late local legend Ignazio “Ig” Vella, awards line its tasting room on Second Street East. Bon Appétit magazine recently named its Vella Dry Monterey Jack cheese one of the top 25 cheeses America, adding that “while other artisans gave up and folded their hand, the Vellas kept at it.”

Ig Vella was known as the “godfather of artisanal cheeses,” having learned the craft from his father and company founder Gaetano “Tom” Vella. Ig died in 2012 at age 82.

His widow, Sally, now runs the company as president, along with daughter and facilities manager Chickie Vella, and her daughter and fourth-generation Vella, Miranda Luddy, who’s the bookkeeper and sister of cheesemaker Gabe Luddy.

The 87-year-old company was founded in 1931 on the site that at one time was a brewery. But since then, it hasn’t changed much. It offers about a dozen Italian-style cheeses and an array of jack cheeses — all still made by hand.

“We’ve been doing it the same way for years,” Chickie said.

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