When I last spoke to Schinner, in 2016, she was working out of a small space in Fairfax behind the Marin Museum of Bicycling, previously home to Good Earth Natural Foods. Even then she was bursting at the seams. Her operation fielded 45 employees who produced 10 different artisan vegan cheeses and sold them in local Bay Area stores.
Today, a mere year and a half later and two successful rounds of Series B financing that raised $14 million, Schinner has moved her operation into a 30,000-square-foot space in south Petaluma. The new space has a professional test kitchen with shiny stainless equipment, a large production facility and a total of 96 employees who now work out of the newly minted Miyoko’s with a tagline that reads “Tomorrow’s Creamery.”
Schinner, a vegetarian since she was 12 and now a vegan, is clearly on a mission. “If we want to be sure the planet will be habitable for future generations, we each have a responsibility to change the way we eat,” says the longtime Marin resident who moved to Mill Valley in 1964. After going to college in Maryland and living in Japan for 10 years, she returned to Marin and now lives in Nicasio, where she founded Rancho Compasión, a sanctuary for goats, sheep, pigs, dairy calves and chickens—all saved from being slaughtered or rescued from abandonment.
While Schinner is single-mindedly focused on encouraging people to adopt a plant-based diet, she also continues to make cashew-based faux dairy products that taste really good. Her biggest sellers include a cultured vegan butter made with organic coconut oil and a vegan mozzarella that boasts just the right amount of firmness and flavor expected of the pizza-friendly cheese. Her full line is now up to 19 and includes cream cheese and multiple styles of soft cheeses, including my personal favorite, the aged Mt. Vesuvius black ash vegan cheese wheel.
Unlike most specialty-food producers, who strive to increase their sales so they can put more dollars in their coffers, Schinner has loftier goals. In an effort to feed the world with her compassionate and delicious products, Schinner, is striving—one vegan cheese wheel at a time—to fundamentally change a food system that is in dire need of an overhaul.
Holy crap, this place is huge!
This was my first thought as I got out of my car at a recent visit to Russian River Brewing Company’s new, second location in Windsor. I arrived at 1:30pm, just in time for a late lunch at the brewpub. Only five days after the grand opening on Oct. 11, I knew that a few amenities—especially the planned guided tours of the brewery and the tasting room—were still a few weeks off.
Nearly 150 people had already made the discovery and were dining in the indoor restaurant, the outdoor bar and in the comfortable leather chairs that surround the indoor fire pit. I order a Supplication and took a seat at the crowded indoor bar so I could better overhear what others thought of the long-anticipated arrival of the RRBC’s Windsor outpost.
I am a total Fourth Street Santa Rosa RRBC brewpub loyalist, and as such, the Windsor menu made me feel like a stranger in a strange land: squash soup, steak and, alas, avocado toast. The pork schnitzel sandwich and the fries looked good. I put in an order and finished off the beer. A few minutes later, the food arrived, alongside a fresh Pliny.
The meal left something to be desired, and here’s hoping RRBC Windsor works out the opening-week kinks. The fries were hot, but also soggy. The schnitzel was cooked to perfection, but came on a sesame seed bun (pretzel is traditional). To my right, a patron who just paid $22 for a steak lamented to the bartender that he’d erred in ordering it. “Too dry.”
Minor gripes aside, the Windsor location allowed me to do something I’ve never done before: open a cooler and grab a six-pack of Pliny to go. There appear to be thousands of ice-cold beers for sale in the gift shop. The days of Pliny scarcity are over—at least for those of us living in the North Bay. Hallelujah!
Give owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo space and time to work out the bugs, and RRBC Windsor should become a mainstay of the tourist circuit and a nice hangout spot for locals—especially during the rainy season, when the weather will compel people to curl up by the indoor fire with their favorite brew.
I’m looking forward to my second visit, on a day like that.—Thomas Broderick
Russian River Brewing Company, 700 Mitchell Lane, Windsor. Facility tours are scheduled to start Nov. 15.