Family owned and operated by the Callahan family, Bellwether Farms is located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, about an hour north of San Francisco and a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Having raised a family and had a career as a nurse, in the early 1990's Cindy Callahan made the decision to change direction, starting a sheep farm.
Although initially focused on lamb production, the Callahans were encouraged to develop their sheep into a milking herd. This, combined with a trip to Italy where they had the opportunity to taste many local sheep's milk cheeses inspired them to start to experiment with cheesemaking.
The sheep at Bellwether Farm consist mainly of East Friesian ewes. The ewes give birth to between one and three lambs each year and the lambs stay with their mother for 45 days before the ewe joins the milking line. Each ewe gives, on average, slightly less than one gallon a day and they are milked for eight months before the cycle begins again.
The sheep graze freely year round in addition to being given grain and alfalfa as necessary.
Cindy's Callahan son Liam oversees cheese production while his wife Diana manages the office and Cindy focuses on taking care of the sheep.
Pepato is made from raw milk and, although based on an Italian Pecorino, is a Bellwether original.
Made from raw milk, Pepato is a semi-soft sheep cheese, aged two to three months and dotted with whole peppercorns throughout.
The interior paste is pale ivory in color, punctuated by the black peppercorns, and smooth in texture. Flavors are rich with a harmonious balance of sweet, milky notes countered by the spice of the peppercorns.
It makes a wonderful addition to a cheeseboard or shaved on salad or pasta. It’s also quite scrumptious in ravioli or gnocchi.