Spring has sprung!  Menus are featuring lamb, green garlic, asparagus, Thumbelina carrots, English peas… and goat cheese.  One must not forget goat cheese!
France has long been at the forefront of fresh and aged goat cheeses, and we Americans have learned to fall in love with goat cheese.  Lucky for us, the goat cheeses we are able to produce domestically are comparable or perhaps even better than their European counterparts, giving the American palette many more options to explore.   
California is known for their happy cows but goats?  The goat cheese movement in California can be accredited to the three leading ladies of goat cheese Mary Kheen (Cypress Grove), Laura Chenel (Laura Chenel’s Chevre), and Jennifer Bice (Redwood Hill Farms).  These producers are definitely the cornerstone of goat cheese production in California.    
The cheese industry is changing in California, with European companies acquiring Cypress Grove, Redwood Hill Farms (both owned by Emmi) and Laura Chenel (owned by The Rians Group). However, it’s comforting to know that the legacies of these leading ladies of goat cheese are in very capable hands.  These companies have so far done right by these pioneers, continuing the commitment to quality and ensuring the futures of their well-known cheeses are secure.  
We’re going to focus on Laura Chenel because of their unique strategy when they began they started working with chefs and restaurants.  And now, over 30 years since Laura first sold her Chevre to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, their cheeses remain proof that California goat cheese production has a bright future.  Here are a handful of my favorites:
Ash Buchette
This blew me away at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show.  A couple tweaks in the aging process have made this outshine its French counterpart,
St Maure
It has a beautiful presentation as it is easy to slice into disks.  Dense, a hint of citrus notes and an underlying earthiness, I won’t judge if you eat a log all by yourself.
This button (albeit a large button) of cheese possesses a beautiful geotrichum rind.  It coats the palette as it is incredibly rich, with notes of cooked cream and hay.  
Texturally different from anything that Laura Chenel produces, but with the mellow goat flavor and slight citrus tang that their cheeses exhibit, this cheese works well for cheese plates or for grating and cooking applications.
Goat Brie
Years ago Laura Chenel produced a beloved soft ripened goat brie named Melodie. This is essentially Melodie 2.0, made in smaller wheels and without the ash underneath the rind.  It’s mellow, great for large events because it is easy to slice ahead of time, and is a crowd pleaser.  It’s more interesting that your average brie, made with the same high quality milk from Laura Chenel’s partner dairies.
Oh how I adore this cheese.  Packed in EVOO, this is hands down, one of my all-time favorites.  The Spicy Cabecou is their newest rendition, and great for beer pairings.  Serve as is with some of the oil and spread on grilled bread, or place in a ramekin and give it a kiss of heat from the broiler and serve atop a simple green salad.