Legendary cheese-maker Ig Vella has passed away at the age of 83, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
Ig Vella was the son of cheese-maker Gaetano “Tom” Vella, who founded in 1931 at the request of local dairymen.
Ig Vella took over the family business in the 1980s, becoming a prominent face in the growing arsenal cheese movement and one of the earliest advocates for the use of local dairies in the cheese process.
He lived a life dedicated to the production of quality cheese - as the Press Democrat writes, "Rarely seen without his trademark white paper cheesemaker’s cap, Ig was an opinionated and outspoken part of the cheese making community and the tight-knit community of the town of Sonoma."
His work paid off: in 2006 Vella was awarded the American Cheese Society's first "Lifetime Achievement Award," and Vella cheese was named a "cherished food" in Slow Food's 'Ark of Taste.' Accomplished in the political sphere, Vella has served as director of the Sonoma County Fair, and a Sonoma County Supervisor and in 2006 Sonoma's Riverside bridge was re-dedicated the "Ig Vella Bridge."
Yet he continued to focus on the basics of farming and cheese-making.
"Quality starts in the pasture," wrote Ig Vella on the Vella Cheese Company website. "Every cow is not the same. Every day is not sunny; every blade of grass is not green and lush. But, if you insist on the finest breeding of herds, the finest feeds, the greatest care in milking and transporting the top grade milk, so that you have the best possible natural raw material, you have set the stage for super cheese....What has built our reputation over the years since my father had his first conversation with the dairymen, has been our hour-to-hour personal attention."
Services for Vella will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, June 17 at Church. Check back here for updates.