This week, the cheese world lost a giant with the passing of Ignacio ‘Ig’ Vella, second generation master cheesemaker and renaissance man: an historian, local politician and champion of cheese. He inspired and was a mentor to many in the cheese community and without his expertise and influence, our community would not be as rich, robust and advanced today.
Ig’s father Tom founded both Vella Cheese in Sonoma, CA and Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR and Ig was integrally involved with both in the last two decades. Vella Cheese and Rogue Creamery set the bar for American cheeses for more than 70 years and carried the torch of great, artisan cheese during the 60’s and 70’s when consolidation and automation became the norm.
One of my fondest memories in my career in cheese was sitting with Ig for an extended interview at Rogue Creamery in the summer of 2007. During the interview, he recounted a fascinating Vella family history, touched on the finer points of making and marketing cheese and looked ahead to the future of artisan cheese in America. His background in history was readily apparent as he expertly connected to dots of many tangents of cheese, farm and ag policy, local jobs and sustainability. You can see a short clip of this interview in Outtakes with Ig.
Ig’s passion, dedication and experience will be sorely missed but his legacy will carry on at both Vella Cheese and Rogue Creamery into the future – a true testament to the life of a giant in the cheese industry.