Master Cheesemaker


Mariano Gonzalez’s Journey to Head Cheesemaker at Grafton Village Cheese

Mariano Gonzalez started making cheese at a very young age. He has fond memories of helping his uncle make queso Paraguay, a traditional fresh cheese of his native country. Something about working with those curds got into his blood and set the stage for a life centered around cheesemaking. Thanks to falling in love with an American woman, most of his cheesemaking has happened on this side of the Equator. Lucky us!

In 1987, Mariano married Meg and moved to her hometown of Shelburne, VT. It was an auspicious location given nearby Shelburne Farms. Mariano joined the Farm’s cheesemaking operation and fell in love again. This time with cheddar cheese. During his tenure at Shelburne Farms, the traditional handmade cheddars he made were recognized by the American Cheese Society as best in class. It was also during this time that Mariano began developing an English-style clothbound cheddar, the stuff of his dreams.

California was a dream, too, and in 2001 Mariano, Meg (and their two young daughters??) headed west. As head cheesemaker at Fiscalini Cheese Company in Modesto, he continued his quest to make the best cloth-bound cheddar around. Presto! The Farmstead’s bandage-wrapped cheddar won Best Cheddar at the prestigious World Cheese Awards in England in 2007, 2011 and 2014. There were numerous other signature award-winning cheeses developed under his guidance at Fiscalini.

Mariano joined the Grafton Village Cheese Company in 2019 as head cheesemaker. Under his guidance, Grafton’s traditional cheddars and our cave–aged cheeses have garnered international and national recognition.

Mariano is a big-hearted guy—that smile says it all—whose passion for cheese is infectious. Beyond the tasting room or his dining room table, he shares his knowledge as a frequent participant in educational panels and industry workshops. He is a member of the American Cheese Society, and has worked for US AID as part of their Farmer-to-Farmer program, helping develop the cheese industry in Central and South America. He may have left Paraguay, but he still carries that memory of making cheese with his tio wherever he goes.