St Benoit: The Cultured Milk with a Cult Following
When Benoit de Korsak moved from France to California, he was saddened to find the yogurt aisle riddled with sugar, stabilizers, and fillers. Inspired and hungry for better yogurt, St. Benoit Creamery was founded on the principle that real food made right is real good. We took a trip to the heart of Sonoma County to understand how Benoit’s philosophy translates into full-fat yogurt and milk that’s so tasty, it’s developed a cult following.
Jars and Jars of Yogurt—One Herd
Of course, the story of “real food made right” starts long before you get to the “real good” taste of the yogurt, sustainably packaged in reusable glass jars. So we went straight to the source, quite literally: Diamond M Dairy, home to the single herd of Jersey cows that supplies all of the milk for St. Benoit’s products.
Born and raised on the farm, owner John Mottos has been working here for 54 years. It’s long-standing relationships like the one with St. Benoit that keep his family business afloat.
“California is becoming a tougher environment, with increasing regulations and more and more big factory farms,” he told us. “I know how fortunate I am—that I was planted here. I feel blessed everyday. That’s what keeps me going. I feel so close to the land. Moments of bliss make it all worth it. I store those good times up in my mind, heart, and body and use them to push through during hard times.”
“Our cows love us so much,” John says—and the feeling seems to be mutual. When John needs to relax, he likes to spend time with his “girls.” And we don’t blame him. The adorable caramel-colored Jersey cows have wide eyes and short legs, making them ideal for roaming the hilly pastures of Sonoma. Naturally curious, the Jerseys took a break from nibbling on seasonal grasses to sidle up to the fence and take our measure as we ambled through the pastures with John.
Though they produce less, Jersey cow’s milk is sweeter and more flavorful than that of the classic black and white Holstein. High in butterfat and A2 protein (the dominant protein found in human breast milk), their milk is not only tastier, but easier on our bellies.
Like a fine Sonoma wine, St. Benoit’s milk and yogurt has terroir (French for “of a place”). The California coastal breeze, sunlight, and seasonal grasses all impart unique flavor and richness to the milk. Decades-old cultures from France are added, resulting in French-style yogurt that is milder and creamier than the more frequently found Greek-style.
From Farm to Fridge
It’s 26 miles from John’s dairy farm to St. Benoit. And another 50 from the creamery to the Good Eggs warehouse. So local, you can take a quick day trip to meet the cow who kicked off the process (just check with John, first).
We initially visited St. Benoit to learn about the innovative work they’re doing that make them one of our most sustainable producers. And that story is certainly there: The creamery is LEED Gold certified, with solar power, reusable packaging, and water recycling. It’s full of impressive, new state-of-the-art machines.
However, as we got to know the folks at St. Benoit and Diamond M Dairy it became clear that the real secret to their success isn’t something new. It’s the age-old relationship between farmer and producer, between ingredients and final product, between your food and you. When it’s nurtured and respected, the result is undeniable. To paraphrase Benoit: It’s Real. It’s Right. And it’s good.