The notable California cheese producer's quality has been verified through awards and legions of fans.

Mother's Day is almost upon us and it's time to come up with an inspiring gift idea. While flowers and chocolates come to mind, don't overlook the brilliance of cheese. (I'm sure if you're familiar with this column you figured I was not going to say a locket.)

As far as cheese is concerned you might not know your mother's tastes. But whether she's the traditional type or stylish diva, Cypress Grove cheeses should satisfy most appetites.

Proprietor Mary Keehn's devotion to her craft has earned Cypress Grove in California many accolades and scores of followers. Keehn's involvement in the cheese world - and her involvement is big - began with the desire to bring healthy milk to her children in the 1970s. Living in Arcata in Humboldt County, Keehn decided to purchase some goats to supply her children with nutrient-rich milk. Finding that she had a knack for breeding goats, her herd quickly doubled and found herself with much more milk than she could use.

She did what any good mother with an entrepreneur streak would do - go into the cheese-making business. She studied with various cheese-makers, including some in Holland where she developed an award-winning recipe for Midnight Moon, an aged goat's milk gouda.

In 1983 she went into business and was producing fresh chevre and developed some other fascinating concoctions.

With almost a dozen tasty cheeses in her portfolio, including a couple of sheep's milk cheeses produced by other farms with the Cypress Grove label, it's hard to choose just one. But here are a couple of suggestions:

* Humboldt Fog is a very festive choice. The taste is out of this world with a creamy, fresh, goat-cheese texture and lemony tang with a gorgeous bloomy rind lending a slight mushroom flavor on the palate.
* Midnight Moon is also a spectacular choice, a gouda-style which is actually produced in Holland under Keehn's specifications. Aged six months, it has a semi-hard texture and varied crystalline pieces speckled throughout, in the style of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Its slightly tangy flavor mingles with brown butter and salty caramel.

So try something a little different for mom this year. Cypress Grove will make a lasting impression.

Wendy Hunsinger is the specialty-food manager for Katzinger's in German Village.