Wine Bottling: Barbera!

You may recall that our annual wine bottling (October 2017) was canceled due to the fires in Sonoma County.  The bottling was rescheduled for President’s Day weekend 2018.  In 2016 we missed the annual bottling due to our sabbatical trip to Europe, so we were excited to get back to all things wine.  This is the 6th annual bottling; so far we have bottled 4 Malbecs, a red blend (our sabbatical year) and now this year a new varietal for us, Barbera.

We arrived in Sonoma County on Wednesday night and spent 2 days wine tasting and visiting with friends which included Clark from Sausalito and Todd and Susan, our hosts in Cloverdale.  We have been very fortunate to stay in the same “little house” that Todd and Susan have each of the past 3 years.  The wine event began on Saturday with blending.  Keep in mind that 100% anything, varietal wise, is not strictly 100%.  There is usually 5-20% of other varietals blended in to make a complete wine ie nose, front end, back end and  after you say “ah”.  In this case, we ended up blending in roughly equal percentages of Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Carignan.  The total blend came to 80% Barbera and 20% other (listed above).  We blended out on the crush pad with each member of the team waxing  eloquently about each blend that we tested.  First pic is of me and Mike, our fearless leader who started the Cache Valley Reserve team along with Jim Rickards of Rickards Winery.


Here is Jim Rickards measuring out each blend at the table.


And of course, folks testing out each blend.


Our very dear friends from Mountain Green, Utah were able to get in on the action this year:  Go Brett and Teri!


Bottling the final blend takes place on Sunday morning.  This is old school assembly line work.  Steps:  suck out the oxygen from the bottles, fill the bottles from the barrel, cork and wrap the top, clean and place label on straight (mostly) and finally into the cases they go.  One large barrel equals about 30 cases of wine.  Each member of the team takes home about 3 cases.  Of course there is overflow from the filling tube, which is drained into pitchers.  Even at 10am, one has to make sure quality is maintained, hence the wine glasses!




Brett and Teri posing with their bounty of 3 cases!


Jim Rickards looking on approvingly!

We have never been to Sonoma in the winter, only spring and fall.  We noticed flowers between all of the rows of vines.  Turns out that Mustard grows in abundance this time of year.  But they also plant many varieties of ground cover which is mulched in to the soil in the spring.  This adds much needed nutrients to an otherwise mono-culture crop.




More flowers found in Healdsburg.  Poppies and Daffodils anyone?



Flowering (non fruit bearing) plum trees along the driveway at Rickards Winery.


That vine you see on the right dates back to 1908, truly “old vine”!

So there you have it.  Wine bottling in Sonoma Valley, California.  This has turned out to be one of our favorite destinations and I am sure we will be back again and again.  Bottoms up!



Winter Fun!

The New Year has come and gone and we are on the verge of February 1!  Our Holiday season was as festive as ever, and we survived both the onslaught of relatives, and all the Xmas season performing gigs.

January brought two concerts, a 25 year celebration of the re-furbishing of the Ellen Eccles Theater in downtown Logan (and 25 completed seasons of the summer opera, Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater) and the CD release concert of the Utah State University Faculty Jazz Ensemble known as AMP (Aggie Music Project).  AMP has only been around for about 6 years, and each year we take on a “project” for the band.  Over the past two years, the project consisted of writing original tunes for the band, and cutting a CD of said tunes.  Here is a shot of the nonet, but unfortunately, not all are in the picture (keyboard is missing).


We had a huge turn out and sold several discs.  Much fun was had by all.

For the past 7 years (approximately), Liz and her Mom have skied the Canadian Rockies.  This is a week long trip to the Campbell Ice Fields, about a 20 minute helicopter ride from Golden, BC (which is a 9 hour drive from Vancouver). The adventure consists of AT, cross country, and telemark skiing in some of the most beautiful country BC has to offer.  It is self catered (take it all in, take it all out) and about 16 people of various age and background make the annual sojourn.  This trip is certainly a highlight of the year for both Liz and her Mom, and provides the opportunity for them to spend time together doing something they both love.  The rest of the blog consists of pictures taken from this year’s trip.  As always, the pictures that come back each year are breathtaking.  Enjoy!unnamed-3.jpg








The resident “Marty” that comes for leftovers several times a day.




As mentioned in a previous blog, we will blending and bottling wine at Rickards in Sonoma Valley in February.  March brings St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Leaping Lulu performing a Riverdance style show in Ogden, Utah.  We will also perform on the Heber Creeper as part of Heber City’s St. Paddy’s day events (third year in a row).  The month rounds out with the ballet Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky).  After 10 successful seasons of Nutcracker with Cache Civic Ballet, they have decided to hire our orchestra for their Spring  production.  Fun!

I will blog again when we finish the Rickards bottling in about 3 weeks.  C U then!

‘Tis the Season…… for Concerts

I saw a meme the other day.  A man asks a child, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  The child replies, “No, my parents are musicians!”  Well, that pretty much sums up the holiday season for musicians.

I last posted from California; our annual wine bottling endeavor.  Recall that it was canceled due to the massive fires in Sonoma County.  Fortunately our bottling trip has been rescheduled for the second weekend in February.  So, it looks like we will get to bottle Barbera after all.

Since October, Liz and I have been concertizing….a lot.  After finishing the run of Fiddler on the Roof, we performed a 10 day or so run of Nutcracker.  Our very own Eccles Theater in Logan seats about 1,050 and every show was sold out.  This is our 11th year of doing Nutcracker, and it is safe to say that it has become a local favorite.  (The ballet is doing so well, they have secured funding for the orchestra to join them for their annual production of  Sleeping Beauty in March.)  We weren’t able to get any pictures, being in the pit and all, but we did decide to get to tickets to the Ballet West production of Nutcracker in Salt Lake City a week or so ago.  I have played Nutcracker live more times than I can count, but strangely enough, have never seen it from the audience.  We enjoyed their rendition (and costumes) of Nutcracker:



Also in November, Leaping Lulu performed at a quaint concert venue just over the Wellsville Mountains in Brigham City.  I was lucky enough to play cajon and percussion with them, which was great fun (and a supreme challenge with my bandaged up hand).  No pictures from this gig either, but here’s the poster the venue plastered all over the internet (Facebook) and around town:


In early December, we perform an annual Xmas concert with American Festival Chorus and Orchestra (our 10th season).  This group performs 4-6 master choral/orchestra works each year, again, right in Logan, Utah.  The Xmas concert is traditional Christmas music, usually with a guest artist or group.  This year’s guest was Gentlemen’s Trio, better known as GENTRI.  They hail from Utah, but have been gaining notoriety and performing all around the country.  We performed 4 sold out shows on campus (1700 seats) in our newly renovated Daines Concert Hall, and one sold out show (2500 seats) at the less than a year old Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City.  Here are two pictures that include members of GENTRI, first our brush up rehearsal and sound check, and then concert lighting right before the doors opened.



I have one last gig right around New Year’s:  Harry James Orchestra.  Harry James has been dead for quite some time, but like Glen Miller and Woody Herman, the bands live on in ghost incarnations.  Usually one of the players, often one of the original members, takes over for Glen, Harry or Woody as the front man.  As time goes by, the band morphs into new members performing all of the music from back in the day.  I got the call to sit in on 3rd bone for the concert in Idaho.  Sight reading the book is always nerve-racking, but comes with the territory of that professional musician thing.

Since my last blog, we have added solar panels to our Park City place.  Start to finish takes about 2 months, and our net meter (thing that allows us to run the panels and get our energy from them) was installed today.   Last step is to turn the system on, i.e. throw the switch.  By the time you read this, we should be up and running with the sun.  Here’s a shot of the panels up on the roof:


We took this shot a couple of weeks ago and it was snowing.

Finally, I really enjoy posting pictures that my father-in-law shoots from various locations around British Columbia.  The following pics are Snow Geese from the Richmond area, out by the Vancouver airport.






Family will be showing up for the holidays over the next week or so.  After the Harry James concert, January and February bring concerts/shows including Scarlet Pimpernel and the 25th anniversary concert of the Ellen Eccles Theater in Logan, not to mention the Sonoma wine bottling fiesta.  In other words, more blogs to follow!  Happy Holidays!




Revisit: California!

Every Fall, the Cache Valley Bottling Team invades JRickards Winery in Sonoma County.  This Fall was to be no different except for one thing:  FIRE!  With no containment in sight, all wine festivities were canceled.  However, by the time the weekend rolled around, the fires were mostly contained and folks were being allowed back in the region.  In fact, the County and cities were asking that tourists return.  By the time we arrived, one wouldn’t have known that a fire had so threatened most of the region, and devastated areas of Napa Valley and Santa Rosa.  Comparatively speaking, the area we were in was untouched.  Santa Rosa is visible via 101, and we did catch a glimpse of some of the devastation from the car.



Over in the Cloverdale area, the threat was floating/flying embers igniting brush and trees. Our favorite walk from last spring was the Russian River walk; a 4 mile walk along the Russian River in Alexander Valley.  The following is an example of an ember fire which was quickly extinguished.  The closest fire, Pocket Fire, was just up on the hillside above the Russian River.


Along this same walk, were huge turkey vultures sunning themselves in trees along the river:



The spread out wings is not take off.  They camp out on the branches “spread eagle”.  It looked very cool.  I am convinced that these birds have no idea just how huge they are.

We spent one afternoon with Jim Rickards at his winery.  Another wine maker was visiting the winery and Jim invited Liz and I to join them for a vertical tasting of Zinfandel from 2008-2014.  After that, we went in the tasting room and tasted his regular current line up (You’ll have to visit us in Utah if you want to taste them!).  Then we went outside and barrel tasted two Rose wines.  What an afternoon! ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz……..


Jim decided that he wanted to reschedule the bottling so it looks like we will get to blend a bottle a Barbera after all!  We had dinner with our very dear friends and airbnb hosts Todd and Susan at Diavola, our fave restaurant in Sonoma Valley.  We also visited and bought wine at White Oak Winery.  Clark came to visit and since he is in the wine business, I wanted him to taste the wines and tell me that I was right; these are damn good wines.  Clark agreed!  Of course we bought a case.

On Sunday, we drove to Sausalito to visit Clark, Paul (on the house boat) and Mark (SF retired principle trombonist).  We stayed at the Acqua Inn, the same place we stayed last spring.  It is a wonderful hotel.  Here is a shot of the two of us along the water right outside our room:


That picture was right side up when I copy/pasted it.  Bah.

Clark took us on a walk to Cascade Falls which is in the Mill Valley, the town where he resides.  This little canyon is full of redwood trees, a stream (this time of year) that runs down through it, private homes and public spaces.  Here are some pics of this wonderful 2 hour walk, starting with a photo looking straight up between the trees:








Finally, we went to see Eric, our band director friend at UOP in Stockton.  Klinkerbrick Winery has a fabulous Albarino and we wanted to be sure to pick up a few.  Since they are releasing their 2016 Albarino in a couple of weeks, they were selling the $15 2015 vintage for half price!  Sign me up!  We bought 2 cases.  Down the street was another winery that was built around an organ.  The organ is from San Francisco and performances are given each month at the winery.  All performances are digitally recorded, so we listened to the recording of Toccata and Fugue by Bach, performed in 1991.  The pipes are built in to the walls of the tasting room.  The wines?  Well, they had a really good Port.  Eric bought a bottle.


Notice that some of the pipes were obtained from an organ in Provo, no less.



Tuesday, we made the 11 hour trek back to Logan.  All in all, a fab trip.  It was really nice visiting or should I say, re-visiting, all of our haunts from our 5 week residency in California last spring.

Ok, one more shot of trees, and then a road named after me near Santa Rosa on 101.



Next up:  Nutcracker ballet performances over US Thanksgiving weekend.  If anything else happens between now and then, I will blog once more!


Tony Grove!

Have I ever mentioned to you that we live in a beautiful part of the country?  Well, we do.  And every season brings stunning pictures of nature.  We live in Northern Utah, and one of the nation’s scenic highways is Logan Canyon, right outside our back door.  This canyon leads from Logan, Utah to Bear Lake, Utah and the scenery along the river in Logan Canyon is stunning.  One of the prettiest places along the route is called Tony Grove.  Tony Grove is a glacier lake located 7 miles above the canyon at an elevation of 8000 feet.  (Last winter, TG had over 15 feet of snow)  We try to visit Tony Grove a couple times a year, particularly in the spring and the fall.  Since most people think I am retired already, we decided to drive up on a Thursday afternoon.

Tony Grove gets its name from the late 1800’s.  A few times each year, the wealthy of Northern Utah, or, the “tony” set, would carriage their way the 20 plus miles up the canyon, and 7 miles up the mountain, to spend the weekend on the glacier lake (really just a big pond).  I imagine our 35 minute drive took about all day by horse and buggy.  Here are some really beautiful shots of the area, including one not so beautiful shot of me:





Some snow already!







Did I mention that this is range land as well?  Fall means rustling up the dogies for the winter transfer.  We were heading down the mountain, and apparently 50 or so head of cattle were using the road as well.  Smart people stop, wait several minutes, try not to piss them off, and snap a few pictures.  The cowboys don’t take much notice of you either:



Well, I blogged that you wouldn’t hear from me again until our wine bottling trip in mid October.  But when one gets to see such beautiful settings, one must snap pictures and send off a blog for all to see.  Oh, wait.  One last thing.  Remember the picture of the family of owls that my father-in-law took in the Okanagan?  Well, right outside the condo, they have had several sighting of eagles as well.  Last weekend, Dad nails it again.  The proof is in the picture!


Cows and eagles.  Who could ask for anything more?  Ciao!!



Autumn Aloft!

It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I would update all of you with the goings on in Utah.  Coming off of sabbatical, Liz and I have gotten back into the swing of things.  I am in my 4th week of the semester at USU, and Liz is on her regular schedule of 2 days a week at the law office.

The end of the summer saw the end of opera season and several weekends spent in Park City.  Since much of the Utah valleys were covered with smoke (mostly from fires in Montana and the Pacific Northwest), it was nice to escape to the condo in Park City where the temps were cooler and the smoke non existent.  Park City has worked very diligently to become a summer destination as well as a winter/ski destination.  There are endless mountain bike races, running races and special events.  Outdoor and mostly free concerts occur every weekend and we have a weekly Sunday street party called Parksilly in downtown.  Last weekend, however, was Autumn Aloft, an annual hot air balloon launch to kick off the Fall season.  At this event, 24 hot air balloons take off from 40 Fields, a large collection of fields located behind the high school.

Our good friends Rick and Tere (also from Logan) have a home in Park Meadows, right across the street from 40 Fields.  We received a text from them:  “Hey are you going to be in PC this weekend?  If so, come over to the balloon launch and hang out with us”.  So, last Saturday, at 7:30am we drove to their place, drank Mimosa’s,  and walked across the street to Autumn Aloft.  It was 35 degrees but the sun poked up over the horizon and quickly warmed things up.  Needless to say, watching 24 balloons inflate and head into the sky is quite the spectacle!Balloons.jpg





It was remarkable to witness the balloon pilots maneuver the balloons around the area.  With 24 total, it took over an hour and a half to inflate and launch them.  So balloons that launched early in the hour, hovered around the area, occasionally touching down, and waited until all 24 were aloft.  Then they headed off into the sky.  I would guess that nearly 1000 people were on hand to enjoy the annual launching of balloons.

This morning, we awoke to a major rainstorm, our first one in well over a month.  At 43 degrees here in Logan, you can guess that we had a dusting of snow on the peaks.  This is one of the earliest dustings in quite some time – September 19.  More significant is the fact that the snow from last season did not melt off the same peaks until the end of July!  So, we were snow free for only about 7 weeks total!  Of course, the current dusting will melt, and we won’t see much snow before Halloween.  Here is a shot of the dusting on the Wellsville’s:



Liz and I will be attending a couple of fund raising dinners (one will feature Rickard’s wines) here in Logan over the next two weeks.  We will then be performing in Fiddler on the Roof at our very own Ellen Eccles Theater.  In mid-October, we head to our annual wine bottling at Rickards Winery in Sonoma County.  I will blog from that trip and it will include 3 nights in Cloverdale (Susan and Todd), one night in Sausalito (Clark and Paul) and a night in Lodi (Eric and Pat).  A sort of reunion of our California trip last spring!  Until then…Cheers!





……and 32 years later!

32 years ago, I began my music teaching career (age 24) at San Pedro High School in San Pedro, California.  It was 1985 and I had just completed my Master’s Degree at USC.  Later that school year, Liz and I married in Los Angeles.  Professionally, I was torn between teaching and performing.  High School music teaching demands 12 hour days.  I would leave for school at about 6am, and arrive for marching band practice (before school) at 6:30.  I often didn’t get home much before 6 or 7pm.  At the same time, I was practicing daily and playing professional symphony gigs all over the Los Angeles area.  Needless to say, between football game half time shows, concerts, competitions with the marching and concert bands and then gigging at night with various orchestras, I was nothing short of exhausted.  I put my all into the band program at Pedro, but only lasted that one year.  (I next took a job at Luther Burbank Jr. High in Burbank, California and subsequently went back for my Doctoral degree so that I would be qualified to teach University level students. This type of teaching position would be much more compatible with a performing career.)

Before I arrived, San Pedro High had 3 tumultuous years of bad band directing.  In the end, the band director was fired for pilfering $$ from the band program.  I came in and took over a band of 17 students.  The attrition over the previous 3 years had been devastating.  (By the end of the year, we were 45 strong!)  The core 17 players in the band were incredibly devoted to the program and we all became very close.  I had no idea, at the time, how devastated the students would be when I decided to leave.

About 3 years ago, I received a phone call from Colin, a saxophone player from my time at San Pedro.  He was getting married, and about 10 of the students were with him.  They were waiting for the ceremony to start, and decided to see if they could find me.  The call lasted about 30 minutes and I was able to chat with all 10 of the students.  They told me that 1985 was their best year of high school and that every time they got together, they relived the memories of all of the things we had done as a band.  (Anyone who doubts the power of teaching and teachers is clueless about our profession!)

Earlier last week, one of the students emailed me (Mike, trumpet player, age 47) and told me he would be in Salt Lake City for the weekend.  Was I close enough, and if so, could we get together?  Liz and I were planning to be in Park City, so indeed we would be able to meet for lunch.  3 hours later, I was able to get caught up on Mike’s life and the lives of the students that I hadn’t seen in 32 years.  I brought with me, two photo albums from the year at San Pedro, and decided that Mike should have them.  The first two pictures are from one of the photo albums.  Kenney and Jose hoisted me up on their shoulders when it was announced that the marching band had made it into the finals of the LA Marching Band Championships (competition).  It had been many years since the band had advanced to the finals.  The pics that follow are from our lunch together.20707948_10210052239002638_6242006998922125419_n.jpg




Mike is a longshoremen in the LA Harbor and commutes in from the Lake Elsinore area.  He would like to get out of California altogether and is considering the Mountain West to relocate.  Since work is many days on/many days off, he is considering flying in to his job for each stint of work.  Incidentally, he decided to cross off Salt Lake City as a relocation possibility.  It is too much like LA!!  Yes, and it will only get worse ie traffic and smog.

As I head back to work after my sabbatical (Aug 28), I reflect on the impact I have had on so many students over my 32 year career.  It has been rewarding to say the least.  Knowing that I have made a difference in all of these lives makes it all worth it.