Lake Sonoma Trail – An Interactive Blog

I guess all blogs are “interactive”.  You can make comments in response to anything I write. And some of you do!  Today, however, will be a bit more interactive.  Liz and I took a 2 hour hike along the mountainous shore of Lake Sonoma.  This was the kind of hike where you walk a couple hundred feet and say, “Oh, look!”  And then you snap a picture of whatever it is you’re ‘oh looking’ at.  (Sound familiar Grandma?)  So, we snapped pictures of all the pretty things we saw.  Your job, as reader, if you choose to accept, is to identify all of the plants that we took pictures of and post them on the blog.  Let’s see if you all agree with what you see.  The first 3 pix are of the lake as we hiked along.  Then the pics of the plants and trees.  Then a couple of humanoid pics. Here we go:




The pic above is of the marina.  Now on to the plants:






Woops, humanoid among the trees.  Moving on:






One more humanoid:


Some of the above pix are a bit blurry.  It was a very windy day and the flowers were not standing particularly still.  Go back up pic number 4 (if you include the lake shots at 1-3).  What is that stuff hanging off of the tree?

There were a few pine species as well as redwood trees.  The redwoods are so magnificent and huge.  Really a breath taking tree.

Yesterday, Clark came up to meet Jim Rickards, sample some wines and buy a few bottles.  Jim had lunch with us (we brought sandwiches) and then took us to see his 4 acres of 108 year old Old Vine Zin vineyards.  He then gave us a lesson in grafting which was equally interesting.  Today, we attended Twomey’s Release Party (new vintages).  All you can drink Anderson Valley Pinot, Russian River Pinot, Merlot and the new Sav Blanc.  Lots of food to go with, and a band to accompany the celebration.  Twomey is owned by the Silver Oak clan.  But Silver Oak makes Cab exclusively.  So they started a sister winery to mainly make merlot and pinot.  The scenery is beautiful and the wines aren’t too bad either.  Here are 3 pics from the event today.  By the way, we topped out at 83 degrees today.  Woohoo!




And a diagonal selfie, as we sat on the grass and sipped vino:


Wait. let’s try that again:

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Tomorrow is Sunday.  We’ll clean the cabin, do laundry and pack.  Monday we travel to McMinnville.  Of course I will blog from the land of Pinot Noir.  Ciao to Sonoma County!



Midweek Bonus Pics…….

I’ve been following the weather in Utah and I have to say, I am glad to be here.  We have had our share of rain, but even then, the temps are in the 60’s.  Not so much at home.  Looks like 40’s and 50’s with quite a bit of precipitation and up to a foot of snow at Snowbird yesterday (and they are still open!).  Park City is hovering in the 40’s with on again off again rain/snow.  McMinnville, Oregon, where we are headed next, looks to be in the upper 70’s early next week with plenty of sun.  Vancouver?  No need to look at the forecast.  As Grandpa emailed last week, one sunny day out of seven, on average.  Well, here’s to hoping for Vancouver sun!

We have spent the week bike riding and wine tasting but with riding, not many pictures have been taken.  We have a few, however.  So here are some Mittwoch photos for you.

Across the Alexander Valley from us, Big Sulpher Creek, which comes down from the Geysers (hence, Geyserville) which are now used for power generation only, and dumps into Russian River.  We biked up the canyon quite a ways:IMG_2410 (1).jpg

To date, we have wine tasted at 28 different wineries (Yikes!)  My brother Bruce asked me, “Are you drunk all the time?”  I replied, “Not ALL the time.”  Brett and Teri took home a nice little collection from their time here:


Far left is a Wlliamson, third in is another Ferrari Carano red blend called Siena and far right is a Seghesio.

Of all of the 28 wineries visited, Liz and I have a few faves to be sure.  In no particular order, they would be Klinker Brick (Albarino) in Lodi, Rickards (All but especially Zins) in Alexander Valley, Seghesio (Zins) in Healdsburg, Ferrari Carano (All) in Dry Creek, Matanza Creek(Sav Blanc) in Sonoma, Twomey (Sav Blanc and Pinot) on West Dry Creek Road, Balo (Pinot’s) in Anderson Valley and finally our latest stop, White Oak in Alexander Valley.  Every wine they had (we tried all 12) was a stand out.  The Sav Blanc and Pinot were their best.  The winery has an art gallery and beautiful grounds.  The next few pics are from there:


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Finally, we visited the Sonoma Lake Visitor’s Center and fish hatchery.  The lake is at capacity (the boat launch house has been under water) and because of the original construction of the dam, they have been restoring habitat below the dam and have created a fish hatchery for Steel Head and coho salmon.  Two years ago, 2000 steelhead spawned here.  Last year, 4000.  This year, 6500.  We watched the fish slither and jump up through the fish ladders to spawn.  Fish pics don’t turn out so well, but a blue heron dropped in to survey the scene and more than likely, snag a fish.  Incidentally, the dam for the lake is 314 feet high.  Compare that with the Oroville dam (tallest in US) at 700 plus feet high (and made the news this past late winter).  Here is the shot of the dude:

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Directly in front of the heron is a black spot and what looks like a tail fin to the right, just upon the rock.  Yeah, that indeed is a fish.

Hope you enjoyed the extra photos.  More to come, as usual.  Bike riding tomorrow (or maybe a hike up around part of Sonoma Lake), lunch with the Rickards’ crew on Friday and the Twomey release party on Saturday.  More soon!

Pictorial of Cloverdale…..

Five years ago (2012), Liz and I came to Sonoma County to blend and bottle Malbec wine with the Cache Valley Reserve team at J. Rickard’s Winery.  The first year, we stayed in Geyserville at a B n B just a mile or two from the winery.  It was an old Victorian turn of the century mansion.  The second year, we stayed at another B n B in Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road called the Irish Rose Inn.  It too was an old early 1900’s home converted into a bed and breakfast.  What we learned was that we really didn’t care much for B and B’s.  We wanted our own place with cooking facilities.  By year 3, Airbnb had taken off and we found Susan and Todd’s Little House on the Hill (you’ve seen pics in previous posts) in Cloverdale, California.  This is our third season in the small studio cabin with a view over the Russian River Alexander Valley area.

People always ask us, “Why Cloverdale and not Healdsburg?” (Healdsburg is the very cool, very trendy center of all things Sonoma Wine Country)  I reply, why not?  Cloverdale is a town of 8000 of folks who live and work in the area.  It is much more affordable in just about every way.  It is only about 5 minutes from the closest winery, and 10 minutes to Rickards winery and about 100 other wineries. Cloverdale is earthy but up and coming.  There is a performing arts center and hall that seats a few hundred patrons , some good restaurants, an easy walk from one end to other and a community all natural grocery store.  Did I mention super unleaded is $2.89?  Compare that to 3.19 in Healdsburg and 3.49 in Sausalito.

Many of you know that I love homes.  Homes of all styles and time periods.  Although I only care to live in modern structures, I am fascinated by Victorians, English tudors, 40’s bungalows, turn of the century craftsman homes and just about every other type and style.  So, with that in mind, let’s walk Cloverdale (settled in the mid 1800’s – at least non natives) and have a look at a few of the structures.  Keep in mind that there are dozens of homes similar to the ones shown below.  These are just a few of my faves.

Let’s start with the Congregational Church on “main street” which is actually Cloverdale Blvd.  This is the old highway, before the 101 was built, and Main Street proper is one block over (and uneventful).  The church was built in 1869 and the organ was powered by a wheel connected to the city water system.  in 1979 it became the Congregational Church:

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Just two doors or so down is the Victorian built in 1903, built by a local drug store owner.  After that, it served as a Doctor’s residence until the 1960’s.  For a short while, 1920’s, the upstairs served as a hospital.


Next to the above is a Dutch Colonial, built in the 1920’s.  My brother Bruce would like this house, so I include it here:


Same street, the main drag through Cloverdale, is this turn of the century gem.  Doctors occupied this home as well:


Around the corner on Third Street, a circa 1880’s home for nurses during the 1920’s.  Note the door set back, in the front, on the left.  It was used for coffins, so that the dead would not need to be transported through the front door:


Finally, the last home of interest on the main drag, the oldest home in Cloverdale built in 1862.  It is the oldest documented building in Cloverdale and is a rare example of Gothic Revival style characterized by steeply pitched roofs, pointed arch windows, high dormers and elaborate trim at the roof line:


There are few interesting commercial buildings along the main drag as well.  The performing arts center refurbished and reopened 10 years ago.  This past TH, we went and saw the play Agnes of God (movie version 1985, Jane Fonda), a dark tale of a young pregnant nun….


The Druids Building, 1923, replaced the imposing 2 story Union Hall (1884) which burned down in 1915 wiping out the entire block including the Humbert’s Opera House and the Cloverdale Hotel.  The current building houses a few shops, an eatery and a mom and pop convenience store.  The redwood is in the middle of the street:IMG_2394.JPG

This 1907 Italianate structure housed the Bank of Cloverdale, organized in 1884 by one of the town’s leading merchants.  It became the First National Bank of Cloverdale and occupied this space for 43 years.  It is currently vacant:


Pick’s Drive In started out in the 1920’s and by some accounts, is the oldest still operating Drive in burger joint in the US.  They serve wine, beer, shakes, ice cream, root beer and every kind of burger and dog you can imagine.  The place is always packed.



We were lucky to snap the pic right before they opened for lunch on Saturday morning.

At the other end of town, Cloverdale resurrected and reassembled the old train station.  It is now a great little bar and grill.  This first pic is for Jack.  Apparently, in some other life, he lived right here at the train station:

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Of course the sign is lit up at night.  Here’s the whole station:


Off the beaten path is the turn of the century hotel/brothel which now houses the scankiest bar in town called Dante’s:


For some reason, Episcopal churches are often the cutest in town.  Cloverdale is no exception sporting this 1886 Gothic style church, made from California redwood and square nails manufactured right on site:


And finally, along with the church above, is a Queen Anne Victorian on Main Street proper.  This dwelling is listed on the National Historic Register and was built in 1901 by a wealthy merchant and mining executive.  It is now a beautifully restored bread and breakfast, complete with front yard vineyard.  The owners also make wine from the several acres of vineyards nearby, and even supply the performing arts center with libations for their productions.


Across the street is a craftsman home built in 1914, on two adjacent lots that cost $10.  The family continuously occupied the home until 1985.


So there you have it; a partial walking tour of Cloverdale Blvd and Main Street.  The side streets sport many more old homes mixed in with pads built from the 20’s til today.

This gives you a taste of where we’ve been hanging out for the past month.  We have one week to go and plan to hit a few more wineries, attend the Twomey (owned by Silver Oak, but better) spring release party, and stop by to say good bye to Jim and Eliza Rickards and their crew.  I will blog again as we head toward Oregon Pinot Noir land, just South of Portland.  There is no rest for the weary!



Sonoma State and B and T!

Week IV of our Spring sabbatical trip began with a residency at Sonoma State and ended with Brett and Teri spending the weekend with us wine tasting.  Not a bad week, but first a pic of the tree off the deck of the house where we are staying:


I miss the big Oak trees from our years living in California, so I thought I would throw one in for you.  A shout out to our hosts Susan and Todd, who carefully prune this monster of a tree and keep it in top condition!

Sonoma State resides in Rohnert Park California, just 40 minutes South of Cloverdale.  SSU has about 8800 students, 130 of which are music majors in the music department.   A small faculty of 7 full timers, teamed with numerous adjuncts, cover all of the studio work, ensembles and course work for mainly performance and music education majors.  What they lack in size is made up for in quality.  This is a good little music program smack in the middle of wine country (I’m surprised anybody practices!).  My job was to teach all of the low brass private lessons and lead a masterclass for the brass area.  No photos of the one on one stuff, but here are a few pictures from the masterclass.  The event started with me coaching a brass octet and moved on to individual brass players.  Here is a sampling:

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Here is a shot of Grandma holding her cat.  The week previous, Liz and her sister (from LA) flew up to celebrate her Dad’s birthday, which was a great success.


Brett and Teri flew in for the weekend and we tasted at Williamson (wine and cheese pairing), Hanna (took a picnic lunch), and Seghesio on the first day.  We ate at Cloverdale’s newest and quite tasty restaurant, Trading Post.  Saturday, was J Rickard’s Spring release (of all the new wines) party.  From 11am-4pm, unlimited wines, a band, and Taco Soup, all under the sun.  Eliza greeted us and she and Jim gave Brett and Teri a personal tour of the new caves, and a lesson in grafting.  We sipped 2 Cabs, and Old Vine Zin, a Voignier, Rose and a Sav Blanc.  Congo Bobby and his band provided extremely well played jazz standards and I even “sat in” on a tune.  Here are a few pics of the event.




We consumed mass quantities of wine and bought a case between the four of us.  Fortunately, my brother Bruce has agreed to let us ship the wine to him in LA.  He will bring the wine with him when he visits Utah this summer.  Don’t ask about the alcohol laws in Utah.  Even the Taliban are surprised when they hear about what we have to endure.  Unbelievably, we drove directly over to Ferrari Carano and sipped all of the wines they had to offer.  The walk in the gardens (see the previous posts) were quite impressive as usual.  We finished the weekend with a tasting at Locals and subsequent dinner (with our wine purchase – free corkage) at our Geyserville fave, Diavola.

Sunday morning, B and T treated us to Easter Brunch at Savvy, our cafe in Cloverdale.  We then made our way to the airport and dropped them off in the late afternoon.  Paul and Clark met us at the house boat in Sausalito and we had wine, Lagavulin and Easter Pizza (not in that order)!  Paul’s friend Kitty and my old friend Mark from the San Francisco Symphony joined in on the fun.  Another great day in Northern California!

During Brett and Teri’s visit, we managed to find a few minutes to drive up to Lake Sonoma and find an overlook of the lake.  Stunning is all I have to say.  Pics included:




I want to take a moment and tell you how wonderful this sabbatical has been.  (After 25 years, it was time!)  We are very lucky to be able to take a year and play, study, perform, sip and travel.  I’m feeling  a bit overwhelmed by it all today and realize just how fortunate we are.

Brett and Teri took a bunch of pictures as well.  As soon as I have those, I will post them in the next blog, probably in a day or two.

Finally, we have a man eating unicorn goat thing in the field across from our house.  It seemed that for a couple of weeks, I was the only one who saw the animal.  It is quite large and looks like a smallish horse from afar.  But, it has a goat’s head.  I decided it had to be a “unicorn”  because A. no one believed (incl. B and T) that it existed, and B. I couldn’t figure out what it was, since it was always quite far away. “Man Eating” just added to the intrigue.  A “goat thing” is definitely what it turned out to be and the proof is in the pictures.  It is really friendly, doesn’t eat men (but eats about anything else, including our tin foil) but enjoys sweet potato peels, and stands quite tall on its hind legs.  After much waiting, we finally captured the thing in a picture or two:



I know, pretty anti-climatic.  Whatever.  It’s cool to have a goat come visit you from right across the street!

We are half way through our spring trip, 4 out of the 8 weeks.  We will be in Cloverdale for 2 more weeks, mostly bbq-ing, wine sipping and riding bikes around the vineyards.  We then will head to Vancouver, stopping in McMinnville (May 1-3) just South of Portland, so that we can sample Pinot Noir wines.  Then the Canadian portion of our trip will commence.  Again, I will send additional pics when I hear from Brett and Teri, but until then, drink great wine!







Ferrari Carano and a Birthday Celebration!

We begin week 4 (of 8) of this portion of our sabbatical.  We left Utah on March 18 and spent a week in the Stockton area, a couple of days in Sausalito and now our third week in Cloverdale, California.  This week brings a guest artist residency at Sonoma State University, conducting masterclasses and teaching all of the low brass students private lessons.  The past two weeks was spent bike riding around the Alexander and Russian River Valleys visiting wineries and sipping all things red and white (and rose).  One of our faves over the years is Ferrari-Carano.  FC makes decent wine to be sure, but the winery and surrounding grounds are beautiful.  A highlight of FC are the gardens which are meticulously maintained.  In the middle of it all is a cork tree.  Cork trees shed their cork one way or another, but most are harvested for…well…cork.  Although Portugal has more cork trees then anywhere, cork trees exist right here in Dry Creek Valley.  Cork can be harvested every 10 years, and a tree must be 40-50 years old before any harvesting can be done.  IMG_2284.JPG

The tree feels just like a wine bottle cork.  I am in the pic for scale:IMG_2285.jpg

A shot of Liz in the gardens, blending right in!


The fountains just outside of the winery:


Our friend Clark came to visit this past week (we visited him in Mill Valley whilst staying in the Sausalito area).  Clark is in the wine business, working at Tiburon Wines in Tiburon.  That nifty business card of his gets us in wineries that the average Joe doesn’t know about nor could visit.  Peay is just this sort of winery.  Liz and I had no idea that it existed right here in Cloverdale.  Peay specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir and operates via email only.  Any one can join the “wine club”,  but if you don’t even know exists, it’s unlikely that you would ever have the chance.  They have wine pick up/release events twice per year, or they will ship your wine to you (but not to Utah!)  There are no minimums to buy like most wine clubs.  You just order what you’d like.  (They also supply directly to restaurants)  We had a private tour with the wine maker and sipped several of the wines.  These are some of the best wines we have tasted in this area over the years.


The pinot is exquisite, I must say.  We will probably join the emailing list, and pick up a few bottles every Fall when we come to Rickards to do our bottling.  We also visited Soda Creek, a winery we had driven past several times over the years, but had never stopped in.  The wines turned out to be pretty so-so.  But, like Aix En Provence, they have, or at least used to have, a pig problem.  Liz couldn’t resist taking a pic of this massive metal boar.



This past weekend, Liz’s father celebrated the 53rd anniversary of his 29th birthday.  Liz’s sister Lesley (from Los Angeles) arranged an intimate dinner celebration at the local fave restaurant, Five Sails.  Lesley and Liz flew up for the weekend and family friends Jack and Mike joined the clan for dinner.  I hear that the evening was wonderful!


A shot of the ultimate sisters:


A shot of the family rodent!


No one can resist a pic of a kitty!  Our friends Brett and Teri fly in from Utah this weekend. I will blog pics of our time with them along with some shots of me working with Sonoma State students.  I leave you with a parting shot of me conducting the UOP Brass Choir from back in late March (sent to me by Eric, the band director at UOP)  Til then!




Rickards, SF Symphony, Floating Homes

We have just completed week 1 of 5, in our little house on the hill in Cloverdale.  We have had a wonderful week of wine tasting and bike riding.  So far, we have been to Twomey (owned by Silver Oak), Rickards (more on that in a minute), Jaxon Keys (Mendicino County), Locals Tasting Room (10 small wineries represented with over 70 wines to choose from), Williamsons (nibbles and wine pairing), Ferrari Carano (no tasting, just pics), Dutcher Crossing, and Matrix to name a few.  During the week, we stopped in at Cloverdale Cyclery and inquired about bike rentals.  $40 a day was too steep ($1200 per bike for a month), but they offered us $150 per bike for the entire month of April.  Couldn’t pass that up.  So we have ridden a few times, and always stop at a winery along the way.  The riding is always easier before the tasting!  We average around 20 miles per ride and hope to ride every other day or two.  He lent us a bike rack, so we can ride further afield as well.  The area is gorgeous and bike riding allows you to savor the landscapes.

Every Fall, we blend and bottle Rickards wine at J.Rickards Winery.  Jim and Eliza have become great friends, and we scheduled a visit to see them this past week.  They have a beautiful home adjacent to the winery and caves.  We figured we would visit for a short while and taste some of their new stuff.  Instead, they fixed lunch for us and  we sat out on the deck eating lunch and sipping fabulous Sav Blanc in the sun.  We then went in and tasted all the latest releases (release party is April 15, and we will be there with Brett and Teri who will be visiting that weekend.)  We toured their new caves and walked around the 100 year old Old Vine Zin vineyards.  We were there several hours and it was so great to see and spend time with them.  A few pics of us at Rickards:


Above:  we rode bikes to Rickards, and sported our matching UOP t-shirts that the students gave us at the university.


The steel tanks just outside the caves.


The four of us and vineyard pooch, Shelby.


On Sunday, we had Matinee tix to the SF Symphony at Davies Hall.  Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting all Mahler; Mahler 1 and Mahler 10 (Mahler completed only one mvt before his death).  The orchestra was dead on with the performance.  After spending 3 months in Europe attending symphony concerts, I must say that American orchestras are louder and brighter (tone quality wise) then European orchestras.  This is especially true of the French orchestras which are dark, rich and highly refined in their approach to orchestral music.  Market St had a Sunday Farmer’s Market, and we enjoyed walking around before the concert.  Pics below are self explanatory, except the first shot, which is a pic of the opera house:IMG_2255.JPG






After the concert, we were invited to stay on Paul’s house boat in the of Sausalito.  I showed you pics in an earlier blog as we walked the docks.  This time we got to “sleep over” and actually spend the night on a “floating home” (which is what they call them). First however, we drove to Tiburon and sampled wine at Clark’s wine bar, Tiburon Wine Bar.

There are about 5 docks in the bay that sport floating homes.  They vary in quality and price, more or less, per dock ie some docks are much nicer than others.  Paul’s dock is by far the poshest (last year, he was offered 1.6 million).  Boats are constructed of concrete (they call them a barge), specially treated, and are hollowed out in the middle.  The homes are then built on the concrete barge right in the bay in Sausalito at the one place that specializes in building floating homes.  They then float the house boat into place and moor it on all 4 corners.  Electricity, plumbing etc are all hooked up at that point.  Each boat has a holding tank for waste water, and when full, a pump sends the waste to the sewer lines on shore.  Plenty of slack is provided for all hook ups to allow for the tide to rise and fall.  At high tide, the boat floats in about 10 feet of water.  At low tide, the boat sets on the sand.  There is very little movement on the boat when the water is calm, which it was when we visited.  Although you own the boat, you lease the dock for revolving 30 year periods (most people never sell).  HOA (which includes water, garbage sewer and deck maintenance) plus the lease fee is about $1000 per month.  His boat faces out on the bay and is at the end of the dock, so he pays the highest lease fee.  Paul’s boat is 3 levels with a deck (and a boat) off the back.  The master bedroom is on the top floor (which is where we slept), the living space is on the main floor and then he has built an apartment in the lower level (which includes the hollowed out concrete space)  Here are some pics:  First, the front of the boat (go back a post or two and you can see the inside of the boat)


Clark and I on the gang plank leading to the back of the house boat:


Our view from the master suite, from the back deck:


Mark Lawrence’s (first bone in SF Symph) boat a few boats over:


Dock kitty, who was more than friendly:


So, this week, more wine tasting and riding.  Liz flies up to see her folks this weekend and we will stay on the boat Friday night (Liz’s flight is 6:30am out of SF).  So, it will be a week or so before I blog again, unless something exciting happens in the mean time.  Ciao!