Posts Tagged 'Forestville'

Barrel Tasting on the Russian River


Barrel tasting is a tradition in many wine areas and a great deal of fun in the Russian River area.  No – you do not taste the barrel but you taste the wine that  is still in  the barrel!  This is a great time to try new vintages before they are bottled and you can get them at reduced prices which are referred to as “futures”.

Check inThis year I passed on the daytime tasting to go to a private barrel tasting at Dutton Estates which is at the corner of Hwy 116 and Green Valley Road – between Sebastopol and Forestville. This was for wine club members only and is much less crowded.  Plus we were able to taste from the barrel and do a vertical tasting  of the last couple of years.  Yes, each vintage is different but to experience the maturation of a wine with time in the bottle is always fun.

This is not a food pairing or themed event.  IT IS ALL ABOUT THE WINE!  And it is happening all over again next weekend, March 14 and 15.  Check out the website and see if your favorite winery is participating and learn about some new ones.


Tasting from the Barrel


Pouring from the Bottle

Pouring from the Bottle

Artist Profile – Gerald Huth

ImageAnyone driving through Forestville during June or October will recognize the name Gerald Huth.  Since the onset of Art at the Source and ARTrails, Gerald has prominently proclaimed OPEN STUDIO at his Anderson Road studio and gallery.  While I had visited his gallery early in my Forestville residency, I had never met Gerald until this last week.  Tall, energetic, excited, intense, well-traveled – the adjectives keep coming as I reflect upon the man who sat across from me as we spoke of art in Sonoma County, the human condition in Cambodia and the impact of circumstance on the path one takes in life.

Gerald was born to immigrant parents in New York City.  He spoke German in the home and his parents taught the philosophy that each person was intended to make life better for others.  Gerald had the opportunity to study architecture at University of Pennsylvania.  Upon graduation, he left for Stuttgart to begin his apprenticeship in this challenging field.  But the rigors of architecture gave way to the art all around him and it was not long before he was studying art at Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Avignon in France.  From Europe he traveled to Australia, taking every opportunity to paint and show his works.  He traveled through Asia and by the time he returned to New York, he was an artist –  no longer an architect.

Gerald understood that he wanted a career that allowed him to travel and one that gave him the freedom to express his beliefs and passion without constraint of his profession.  He delved into the New York art scene with his full effort.  He expanded his knowledge and exposure by attending Hunter College of the City of New York and The Art Student’s League of New York.  His first New York exhibits took place in 1979 and his career was launched in his hometown.

There were no plans to move to Sonoma County when Gerald and his wife visited his sister in Healdsburg in 1985.  But once being exposed to this beautiful place what artist can pass on living in Sonoma County?  Gerald’s wife led multi-language tours of National Parks so there was no impediment to relocating for her.  Soon the family settled on Anderson Road where Gerald renovated the dilapidated garage into a spacious studio.  In 1995 Gerald began a string of shows in Europe – Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France.  The ability to travel, show his art and come home to the beautiful environment of Sonoma County has fulfilled his dreams of early adulthood.

In 2003, Gerald and his wife turned their focus on Southeast Asia.  During Gerald’s early travels he visited Asia and fell in love with the culture of the area.  The couple visited Cambodia and taught art classes for children under the House of Peace program.  For the last five years, they have traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia to contribute to Anjali House.  This program takes children from the ages of 4 to 16 who would otherwise be living on the streets in this impoverished area and provides education, nourishment and health care.  About 100 children are in the program at a time.  Each January, the Huths participate in the production of a play project which is focused on a Cambodian folktale.  The children create and perform over a three week period during which they practice the English they are learning, paint sets and enrich their understanding of their heritage.  This is a successful and rewarding activity that follows the creed of improving someone’s life each day as Gerald was taught by his father.

If you have not visited Gerald’s studio, it is tucked down a country lane off of Anderson Road (just past El Molino High School).  He conducts workshops and classes in the newly insulated studio that he renovated so many years ago.  There is now another building that houses his permanent collection of work which is open during Art @ the Source and ARTrails as well as by appointment.  Gerald’s art is big, bold, colorful, 3-dimensional – words that could also describe Gerald.  His subject material varies but is centered on the human form with shades of blue, green, yellow and ecru.  After 9/11 he expressed the grief and anguish of the attacks through a series of works that merged eulogy and visual anguish.  Recently there is a noticeable influence of the Cambodian culture in his collages of Buddha, Middle Eastern scripts and original art in the eternal circle.  Evolution in life and in art go hand in hand.

You can see Gerald’s work at or email him at

Preparing for the Holidays

ImageEvery time of the year I marvel at the beauty of Sonoma County.  The scenery is diverse and always stunning.  The picture above is taken on Occidental Road just east of High School Road outside of Sebastopol.  The lighting was so perfect that every driver with a camera was pulled to the side of road to take a snapshot.  Cold, foggy and flooding all disappeared with the serene beauty of the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

With the love of my local area at front of mind, I decided that my shopping for holiday gifts would be focused at home.  I shunned the Internet and headed to Bodega Bay for some shopping.  I hit the jackpot at East Shore Outfitters and Gourmet au Bay.  Sissy does a great job of selecting wonderful merchandise without the “tourist trap” prices.  I then headed to Occidental to the annual craft sale.  I must admit that I bought two sweaters for me – one from Wild n’ Wooley out of Mt. Shasta to keep me warm on those cold and windy mornings and a light weight one from another vendor that will be perfect in Hawaii.

Dec12 044The next day I ventured all the way to Sebastopol.  It was a Sunday and the Farmer’s Market was in full swing.  Today (Sunday) the rain is coming down and a thick fog has enveloped the garden.  I have built a fire to conserve on propane and I will be home long enough today to enjoy the ambiance.   But last Sunday the temperature was 70 degrees and I was thinking I might never wear the heavy knit hoodie that I had purchased the day before.  The Sebastopol Farmer’s Market is a year round event.  The number of stalls is less in the winter but the atmosphere is always Sebastopol.  I wandered Main Street and found a few more gifts and bopped into Whole Foods to see what the latest in food goodies they had to offer.  An absolutely spectacular day.


My Christmas shopping was almost complete but yesterday I stopped by Forestville to visit Frame of Mind – the best framing shop in my overall experience of framing.   Leslie is not just a framer of great talent but a creative artist in her own right.  She doesn’t let a piece leave the shop that does not look spectacular. Then I dropped into Moshin Winery for  the best pinot noir along the Russian River.    I was blessed to have a lovely dinner at Cork’s outside of Forestville with dear friends on my way home.

P1020815The magical barn down the way on Joy Road is open for local artists the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend (does that make sense? 9 days after Thanksgiving.)  It is the closest shopping available with clever surprises for young and old.  If you live near or are visiting that time of year, you should put it on your calendar now for 2013 so that it isn’t missed.

It looks like I will have my shopping complete before I leave for the holidays and will not have purchased anything further than 12 miles from my secluded home.  The evening sunset through the redwoods on Joy Road is a frequent reminder of the magnificence and peace my world holds.  Wonderful community, great friends and local products abound in my life.  In case I do not have the opportunity to say it to you in this upcoming week, may your holidays and the coming year be your brightest.  Peace on earth to all.


Sebastopol Rotary Lobster Feed

Once I had eaten lobster in Maine, I have never ordered it in a restaurant in California again.  So I was a bit skeptical when I heard that the Rotary Club was having a Lobster Feed right here in Sebastopol.  But the Rotary Club here does things on a very grand scale and the money goes for good causes.  I sent in my check on the basis that the event would be fun – I would see friends – I have to eat anyway so I might as well contribute to the community.

Upon entering the grassy area behind O’Reilly & Associates,  I was greeted by about ten wineries pouring generous glasses of their best wines.   I learned of a grape that I had never heard of before – Charbono.  They say it is from Italy and it certainly sounds like it.  The grapes for this Russian River Vineyards single vineyard bottling come from Mendocino County and are grown by a guy named Guido.  The wine is red, forward and very tasty.  (No I am not a wine critic.  I know what I like and what I don’t like and that is about it!)  The second wine of which I partook was Dutton-Goldfield’s 2009 Pinot Noir.  Yummy!

The event had plenty of silent auction items that were being snapped up and nibbles from the Culinary Class at El Molino High School.  The real show was the cooking of the lobster.  I wish I had been thinking about my camera while I watched the 50 gallon vats of boiling water prepare our vegetables, bratwurst, shrimp and lobsters!  Alas, I was just thinking about how good they were going to taste.  The lobster was flown in that day and as fresh as being in Bar Harbor.

The evening was full with a live auction, selling of keys to an all paid vacation to Kauai (one hundred keys at $100 each) and wonderful conversation.  I will once again go on the Mystery Tour with other women of Sebastopol as I broke down and raised my card.  The event brought in over $90,000 from the auctions alone.  Another great evening in Sebastopol.

Doug Hastings – Artist Profile

Doug Hastings with Sculpture

Doug Hastings is the artist that I started writing this column to spotlight.  I have met others along this ten year journey but he is the epitome of my targeted artist – self-effacing, talented, passionate, unknown.  Let me qualify unknown – not unknown as a person but unknown as an artist.  Ask any parent in the greater Forestville area about Doug Hastings and unless their children are in there 40’s or they never played a sport, they will tell you what a great coach Doug is and has been for years.   First as a volunteer than as an El Molino girls’ soccer coach, Doug made a second career in coaching.  Today he is still coaching as he moves into his third career as sculptor and artist.

Doug is a local – one of those West Sonoma County people who can trace their roots back a few generations to places right down the road.  Doug is a local with no plans to venture far from home.  He attended Santa Rosa Junior College before transferring to UC Davis.  People around here know of Doug excelling in sports throughout his childhood.  They know of his accomplishments in any sport he attempted.  Many may remember that Doug Hastings was chosen as UC Davis Athlete of the Year with letters in football, basketball and track – the first student-athlete in Davis history to have that achievement.   The not so public side of Doug Hastings is that he has known since second grade that he was an artist.  There are also the degrees in 19th Century French History and Philosophy that he gathered as he was making history on the athletic field.

So what does an artistic, athletic intellectual pursue for a career?  Construction, of course.   Doug looked for a career that he would relate to his life as a whole.  His father was a heavy equipment operator and provided the inspiration that great statements could be made by moving earth and constructing things – things like bridges and retaining walls and making concrete esthetically pleasing.  For many years Doug led and participated in a great construction company.  These were not small projects but lifting houses and changing the landscape.   The intrigue with structural form as an extension of art continues in Doug.  His fascination with Frank Gehry , the acclaimed architect merging building and art, and the Gehry designs that remain unbuilt, let us know that while Doug has retired from construction many years ago, he has not relinquished that part of his life.

In 1991 Doug concluded his construction career and focused his efforts on raising his two children.  It was not long before he was coaching soccer.   Then he became the El Molino High girls’ soccer coach.  He spent 13 years at El Molino before he took on the challenge of assistant coach to the San Jose State University Women’s Soccer team.  Today he is back in Sonoma County coaching still.  As if developing young athletes was not enough, Doug successfully led the efforts to build an all weather track at El Molino High to provide a safe environment for our youth and a wonderful walking and running surface for the greater community.  This was no small task and drew upon all of Doug’s skills and experience.

I could easily have left out the construction and coaching and spoken only of Doug’s art.  Doug produces a great deal of art in a variety of media.  But not addressing Doug’s background would leave a gap in the discussion of his art.   Driving into Doug’s studio/home, I recognized the realm of a sculptor who likes big installations and has welding apparatus nearby.  What I was not prepared to see were the stone carvings, bronze athletes and bold paintings that filled the interior spaces.  The breadth of work is as broad as the past professions and interests.  The first stone sculpture that grabbed my attention was an armless man with a face of determination.  Then my eyes went to the bold colors on canvas depicting bodies in motion.  In the end, what commanded my mind were the unique bronze figures of athletes that appear to be straining every muscle to hurl a discus or reach that goal.  Doug uses a wax instead of the common Plasteline to form these figures and works with the foundry to produce one-of-a-kind statues.  The breakdown of the wax during the heating process yields unpredictable texture that sets these figures aside from other athletic likenesses.  The vastness of Doug’s collection and his dedication to continuing his exploration are testament to his internal drive.  No hesitation in his declaration that he is where he wants to be – painting, sculpting, collecting – coaching, gardening and living the good life of Sonoma County.

Doug Hastings is ready to show his works to those beyond his closest circle.  He has once shown paintings at the Town and Country Salon in Santa Rosa but that is the extent of his public exposure.  Doug is not yet on the open studios circuit but if you would like to see his creations, email Doug Hastings at for a private showing.   Be prepared to meet a great human being and see some terrific art.

The Beginning of the Season in Sonoma County

Occidental Center for the Arts

Many an evening I am entertained by the various renditions of Jane Austin’s stories.  Storylines are filled with discussions of “the season.”  I don’t think that just London in the early 1800’s had a season but so does Aspen, the Hamptons and our own Sonoma County.  Looking at the number of activities happening in Sonoma County this weekend, I can state that “the season” has begun.

Today was a full one.  The Apple Blossom Parade was in Sebastopol.  Butter and Egg (yes, that is the correct name) Days is happening in Petaluma.  Sunday is the Cotati third annual Old Fashioned Chicken Barbecue. Earth Day Fairs and Festivals are occurring in Santa Rosa, Windsor and Sebastopol.   The Burbank Gold Ridge Farm is holding their plant sale.  Whatever your special interest may be, there is a place for you to enjoy, find like-minded friends and take in the beauty of Sonoma County.  I am sure that if a dozen West County people were asked what they were doing this weekend, a dozen different events would be mentioned.

Golden Nest by Jennifer Beckham

Last evening (that would be Saturday) I attended the Spring Fever Art Show opening at Occidental Center for the Arts.  The Center for the Arts is located across Bohemian Highway from the end of Graton Road in Occidental.  The complex that houses OCA is part of the school conversion to community resources that allowed the development of a small plot of land by Orrin Thiessen (known best as the restorer of Graton downtown and the developer of Windsor Town Green).  OCA is one of many locally created organizations that showcases the talent within their community.  The Opening of this show started at 5:00 PM.  By the time Jen and I arrived at 6:15, the savory snacks were consumed and tiramisu was being served in abundance.  For a small local event on a very busy weekend, there was a good crowd.  I got to chat with a few local artists who have become friends over the years,  MaryLu Downing, Tony Spears and Lisa Beernsten to drop a few names.  I was very pleased to see some of Jen’s cigar boxes displayed –   glad to have her back in the showing mode.  This show is until May 31.

Discussing Art

Many years ago, I met a young man and his girlfriend at the Forestville Firemen’s Breakfast.  It was one of those regular pancake breakfasts with sausage and scrambled eggs.  Boy Scouts scurried around the tables pouring orange juice and maple syrup was everywhere.  Anyone who has been  to one of these feasts knows exactly what the scene was.  To get on with my tale, the fellow informed me that the two of them went to a $5 breakfast every weekend throughout the summer.  They never needed to travel beyond the county.

Peeking into the Occidental Center for the Arts

So the season has begun.  In addition to pancake breakfasts, there will be crab feeds, spaghetti dinners and other food feasts.  Next weekend will bring another round of activities.  The following weekend even more.  Check here regularly as I plan to be the reporter of the “Sonoma County Season”.

Major Storm Hits Sonoma County

Bohemian Highway at South end of Occidental

This morning I woke to an eerie silence after a night of howling wind and pounding rain.  Yes, it was pitch black – not even a little red LED was shining.  The power was out.  I first decided that I would just lie in bed and enjoy the quiet – get a few extra winks of sleep.  But, no –  my body was awake.  I pulled out my flashlight (yes, when you live in the country, a flashlight is right by the bed) and propped up on the extra pillow and started my crossword puzzle.  While this seemed like a good idea at the time, it is really hard to do a crossword puzzle in bed while holding a 6 inch Mini Maglite.  Next, I decided to browse the web on my Android phone to find the outage number for PG&E.  Considering that the temperature was 55 degrees and when the only light is a flashlight, it seems even colder, I was not keen on getting out of bed.  Unable to find the number for PG&E, I started texting people I thought might be up.  Finally, around 8:30, I decided that it was no longer too early to call people on the telephone.  Out came the old fashioned telephone (you know, the kind that is connected to the wall by a cord) and the dialing began.  The first person who answered was my landlord – I can always count on them.  They had called PG&E and the message was “anticipate an extended outage.”   What does that mean?  Definitely, it means that coffee from my own kitchen is not going to happen this morning.  No answer from my daughter.  Do they have an old fashioned phone?  No answer at friends in Forestville until I call on their cell.  Their comments were “no power”, “why get out of bed?”   I figure out that coffee is beyond Occidental or Forestville.  I left a message in Sebastopol.  I discovered that the heater works without electricity – duh!  By the time I was dressed, I had a return call from Sebastopol – the power is on – yeah!

Detritus on and along the side of Bittner Road

Deciding that I must face the world to get a hot drink, I opened my front door to find my torch stand blocking the way with the cover and candle lying nearby, my jade plant thrown from its pot and every light weight item from the porch scattered down the stairs and across the walkway.  I ventured out onto the road to discover debris everywhere.  Rounds of wood revealed that chainsaws had already been to work.  The roar of generators broke the early morning silence as seasoned residents began the post storm ritual of keeping the refrigerators humming and the wells pumping.  No area was spared.  From Joy Road to Occidental to Graton to Sebastopol to Santa Rosa – the carnage of redwoods, firs and oaks littered the roads and filled the roadside swales.  A large tree had taken out a streetlight pole on Sonoma Avenue in the middle of Santa Rosa.  PG&E is having a busy day.

Volunteer Fireman on Joy Road

A great thing about Sonoma County folks is that no little storm is going to get in the way of having a good time.  The Occidental Community Center was full (without power) of local residents celebrating the 30th birthday of Efren Carrillo, 5th District Supervisor.  It was a bit cool but the spirits were warm.

I am one of the lucky ones whose power was back on by dinner time.  At 8 pm Joy Road was still closed at Bodega Highway due to a downed power line.  I only know this because I had accepted a gracious offer of dinner in Bodega Bay.  I only had to detour through Occidental instead of traveling over Coleman Valley Road because Bohemian Highway had opened around 5.  How wonderful to experience the beauty of a sunset within hours of such a storm.  Thank you to all the county maintenance crews, PG&E, volunteer firemen and great citizens who have cleared our ways today.

Sunset from Bodega Harbour


May 2020


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