Mere mention of honey wine (mead) takes me straight back to high school and the Canterbury Tales. My English teacher, Mr. Kineally was so enthralled with Medieval literature this enthusiastic fellow read daily out loud of the 29 pilgrims to Canterbury with zeal, humor and a thoroughly captivating pronunciation of old English.
Chaucer isn't the only literary big-shot to celebrate mead. J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy readers are more than familiar with its honeyed charms.
Though it does rather conjure images of thatched roofs, tankards and trestle tables, mead is making a big come back today in the craft food and wine world.
Nowhere more so in Northern California than at the coastal bee haven of Heidrun Meadery, in rural West Marin.
Heidrun is the first Meadery to make its Mead in the Champagne-style and it's well worth planning a visit to taste and tour.
Mead is meant to be enjoyed after a short (four-month) fermentation and aging process. Heidrun varietals taste like sparkling wine, but with a distinctive honey-tone. Not surprisingly, as it takes 8 ounces of honey to produce one bottle of this delicious bubbly.
The Meadery has been at home on a 16-acre former cattle ranch since 2011, its production facility a renovated milking barn fitted out with state-of-the-art sparkling wine making machinery and equipment. Heidrun meads were first crafted in Arcata in Humboldt County. Bay Area being its primary market made a move to Marin a winning formula and foodies and fermentation fans from around the region now come calling in a bee-line of their own.
A full-time horticulturalist and a bee keeper are on staff. Nine hives supply just enough honey for a limited production highly prized Point Reyes Wildflower Estate Varietal, several other options might not be quite as hyper-local but are just as good. California native flowers are planted on site, particularly those with an optimum blue and purple color scheme that bees love.
Additional hives in Marshall and Bolinas make equally distinctive honey for unique mead. Billions of bees on the Hawaiian islands are to thank for the Meadery's bulk supply of a mind-boggling 55 gallon honey barrel stockpile for the necessary fixings for the majority of Heirdrun's mead.
To make a sparkling mead it's necessary to liquify one part honey with four parts water and give it a quick boil to kill off wild yeast. Pollen and wax are skimmed off and the liquified honey is cooled and inoculated with sparkling wine yeast. This, in turn, eats all the sugar from the honey and creates carbon dioxide.
After initial bubbles are removed over a week long period, soon-to-be-sparkling mead sits in a stainless steel Champagne kettle for a month before the clear part of the liquid is syphoned into a bottling kettle, inoculated with fine cane sugar, bottled and stoppered with beer caps ready for secondary fermentation in wooden casing.
The next process that rids the mead of dead yeast and sediment involves the time-old practice of hand turning bottles a quarter turn daily on an old-fashioned, up-right wooden rack for one week.
Bottles are then placed in a thoroughly more modern machine called a neck freezer for disgorging the sediment. Pressure in the bottles shoots out the sediment when bottle caps are removed and corking comes into play.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, the term Honeymoon derives from the drinking of honeyed meade, gifts given during the first month of marriage: "Mid 16th century (originally denoting the period of time following a wedding): from honey + moon. The original reference was to affection waning like the moon, but later the sense became 'the first month after marriage'.
Southern Sonoma County readers interested in tasting these lovely (12.5% alcohol) bubblies may pick up a bottle or two at Vine & Barrel or Wilibees in Petaluma, or look for Heidrun Mead on the wine menus at Lagunitas Brewing Company, Speakeasy and Wild Goat Bistro.
Heidrun Meadery is located at 11925 State Route ,Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
If you'd like to taste and tour, do make a reservation ahead of time.
Picnic tables around back and in front of the tasting barn are reservable too. The Meadery is just a little ways out of Point Reyes Station, traveling north on Highway One. Pick up picnic supplies in town or pack your own.
"I have never seen mead enjoyed more in any hall on earth,"
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf
"They sat at the table with their wooden drinking bowls filled with mead,"
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
"The years have passed like swift draughts of sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the west,"
J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Mark you calendars for September 12th, 2015 for the South County's glitziest annual fundraising galas — Petaluma Educational Foundation BASH – Cirque du Soiree!
This fun and glamorous event takes place under the PEF Big Top at 901 Lindberg Lane, Petaluma. Always a sell-out evening with exciting live and silent auctions, live music and a Fund the Future paddle raise benefiting all 38 local K-12 schools.
The night begins with cocktails and appetizers before taking to the stage and celebrate our schools, community partners and individual supporters.
Festivities continue with dancing by one of the Bay Area’s top dance bands, The Cheeseballs! Watch for more exciting updates about the 2015 BASH on PEF's Facebook page!
Please contact Maureen Highland at PEF (707) 778-4632 for information on 2015 BASH Event Corporate Partnership opportunities.
Hard to believe this is the 6th year of Rivertown Revival, our local, arts-based, community festival highlighting the funky Petaluma River and so many of our region's favorite resident artists and musicians.This year's event includes an art boat race and parade, floating art barges and an all-day music, art, food and drink fest with over 40 local vendors. Tie the knot with a $5 wedding at the Hitching Post, craft or decorate a slough-worthy vessel, strut your stuff in your best steam-punk/Victorian attire down at Petaluma's Steamer Landing, July 18th from 11 am to 8pm. $10 entrance benefits The David Yearsley River Heritage Center/Friends of the Petaluma River non-profit.
History resides in quiet splendor at number 771 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, Marin County. In 1874 (French immigrant baker turned brickmaker) Claude Callot leased property from a large dairy rancher in Larkspur, named Patrick King. Claude started his own brickyard across the creek from the Biggins brickyard where he'd learned his new trade.
The industrious Frenchman dug clay from the hillside behind the buildings. This raw material was thrown into wooden molds to form bricks. Sand-struck bricks were fired in field kilns. By 1879, Claude had taken ownership of his brickyard property. By 1880, he had eight laborers manufacturing common red brick, some used locally, but most shipped from Ross Landing to rapidly developing San Francisco. Two million bricks per year were manufactured at the Callot Brickworks.
According to California Bricks: "In 1881, Jean Escalle, a friend of Claude Callot, arrived from France to help out at (Claude's) brickyard. When demand for brick in the mid-1880s declined, the property turned to winemaking under Escalle. A popular inn and recreational resort was built on the property and a train station nearby was named for Escalle".
The Golden Gate Bridge wasn't built until 1937, so for many years, early San Franciscans visited Larkspur via boat to spend the day wine tasting in the fresh, country air.
"The red and white wines produced there were sold at Escalle's own inn, and customers came by train and buggy to quench their thirst and enjoy themselves. Fine horses, like fine wines, were a point of pride with Escalle".
Latticed summer houses provided accommodations for resort visitors. "Jean Escalle and his expert assistants, including relatives from France once made their wines".
According to women's editor, Florence Donnelly: "Claude Callot had built a large home for his wife Ellen. In his stable he had two matched pairs of Clydesdale horses which he had bought in France. To care for the animals he sent for 23-year-old Jean Escalle, in 1881.
After Claude's death, Jean married his widow, who was 15 years his senior. For several years he operated the brickyards and then decided he was more interested in vineyards and winemaking. Escalle mastered the art of making delicious red and white wines. About 20,000 gallons were made each year.
There was always a big celebration in July to mark the Fall of the Bastille and another in autumn, the vintage festival, when the winemaking was ended.The first Mrs. Escalle died in 1903 and a few years later Jean Escalle married a German girl, Wilhelmina Vogel.
Soon the German societies as well as French groups came to Escalle's Inn on weekends and holidays. Jean and Helma grew tired of running the inn and it was eventually leased or rented. However, Jean continued to make wine and delivered it in Sausalito, San Rafael and Tiburón in his horse-drawn buggy."
The enactment of prohibition put an end to his wine sales in 1920 A year later Jean Escalle died. Helma died in 1930. The wine grapes were wiped out by grape pest phylloxera that devastated much of California wine country's early vineyards.
"Before prohibition", wrote Florence, "wine was made by many Marin residents, especially those who had come from Europe. In the fall wagons filled with grapes were unloaded and the wine presses clattered along the streets as they were moved from one home to another. The wine was poured into barrels for storage in the high basements. And the autumn air was heady with the fumes of new wine".
Today, visitors return to historic grounds and beautiful redwood barns of Escalle Winery for special events such as an annual Marinscapes weekend long event that raises much needed funding for the crucial multi-county Buckelew Program. This well attended exhibition and sale of Marin County landscape art and photography features 30 artists of regional and national renown, also benefits the Family Service Agency of Marin and The Helen Vine Recovery Center.
Buckelew Programs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families in our communities by providing mental health and addiction services that promote recovery, resilience, and hope.
Though based in Marin and also working in Napa counties, Buckelew's program extends to Sonoma County with housing and a full time Family Service Coordinator who provides education, support, and other assistance to family members and others identified as support persons of adults and transition-aged youth with mental illness.
Sonoma County born and raised singer/songwriter Em Rossi bursts onto the music scene this summer with the release of her first record from her debut album — singularly entitled "Madness".
This super talented 17-year-old and her manager mom, Karen have been driving up and down the state of California over the past year juggling the rigors of junior year in high school while working on an intense schedule with Beverly Hills based Experience Music Group and a bevy of session musicians.
Em has an exciting future ahead of her now that she has launched her authentic style and sound from a range of impassioned original songs, penned in her own hand after the sudden and unexpected passing of her beloved dad and mentor, Rob, in the spring of 2014.
Her first gig post-record release will be recorded and televised on the East Coast. Em is slated to perform over a four day period this summer at Willow Grove, in Orange County, Virginia, home of a lifestyle based tv series for Comcast's Xfinity On Demand Platform.
"I'll be getting the VIP treatment," says Em, poised and ready to hit the road and the airwaves.
Left Brain, Right Brain by Beth Hibbard
Painter, Beth Hibbard, and collagist, Kory Vanderpool open an exhibit on Saturday July 11th, in the Mezzanine Pop-Up Gallery, upstairs in The Opera House, downtown Petaluma’s newest artists’ collective, at 145 Kentucky St.
Titled “Tan-Ta-Mount,” the show will touch on themes of acceptance, intimacy, and understanding and exploring the human condition. “The Opera House is a wonderful location that combines Old World charm with a large and inviting open space. Beth and I are very excited and honored to be featured in the first pop-up exhibit,” said Kory Vanderpool.
The Opera House Collective is newly opened thus June 2015 and features handcrafted art and treasures from local artists, as well as hand-picked antiques and international fair trade pieces. Its overreaching goal is to support artists and the energized art and craft culture in the community.
Reception: July 11, 2015, 6-9pm. Music from San Francisco-based, Mozark. Appetizers provided by Whole Foods Market.
Exhibition: July 11-31, 2015
Opera House Collective 145 Kentucky Street, Petaluma CA 707-774-6576
If you haven't already made a note to self to hurry on over to Petaluma Arts Center post haste for this summer's fabulous visiting exhibition Edgar Degas The Private Impressionist, do so soon!
You don't have to be a fine art aficionado to appreciate a rare appearance of world famous art in your own home town — and when you consider the entrance fee for most exhibitions of this calibre, Petaluma Arts Center's suggested donation of $10 to view this extraordinary, private Degas collection, is affordable for all. Plan sufficient time to fully appreciate this inspirational and informative show.
Curator of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Ann Dumas describes Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (pictured above) as: "A true connoisseur. For more than 28 years, with passion, persistence, deep knowledge and an unnerving sense of when to seize an opportunity, he has been assembling a unique (Degas) collection".
Image courtesy of the private collection of Robert Flynn Johnson,
Robert enthralled attendees at a press conference preview of the show with an incredibly detailed insight into not only his remarkable collection of Degas works (mostly portraiture), but an overview of the sense of the creative spirit in Paris over a 40 to 50 year period from the 1860s through 1915.
Detailed notes accompany each of around 70 pieces of original art, a "quirky" collection, amassed one by one by a curator on a curator's salary over an actual 40 year period. "I couldn't possibly do it today," said Robert, who bought his first Degas drawing when he was assistant curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. "It took me months to pay for," he said.
Robert Flynn Johnson deflected his role in the importance of this collection, though the crowd gathered for the press conference were clearly captivated by his story.
Standing outside of the Arts Center with Petaluma's famous skyline of a grain mill as backdrop, he remarked on the amazing good fortune of the exhibition coming to this small Sonoma County city. "Petaluma is punching way above its weight class," he said, as he outlined enormous efforts made to bring Degas to the gateway to wine country.
Christies Auction House helped, he helped and donors listed in a photo at the bottom of this post joined forces to provide initial funding. Special events and the nominal entrance fee won't cover the exhibition's considerable costs, so generous sponsorship from patrons of the arts is absolutely essential. "There are many individuals in this community who believed in this and I'm delighted that it's here," said Robert.
He described Degas as a: "Complex man, a man who had very strong opinions. This makes him endlessly interesting to read about and to try to understand".
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas was born in France in July 19th, 1834 (he died in 1917). He was famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. Degas is considered one of the founders of Impressionism although he preferred to be called a realist. Over half of his works depicted dancers. His dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes were and continue to be his most popular works, though his portraiture is respected in the art world as amongst the finest in history.
Robert Flynn Johnson collects the portraiture of Degas, whereas most collectors don't. He was an "opportunist collector" able to "go under the radar" with his purchases. In the 1970s, a Degas original drawing that wasn't a ballerina or a horse could be bought for $500. He had been a prolific artist. Drawn by its "spontaneity" and Degas' perception as a "sensitive observer", Robert has the greatest respect for Degas having done his work for himself, not for pleasing the public.
"He had a bit of J.D. Salinger in him. He was a very curious individual, a kind of misanthrope".
Degas never married or had children. He sold ballerina works in part to pay off the debts of his two bankrupted brothers. The artist was intent to save his family's aristocratic name from shame. He served in the French/Prussian War and was a staunch nationalist. After the war, he came to Louisiana where he stayed for a year in New Orleans.
He never bought property for a studio and moved around often. Degas never painted outdoors during his time in Louisiana he had poor eyesight and considered the light to be too bright.
"Is painting done to be looked at? Do you understand me? . . . Is it any business of journalists if I make pictures, boots or cloth slippers? Painting concerns one's private life". — Edgar Degas in a letter.
A single bronze sculpture is featured in the show. "One of the most important things you collect is not art but friendships," said the curator. The avant-garde 1920s bust in his collection was found in a car boot sale in the UK and came into Robert Flynn Johnson's collection via a collector friend who'd bought it from the first, fortunate finder.
A glossary of art terms is featured in the exhibition, explaining all the various mediums employed by Degas.
In the artist's words: "A picture is first of all a product of the imagination of the artist. It must never be a copy. If then two or three natural accents can be added, no harm done. The air we see in the paintings of the old masters is never the air we breathe". — Degas.
There are still tickets available for a special Preview Gala at the Arts Center in Petaluma on Friday June 19th, 2015, 7-10pm.
Be among the first to see this marvelous exhibition!
$100 general, $75 members.
Buy tickets HERE or purchase at the door.
Cocktails, music, traveling buffet.
An Opening Reception takes place Saturday June 20th, from 5-8pm
Hors d'oeuvres, wine tastes and no-host bar.
$10 general, free for members.
Buy tickets or reserve your entry HERE.
Exhibition Runs: Sunday June 21st, 11am to Sunday July 26th, 5pm
$10 general, free for members.
Buy tickets HERE.
Bring your membership card for quicker entry.
Petaluma Historical Museum is set to host a very special duo-pianist concert this summer to commemorate America’s first concert pianist and composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk's historic Petaluma visit and performance
Gottschalk (1829-1869) played in Petaluma exactly 150 years ago, on July 27, 1865. He was the “rock star” pianist of the day, mobbed by adoring fans wherever he went.
Born in New Orleans in 1829 and trained in Paris, Louis Moreau Gottschalk was considered one of the greatest pianists in the world.
He was a noted composer and conductor, staging “monster” concerts that often included up to 30 pianos and orchestras with a mind-boggling 650 musicians.
Celebrity gossip is nothing new. Three months after his appearance in Petaluma, Gottschalk became the subject of international scandal when he was accused of romantic trysts with a young female student in Oakland.
Faced with an onslaught of negative publicity, he traveled to South America where he continued to perform, compose and conduct mostly his own much-loved music until his death on December 18, 1869.
The 2105 commemorative concert takes place Monday evening July 27th at 7:30 pm. Pianists Marilyn Thompson and Antonio Iturrioz will perform 2-hand and 4-hand pieces by Gottschalk.
Admission is $10 general seating, $15 balcony and free to students. Tickets are available at the Petaluma Historical Museum, 20 4th Street in Petaluma, phone (707) 778-4398 or from their website: www.petalumamuseum.com
Sonoma Coast Spirits, located in the hoppin' brew district on North McDowell Blvd in Petaluma, has rebranded its award winning lemon drop martini and launched two additional craft cocktails: Thirty-two proof "Pomegranate-Lime" and "Mango Tango".
Pomegranate-lime is handcrafted using premium vodka, pomegranate juice and lime for a refreshing twist.
Mango Tango is also handcrafted using premium vodka, mango, pineapple, coconut and lime for a delightful tropical infusion.
These three deliciously refreshing cocktails are being widely distributed in the best local markets in the North Bay.
Summering in Petaluma? Look out for Sonoma Coast Spirit pours (if you're over 21!) at Petaluma Arts Center events, Rivertown Revival, Art and Garden Festival and Taste of Petaluma.
For more information and news on upcoming pouring and tastings, please visit www.sonomacoastspirits.com