Saturday, August 30, 2008

Napa Valley Wine-Making

On a warm August day, I took a drive to Napa Valley to help a wine-making friend of Dick's, Jerry Hill and his wife Andi, bottle a couple barrels of pinot noir wine. Jerry, a home wine-maker is going big-time and bottling wine for resale.

A group of Jerry's friends - Dick, Gary, and Deb - volunteered to help in the bottling process. My friend, Pam, who lives in Calistoga also joined the work party.

I enjoy drinking fine wine but never knew how the process of making wine works. This was a very interesting day and I learned a great deal about what is involved in making wine. Jerry deserves alot of credit. Bottling wine is only one phase of wine-making and it is really hard work.

The following pics highlight this phase of the process.

Note: To view enlarged photo, mouse over picture and click

The winery where the bottling took place is located at a friend of Jerry's in the north-end of the beautiful Napa Valley. Jerry buys grapes from Napa Valley and Amador County and crushes the grapes and processes the wine here.

On the premises are some neat historic artifacts

This old Ford truck was stored behind the wine cellar

First step in the bottling process, unload cases of empty wine bottles. We bottled 37 cases of wine today.

The cave where the barrels of wine are stored. It took us 9 hours to bottle 1 1/2 barrels of wine.

Gary sticks the tube into the barrel to start the filtering process

Jerry installing paper filters in each slot of the wine filtering machine. This was a brand new machine and took us awhile to get it working properly.

Dick and Jerry finally get it figured out. It pays to read the instruction book. Note the red wine flowing through the tubes into and out of the filtering machine.

Eureka!! We got wine!!

Filtered pinot noir flowing into the big bucket

Once the big tubs are full, we can start the bottling process.

L-R Deb, Andi, Dick and Gary

Putting overflow wine into smaller jugs

Let the bottling begin. Gary mans the filling machine taking filtered wine from the tubs and putting it into the bottles.

Dick and I work the corking machine

The production line cranked up and working smoothly

The first case of newly bottled pinot noir. Off to the labelling machine.

Pam and Dick on the production line. End of a long and rewarding day.

Andi holds the finished product. The bottled wine must be stored for 2 months to eliminate "bottle shock" before it can be drunk.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shot Rock Vista Hike

The Sacramento County Hikers led by Rich Blackmarr completed another outstanding hike in the High Sierra on a beautiful late summer day (August 23rd). The hikers tackled the expansive granite slabs of Shot Rock Vista off Hwy 88 near Silver Lake.

Unlike most previous hikes, there was no defined trail and the hikers had to find their way across vast fields of granite slabs and bushwhack across low-growing manzanita bushes and rocky rubble.

The 7-mile loop hike traversed several stream watersheds, went by a couple ponds/lakes, and ended on an 8,000' high ridge with a view down the Bear River watershed and Bear River Lake.

Note: To view enlarged photo, mouse over picture and click

The hiker line-up L-R Tom, Chip, Rich, Mike, Jean, Dixie, Carol. Missing Frank G. and Frank F.
I'm taking pic.

Frank G. traversing Slab City. This was a cool hike with most of the route crossing vast slabs of granite. We hiked up and over the ridge lying up ahead to a beautiful unnamed lake beyond the saddle.

Some of the group heading down hill toward the first dry stream crossing

Foto opp time with group taking seats in natural granite amphitheater

Being late summer, the streams were dry but we came across a few small ponds

Heading up the first steep climb following the edge of a granite ramp

Frank G. and Jean posing in front of gnarly "bristlecone-like" pine

Discovering a beautiful unnamed lake where we stopped for lunch

Taking 5 in front of a fine lake

Tons of erratics on top of a mountain

Can you spot the hikers crossing the granite field?

From the 8,000' ridge, we can view Pyramid Peak (on right) and Desolation Wilderness way to the north

To the south is Bear River Lake

A fungi bike saddle. . . kinda' lumpy!

Following the white line, a contrasting band of granite embedded in granite field. Strange but true.

Two rocks and ponderosa pine

We had dinner at Plasses Resort on the south-shore of beautiful Silver Lake. Great way to end a fine day of hiking.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008



I am delighted to report that I got my first bloom of the season. The seeds sown in April are bearing "fruit" four months later. Those of you who are following my blog and attended Patti's Memorial will know that the sunflower seeds were mailed to us from our wonderful RV friends, Dawn and Jeff, who reside most of the year on the east-coast. About 100 seed packets were available for those wanting to plant the sunflowers in memory of Patti.

The stalks have shot up and are now 10-12' tall with the coming of the heat and hot sun of summer. The first bloom is on the plant on the right. A close-up shot is on the next foto below. Hopefully, the other stalks will also bloom which it appears they will.

I will leave the blooms on the plants to dry out and provide seeds for the fall migrating birds. I'm sure Patti is delighted and smiling from above at the success of Mr. Greenthumbs.

First bloom of the year!!

Isn't this great!

Patti's sunflowers

Monday, August 4, 2008

Part 1 - Eastern Sierra Trip - Mt. Morgan Hike

Our third annual trek to the Eastern Sierras took place between July 28th and August 3rd. We base-camped at the Brown's Owens River Campground near Mammoth Lakes for 6 nights at an elvation of approximately 6,900'.

The weather was warm but not overly hot and perfect for our hiking and biking outtings.

The Yosemite fires caused some smokey days but a strong north wind kicking up at mid-afternoon blew out most of the smoke and haze.

On this trip, I was joined by Herb Lee, Dennis Engblom; Jim Mullen and Dan The Man from Grass Valley; Jay Okada, Reza, Ralph and Kathy Battles from SLO

Rich Blackmarr, Mike Donohue, Mark and Julian Manoff came down for two days and joined us for the Mt. Mogan Hike

The blog entry for the Eastern Sierra trip is composed of four entries:
Part 1 - Mt. Morgan hike
Part 2 - Cycling Rock Creek Road
Part 3 - Hiking Devil's Post Pile and Rainbow Falls
Part 4 - Camping out at Owen's River Campground

Note: To view enlarged photo, mouse over picture and click

Part 1 starts below:

Dan points toward Mt. Morgan, elevation 13,758', the tiny peak on the big mountain in the middle.

From the trailhead at Rock Creek Lake, elevation 9500', the route to the summit is a challanging 6 mile hike.

Group foto of Team Flomax at Francis Lake - Dennis, Mark, Dan, Jim, Jay, Me, and Reza.
Herb taking pic. Missing Ralph, Mike, Julian and Rich.

At the higher elevations, the wildflowers were in full bloom. The meadows were quite beautiful.

The difficult part of the hike begins after leaving Francis Lake. For the remaining 2+ miles to the top, you have to slog through massive boulder fields which are quite treacherous. There is no defined trail and you have to pick your way the best you can.

In the pic above, Dan takes the steep approach to the next ridge.

Ralph, Reza and Jay begin picking their way up the first boulder field

Where's Waldo?

Can you find Ralph in the foto?

The lower boulder field above Francis Lake is a massive jumble of huge rocks and boulders. This was the most difficult part of the hike to navigate. Footing was treacherous and we could easily get disoriented and lose our way to the summit.

Herb and Jay makes it safely to the top of the first ridge after weaving their way through the massive lower boulder field

Time for lunch - L-R Jay, Herb, Ralph, Dan and Jim

I pick up my pace on the next leg. The others are down the slope.

At around 12,500' and looking down on several lakes to the northwest. Rock Creek Lake is the one on the right. This is where we started the hike.

Jim nearing the top. Still more sharp boulders to traverse.

I'm nearing the top. Only about 500' left to go.

Awesome is an over-used word but appropriate here. Views to the south from the summit.

Views to the southwest

Views to the northeast. The White Mountain range lies across the Owens Valley.
Note the sharp drop-off right below us.

A major hump to the west

Yee haa! Jim is almost to the top

Ralph is the 2nd one to make it to the top

Jim, Ralph and Dan at the summit. Herb arrived about an hour later. Of the 11 hikers who started the hike, the five of us were the only ones to summit Mt. Morgan.

It took us about 10 hours to complete the 12+/- mile RT hike


This weekend was another milestone day for me. August 3rd would have been Patti and my 40th wedding anniversary. She passed away on April 4th so I dedicated this hike to her.

She was with me in spirit and helped me power up the mountain. My rapid pace was attributed to her angel wings carrying me up the mountain.

After cresting the summit, we all yelled "Happy 40th Anniversary Patti!!"

While at the top, a white-throated swift came whizzing by my head a couple times. Patti and I were passionate birders. I took this as a message that she acknowledged my presence.