Sunday, November 30, 2014

International Gatherings at Lucinda's

I was thinking where do all our guests come from after I read a recent post on a Linkedin forum I belong to that said they get folks from all over the world. The first post to the forum said they are hosting people from Germany in their Dutch B&B. That prompted others to reply with some of their visitors' place of origin: France, Spain, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, Poland, to name just a very few. Well, Lucinda and I have known for some time we get visitors from around the world; so to prove that to myself, I spent a little time reviewing our computer's guest data base and sure enough we have had people stay with us from: Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Taiwan, England, Ireland  and a few other places that we don't have complete information in our data base.

One of the Murder in Fair Play events with the party goers at the height of fun. One of the mystery players is from London.

I mention this only because meeting people from around the world was one BIG reason Lucinda decided she'd like to do a bed and breakfast. She wanted to have a diversity of guests. We both worked in environments that had many fellow workers from different parts of the world and the people we dealt with were from a large diverse group. The Linkedin post I mentioned also said they had started or bought their B&B's because they wanted they same thing. Most of those B&B's in the posts were in areas that we think would be great places visit: France, Belgium, Netherlands, England, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica  and many more.

A group from Hawaii with several ancestral backgrounds. It is great fun to be with them.

The point of this is really quite simple, our lives are rich with friendly people from all over the world. With this mixture of societies and personalities we all have a great time in the great room here at Lucinda's Country Inn. We didn't have life long dreams of doing Lucinda's, but when we got the bug we knew it would be a perfect match for us. We have loved our experience here at Lucinda's and we continually strive to make your experiences wonderful. The friendships and great people we have shared tales with is unbelievable. Just last Friday a Naval Aviator of 27 years was with us. He told me he was the flight commander for the flight over Libya in that late 1980's raid with two KIA's. He's had over 5,000 hours in Navy flying machines and has made more than 1,000 carrier landings. I was enthralled with that because I wanted to be a fly boy when I was much younger. Unfortunately  I became to old for flight school, as all the schools were closing admissions in 1973. Oh well, I lived through Wayne's stories last Friday.

'Til Next Time ....


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fair Play Terroir

I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder what makes the wines so great.We all know the winemaker slaves over his harvest, crush, fermentation and barrel aging, but most of us don't know about the Fair Play Terrior. That word is pronounced tar-war. Similar to pronunciation of Pinot Noir. After all, both are French. That means we have to say them the same way. I can't and I seldom try with any success.

Mastroserio Vineyards just finishing harvest, south facing slope.

So what is the Fair Play Terroir? I've just thrown in Fair Play as that is the area I'm writing about. Fair Play is an American Viticulture Appellation (AVA). That means Fair Play is now known as an area that has grapes grown which are unique to Fair Play; and if they are sold outside of Fair Play and are used as a varietal in wine, the label must say Fair Play. You've seen labels with Napa, Paso Robles, Sonoma,  etc. and then the name of the wine - Cabernet Sauvignon. The AVA labeling is a legal act that keeps grapes special for the area they were grown in. What makes the area where they are grown has all kinda of different elements. All those things thrown together are the Terroir.

Iverson Vineyard with Malbec vines on the east slope.

When using Fair Play Terroir together I am really speaking about the culture of the Fair Play wine industry. The terroir is really an inclusive word for all aspects of what makes the grapes, not only the wine. Many experts can agree on only a few elements of terroir, but most agree terroir is largely the soil, micro-climates, agricultural practices and the environment of the home of the grape vines. Discussions of terroir can incorporate proximity to mountain ranges like here in Fair Play or with closeness to rivers, headwaters, valleys, dormant or extinct volcanoes, mineral deposits, old-growth forests or strong ocean currents. Terroir is a blanket term for nearly everything that has or will affect the soil in which the grape roots will feed.

In a nutshell terroir is almost everything about where a grape vine is located and planted. A north facing slope above a river which is fed from a lake in a volcano crater has very distinct and different aspects of its growth than a vine planted on a south facing slope with little crevasses and loamy decomposed granite soils and large oak trees near by. From the toiling of the soil to the finished bottle is the terroir of the wine.  Many a wine snob, ooppss, I mean expert, has their own long winded explanation of what they mean by terroir. Seldom do you hear complete agreement, nor is there a reason for complete agreement. Terroir is the interpretation of the wine and wine making activities for those distinct and different grape growing regions and wine making practices. 

Bountiful is on the Windwalker driveway through their entrance gate on the south slope.

The reality of it all comes down to the terroir of the wine you are enjoying in a tasting room or at home. You can discuss some sort of terroir of the wine and you will sound like you really know something. Just say the word terroir the next time you are in a tasting room and even most tasting room people will look at you like you're weird. Just don't sound like a snob and always enjoy all the wines you drink. Remember, the best wine in the world is the one YOU LIKE.

.....'Til next Time


Friday, October 3, 2014

What is in Fair play? - The History of the Fair Play Wine Country # 3

I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder how it all started. This is the third and final part of the History of the Fair Play Wine Country. Hold on  to your seat, this will be like a Vin Diesel & Paul Walker "Fast & Furious".

A the conclusion of part 2 I said Cindy & I lived next to a future winery. Mike and "D" Iverson lived on the back side of the property we rented while we started our construction of Lucinda's Country Inn. They both worked "down the hill" while moving dirt, planting vines and rearranging the barn, the storage shed and almost everything else on their property. We could sit on our patio looking at the setting sun and see Mike & "D" walking to their mail box at the end of their driveway. We have become good friends. They opened in March of 2006. 

This view is when you are driving up the driveway to Iverson Winery.

I make no apologies for the non-chronological order of the winery start positions. From the time Cindy and I started building Lucinda's Country Inn until today there have been over two dozen new wineries open in the Fair Play Appellation. Our little corner of the world has truly become a mecca of great boutique wineries; all have won many awards. The terroir and micro-climates of the Fair Play Wine Country make the region a standout for full bodied, rich flavored wines, like Zinfaandel, Barbera, Petite Syrah, just to name a few. The following is a thumbnail of the other wineries I have not already covered in my two privious posts about the history of the Fair Play Wine Country.

dkcellars finally opened their tasting room in Fair Play after many years of having tastings in the Vino de Plaza tasting center in Lockford, just east of Stockton. Firefall Winery's tasting room was on Mt. Aukum Rd. room near the Somerset four way stop sign. Their vineyard is up Grizzly Flat Rd. After Firefall left their tasting room, Cantiga Winery opened in that space while their winery was being built on Grizzly Flat Rd. Now, that building houses the Bechard Winery tasting room, with their vineyard is up Grizzly.

 Busby Cellars Vineyard and historic barn

Speaking of Grizzly Flat Rd., Busby Cellars Vineyard and Winery was developed by the owners, Elliott & Sherrie Graham, with them doing most of the work themselves. Saluti Cellars in a about 3 miles from the Somerset 4-way stop sign; up Grizzly Flat Rd. Randy & Tina Rossi have developed without question one of the most beautiful winery properties ever created.

At the corner of Fairplay Rd. and Mt. Mount was Sierra Oaks Winery tasting room for many years, until the owner, Jim Brown, retired and closed up shop. As we went through the grueling County process of permitting, Paul Toogood out smarted the County by drilling into the hillside for caves. He by-passed the county and got permitted by the State Mines & Geology for the Toogood Winery. John Alexander blasted his way into Fair Play by dynamiting the building pad for his Colibri Ridge Winery into the rocks on the Grey Rock Rd.

Mt. Aukum Winery built their tasting room on Mt. Aukum on Tower Rd., named for the communication tower adjacent to the winery. Cheateau Routon is an Arabian Horse ranch as well as their winery. Their tasting room has one of the best panoramic views in the Fair Play Wine Country. Linda Neil at Mellowood Winery started her own vineyard and winery after many years of vineyard management in Napa.

Mellowood Vineyard's tasting room after a dusting of snow last winter.

Cindy & I attended an Ag Commission meeting where Golden Leaves owner, John Verbitsky, said he was going to have an assembly room for about 50 people. Boy the the sh** hit the fan. He now has a tasting room that holds about 50 people. Jonathan Lachs & Susan Marks developed the hill behind Single Leaf, up Marestail Lane for their Cedarville Winery. Mike & Carrie Skinner have one of the most spectacular views of the Fair Play Valley. Mike Skinner's family roots go way bay to the mid-1800's with vineyards. His ancestors planted grapes in Recuse before there were anything like tasting rooms. Now his Skinner Winery sits atop a hill with the tasting room is surrounded by great rock walls and patios.

From the upper deck at Skinner's tasting room you can see forever.

Robert Van der Vijver of Van der Vijver Estates has the motto,"Ask for Forgivenss". His approach has worked well for him. MV is short for Miller Vineyards. John Miller had to change his name because ABC said there was already a Miller Vineyards Winery. Shadow Ranch Vineyards & Winery shares the long windy driveway with Gwillan Estates. Both are nestled atop hills with good views. Palissandro Vineyards & Winery planted several Italian varietals, so they will have truly Italian wines to enjoy. The last one I will mention is not really a winery, but a commercial tasting room, Winery By the Creek. This tasting room is owned by Charles Mitchell and the grapes are from all over California.

For a good look at the wineries in the Fair Play Winery Association click here . I've mentioned Cindy & I several times in these three posts. Cindy is actually Lucinda of Lucinda's Country Inn and I am the tag along whose name was not used for the Inn.

I hope you have enjoyed this three part historical winery journey. Join us in Fair Play, so you too can "experience the Fair Play difference".

...'Til Next Time


Thursday, August 21, 2014

What is in Fair Play? The History of the Fair Play Wine Country # 2

I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder how it all started. This is the second part of the History of the Fair Play Wine Country. Lucinda's Country Inn is as much a part of the history of the Fair Play Wine Country as many of the newer wineries.

Lucinda's Country Inn lower entrance.

Lucinda (Cindy) & I bought the property in 1997. We quickly began to redirect the drainage. You never really control the water runoff, but you can help it flow into places you want it to go. We installed a 12" by 450' long culvert on the east side of our building site. On the west there is an 18" by 500 foot long one. That helped keep the vast majority of water from running directly through our building site. We then were able to build Lucinda's Country Inn, with the help a a large 600 foot long french drain on the Perry Creek Rd. side of the building site..

I mention Lucinda's Country Inn before any of the wineries because the first four wineries were the only ones really in Fair Play before Cindy & I became a small part of Fair Play. Well, I guess that's not exactly, completely true. Perry Creek Vineyards & Winery and Single Leaf Winery were in their infancy, a little while before we opened Lucinda's Country Inn. 

Perry Creek was started by a gentleman from Southern California who made his money in the textile business. Michael Chasen built his winery, planted his grapes and became known for his auto collection and the walk-in cigar humidor. He later bought 7UP Bar Ranch and converted it into a B&B  and added more vines on that property. Cindy & I stayed many a night at 7UP Bar Ranch B&B while we looked for our property and started our work on Lucinda's. Single Leaf Winery was started by Scott & Pam Miller, who at the time lived in Carson City, NV. Scott was the curator for the Nevada State Museum while Pam toiled  as a lobbyist for the Nevada Contractors. They traveled over the hill for decades planting their vines and tending to the efforts of starting their winery. They live in a 5th Wheel while doing all this. Finally, after opening their tasting room they got their home built. 

Today this is the view from Single Leaf's deck over looking their vineyard and the Fair Play Valley.

A quick digression: Cindy & I frequented Fair Play from Southern California when we lived there for a few years. On one trip we saw a sign on the road "Winery OPEN". The driveway went up the long hill to a little red building, not much bigger than a small farm barn. There was a concrete pad on the side of the "barn" so we knew it wasn't a farm operation. We heard a man's voice yelling "I'll be right there." It was Scott yelling from his tractor down hill in the vineyard. About five minutes later he was walking up beating dirt from his clothes as he approached. We were the first official wine tasters for Single Leaf Winery.

So when we started the detailed plans for Lucinda's Country Inn there were just 6 wineries in Fair Play. We designed Lucinda's based on the fact of no restaurants and few wineries in Fair Play. Before we started building two more wineries were added. Oakstone Winery and Chalet Fleur de Lys were up and running.
Oakstone Winery up from the ashes as Oakstone2.0 !

John and Susan Smith were the founders of Oakstone Winery. They opened their tasting rooms doors in 1997. In John's prior life he was a chemist with Johnson & Johnson's Life Scan Division. Susan was a teacher in a community college in the Bay Area, where they moved from. John worked with Scot Miller at Single Leaf for a time. Neither will admit who was teaching who the wine making skills, but both do admit they'd be worse off without the other's help. One fine summer night about four years ago a fire started in the Oakstone barrel room. When the forklift's propane fuel tank got hot enough it exploded and blew Oakstone Winery to smithereens. The fire burned everything but one portion of one wall. Everything was lost. Fortunately, a few years earlier John had started another small winery, just for him to have fun making obscure wines, hence the name Obscurity Cellars. So Oakstone 2.0 was born out of the ashes of Oakstone and in the facilities of Obscurity Cellars. Steve & Liz Ryan make an excellent team and have preserved the integrity of Oakstone and are championing great strides to keep the traditions of Oakstone alive and growing.

John Smith summarized another winery was in Fair Play before most of the second wave started.  The Slater Winery specialized in vegetable and fruit wines like cucumber, squash, peach and apple. He lasted only one season. That's why most folks don't list him as a real winery

Chalet Fleur de Lys was born from the labor of love of the outdoors and growing things. Robert Lajoie was in the printing business for many years when he and his wife, Mireille, discovered El Dorado County on a trip to Coloma to pan for gold. Their migration began in Montreal then to Burbank and they finally moved to Fair Play and started their vineyard venture in 1996. The Gilpin family of Windwalker helped Robert with the beginnings of their operation. In fact, Robert used to work in the Windwalker tasting room with Arnie. Both fed off each to tell outrageous stories and have lots of fun. They became "grasshoppers", everlasting friends. Cindy & I would stop in at Windwalker and Arnie would have us take their grasshopper to Robert's, and vise a virsa. The Fleur de Lys tasting room opened as Lucinda's Country Inn was going through the torture of the County permitting process. Cindy & I would venture to Robert & Meri's on Sunday afternoons late and lament about the rigors we went through the past week and shared stories about them & us going through the BS (Business Stuff) of the County. There we few visitors in the tasting room in those early days, so Robert and I would get animated to the hilt.

Cindy & I lived next door to a future winery for two years while getting started on the construction of Lucinda's Country Inn. That winery became a newbies then. I'll explain in part 3.

"Til Next Time...


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Alive and Well After the Sand Fire Scare

I was thinking; what would it be like to stay in other places close to home.  Saturday, July 26th,  we had the unfortunate opportunity to do just that because the Sand Fire forced us to evacuate Lucinda's Country Inn and send all our guests away to safety.That was a nerve wracking experience. For 2-1/2 days we were on pins and needles awaiting official word about the Sand Fire and its advancement towards Fair Play. Yes, we got tid bits and snippets of information over the TV and radio. The officials in charge were dedicated to getting the Sand Fire under complete control. We finally started to get some real details via the Cal Fire website on Sunday night and Monday morning. We returned to a standing Lucinda's Country Inn on Tuesday, July 29th; just as a precaution we stayed that extra night. The fire was being somewhat controlled until Saturday afternoon when the winds blew it out of control. So we knew it had a potential to do it again because Monday afternoon it was windy.

We returned to see her exactly as we left her. 

Saturday about 6:30pm we got the word the evacuation is for real. By the time we grabbed our photos and a few picture/paintings on the walls that are extremely sentimental, complete tree leaves blacken by the fire and chunks of wood the size of large marbles had fallen all over the property. We knew it was time to get us, our son and grandson the hell out of Fair Play. We thought most folks who evacuated on Friday and earlier than us were taking every room available in the Placerville hotels and motels. I drove up to Pollock Pines to find the two hotels there had NO Vacancies!! Driving further up Highway 50 toward Lake Tahoe, about 25 miles our side of Lake Tahoe, we found Strawberry Lodge. Cindy & I spent one night there a few years ago when we did a ride in the Highway 50 60th Wagon Train. We only slept in the room, there was an evening BBQ with dance and a Chuck Wagon breakfast. We did not have the pleasure of a dining experience.

When we got the last 2 rooms that Saturday I believe the only modernizing Strawberry Lodge ever experienced was adding electricity and plumbing. The rooms were small and the beds, linens and table and chair were from the Great Depression Era. Bad by any standard. The dining room service in the morning was by folks playing Keystone Cops, or chickens with theirs heads cut off. Cindy got our waters and coffees. It was probably the best example of how NOT to run a dining room.

Sunday & Monday nights were a sheer delight. After trying a couple other lodging establishments; both mostly filled with Cal Fire personnel, we were lucky to get the last 2 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express at El Dorado Hills. They upgraded us to their Romantic Suite and another suite. The management worked with many locals who were displaced because of the Sand Fire. Every single employee treated us like royalty. Jenny, the General Manager, even called some of the corporate clientele to ask them to wait a week before returning, so she could have room for the Sand Fire evacuees.Thank you to all Holiday Inn Express employees for your kindness and professionalism.

I write this blog to say I've found a new retreat for Cindy & I. And, it's even closer than Lake Tahoe. The Holiday Inn Express at El Dorado Hills is our new home away from home. So to answer my thought at the beginning, yes there is a great place to stay close to Fair Play. I encourage you too to stay at the Holiday Inn Express and tell 'em Daryl & Cindy of Lucinda's Country Inn sent you.

'Til nixt time....


Monday, June 23, 2014

What's in Fair Play? - History of the Fair Play Wine Country # 1

I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder how it all started. Well, I'll give you some history, at least as I know it. I think I'm pretty sure of most of the details since Cindy and I have been traveling up to the Fair Play area for over four decades and long before there was any wineries. We ran the car rallies of the late sixties and early seventies. (For those who don't remember or know about car rallies, let me explain. A car rally is either a gimmick rally or T&D - time & distance. You follow directions along country roads & byways to check points and eventually get to the finish. Either you do it to be timed and get the closest mileage that the rally master designed or you read the pages of instructions and follow the fun twists and turns in the instructions; to get to the finish line. It was usually a pizza parlor or a bar.) Up here in this part of El Dorado County the roads twist and turn and all the roads connect into another one that connects into one that connects back to the road you started from. So you really can't get TOO lost for TOO long, as long as you keep moving.

 A vine I've named Bountiful with its new grapes.

Now that you understand how we know what was in Fair Play before any wineries, I can now tell you about the vineyards and wineries. I believe it was about 1967 the UC Davis Agricultural Extension Program was studying some of the places and elevations where grapes would flourish. Vernon Gerwer owned property in Fair Play. He was a County Supervisor for many years and UC Davis contacted him about their study. They worked together to plant a few acres of grapes. A few years later there were rich, sugar concentrated grapes that matured. The next question was, were those grapes viable for making wine. The viticulture & enology department at the campus made some very good wine. Ala, wine is possible in Fair Play.

Vernon Gerwer started Gerwer Winery, Les Russel started Granite Springs Winery and Brian Fitzpatrick started Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge; they were the first three wineries in Fair Play. Of course it took a few years for the grapes to mature before making wine. They all opened for business about the same time in the early 1980's. That inspired other people to forge their own vineyards and start wineries. L.W. Richards quickly followed suit with his LW Richards Winery. He sold to the Bailey family shortly after his successful venture started. The Bailey's changed the name to Windwalker Vineyards & Winery in honor of one of their horses. In the mid '90s Arnie & Paige Gilpin bought Windwalker for their winemaker son, Rich. Now Windwalker is owned by Jim & Alanna Taff. Windwalker was awarded the Golden Bear for the BEST RED OF SHOW at the California State Fair in 2011 for their 2008 Primitivo. That was the first for any Fair Play wineries.


Owners of the earliest wineries also sold. Gerwer sold to Charles B. Mitchell who changed the name to Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards. Les Russel sold to Frank Latchman, owner/founder of Latcham Winery, who kept the name Granite Springs. Since Frank passed a few years ago the Latcham family has sold Granite Springs to Chris Barnham. After 30+ years Brian & Diana Fitzpatrick sold Fitzpatrick Winery and Lodge to Vivan Li. She has changed the name to Gold Mountain Winery and Fitzpatrick Lodge.

Here are Cindy and Sue Langman in the newest vineyard 
in September '13. The Langman Family Winery.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot to tell you. Over the years during this evolution of Fair Play Cindy & I have been to every one of these wineries and all the newer ones I'll write about next time.

'Till next time....


Monday, February 10, 2014

What is in Fair Play? - Gold Rush History # 1

I was thinking what is there about Fair Play that makes it so interesting? That is simple -- The Gold Rush ! During the 1850-1870's Fair Play was an important part of the Gold Rush environment. Fair Play was home to many saloons, hotels and places for the 49ers to find themselves some trouble. In fact, the name of Fair Play has it roots based in the gambling that dominated every establishment.Fair Play got started by two gentlemen, Charles Staples and N. Sisson, who arrived about 1851. The story goes that some time after that the two apparently fell into a disagreement about gambling that grew into what must have been a not-too-gentlemanly fight; the town lawman had enough of all the crooked gambling. One day he marched into the biggest saloon, drew his Colt 45 and fired one shot through the floor. When everyone was paying attention to him he hollered, "Listen up. I'm a tellin' ya there ain't no more cheating in this town. Here it's fair play. We follow the rules." As he pointed his 45 around the room to everyone someone yelled, " Yep, it's fair play. That's what it is here, it's Fair Play." That name has stuck every since. True? Who knows. It is a good story we in Fair Play like to tell our visitors.

Fair Play was part of the Gold Country Mercantile network.By 1860 the  post office was established in Fair Play with George Merkindollar as the first postmaster (he also owned the hotel that housed the post office).  By that time the business section of town had grown from a few quickly erected tents to several stores, owned by Purrinton & Carr,- A. Church and J. G. Carr; the hotel owned first by Mr. Merkindollar, which was later sold to M. N. Remich and then George Washington McKee; a Saloon, butcher shop, carpenter's shop and a blacksmith. As mentioned, unlike many gold rush "boom towns", the town did not die as mining slacked and the miners left, mainly because of the quality of the soils for agriculture. 

The surrounding towns had their own specialty products to sell the 49ers. This map helps you understand what is in the area around Fair Play (see if you can find the different places I write about here.).  Up Omo Ranch Rd about 10 miles is Omo Ranch. In it's heyday it was called Indian Diggins. The Miwok Indians were gold miners and their neighbors became loggers. There was a lumber mill and some shops. They milled the lumber so the miners could build their cabins, houses, sluice boxes and all the other things.

Aukum, as it was known until the name change to Mt. Aukum in 1961, was the site of an early post office that started in 1895. It was the center of the agricultural activity up and down the stage coach route between Somerset/Grizzly Flats and Plymouth in Amado County and five miles from Fair play, Mt. Aukum served as the farmers market for the 49ers to get their produce like corn meal, grain, beans, bacon, jerky and vegetables. Economic downturns in agriculture nationwide beginning in the 1870s to the Great Depression and a decrease in population of El Dorado County took a large toll on the wine industry.

In 1966 there were only 11 acres devoted to wine production in all of El Dorado County. The Higgins’ Zinfandel crop located near Mt. Aukum was similar in size to the amount of acreage devoted to wine in 1855.