Barnes & Noble, Santa Rosa, CA

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I’ve always loved the old Rosenberg’s Department Store building located at Fourth and D Streets in Santa Rosa. Built in 1936, the structure is the most significant example of the Streamline Moderne style and was the tallest building in the city. Santa Rosa’s government approved demolition of the store in 1994, but it was subsequently saved when bookstore chain Barnes & Noble leased the space. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 29, 1994.

Today was a bit too cold and rainy for sketching but I stood under an awning to keep (mostly) dry.

Winter Mustard

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With the help of December rains, mustard is in full bloom all across Sonoma County. After three years of putting off painting this scene, today I finally took the time to sketch it with my good friend Phil McDonel.

The Raven Theater and Ravenous Cafe

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Few things are more entertaining than seeing a live performance at a local theater followed by a cozy dinner. With television and the internet dominating today’s casual entertainment crowd, it’s a real pleasure to get out among the living and experience true 3D without the glasses.

The Raven Performing Arts Theater supports performances ranging from Classical (Philharmonia Healdsburg ), jazz (Healdsburg Jazz Festival), blues (Charlie Musselwhite), rock (Big Brother and the Holding Company), and variety shows such as Healdsburg’s home grown “Mr. Healdsburg” pageant. The Raven Players, Healdsburg’s resident theater group, also perform here, mounting ambitious and successful productions like Cats, Miss Saigon, and Chicago.

Performances like these are sure to work up an appetite and next-door, Ravenous Cafe is the perfect stop before or after a show. Seating up to 22 guests, this intimate spot features a menu that changes daily but often includes the ever popular crab cakes, fish tacos, and the famous Ravenous Burger.

 

Parka Blogs Interview

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Recently I was interviewed by Parka for a series of articles he’s running on the drawing tools of artists.
Check out the interview here:
Parka’s website called Parka Blogs, reviews art books from many categories including animation, concept art, game art, individual artists, sketchbooks, and instructional/education. Don’t miss the terrific list of soon to be released art books: http://www.parkablogs.com/content/upcoming-art-books
Thanks Parka!

Harvest at the Bacigalupi Ranch

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In 1973, grape harvest started off just like any other for the Bacigalupi family. The long dry summer had parched the hillsides and the sun’s warmth carried into August, broken only by early morning fog. The grapes had gone through veraison and were showing signs of color and sweetness when Mike Grgich, then-winemaker for Napa’s Chateau Montelena, stopped by the farm, and a Chardonnay contract was secured between both parties. As harvest now approached, Charles Bacigalupi and Grgich walked the vineyards every day to take samples with Mike raving about their flavor. Charles remembers, “No one had ever mentioned flavor before when talking about grapes, they were only interested in how high the sugars and acid levels were.”

Once the grapes had ripened to perfection, migrant workers were hired to help the family harvest. Back then, entire families migrated from Mexico; all family members picked fruit and were paid by the bin. When the trailer was full, it was Helen Bacigalupi who drove the grapes over to the Chateau Montelena Winery. She still remembers, “I drove a 1973 VW pickup truck and pulled a trailer full of grapes behind it. The truck barely had enough power to get up the hill through Knights Valley from Healdsburg to Calistoga” laughs Helen. “Just before I reached the hill, I gunned the gas petal, hoping that no other car would slow me down.”

Bacigalupis_truck_sWhen Helen arrived at Chateau Montelena it was about 5 pm. In those days, grapes weren’t picked at night like they are today because they didn’t have lights for the vineyard. Upon her arrival, Helen asked for the weigh scale. Mike Grgich searched but came up empty, so on subsequent trips, the grapes were weighed on the Witke’s scale in Healdsburg until all the trips had been made and the harvest was completed.

Back in 1964 when the Bacigalupi family planted six acres of Chardonnay along with four acres of Pinot Noir on their Westside Road ranch, many people thought this a risk, as the conventional wisdom and the market still leaned toward prunes. “At the time, I’d never heard of either of those two types of grapes,” says Charles, “and I had to write the names down so I wouldn’t forget them.” But in 1976, the Bacigalupis gained widespread recognition as growers, when the 1973 Château Montelena Chardonnay, made with 40% of the Bacigalupi’s fruit, won the famed Judgment of Paris tasting over many highly acclaimed French wines.

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The Judgment of Paris consisted of six California Chardonnays along with four French white burgundies that were selected for a blind tasting event in Paris by Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant. Top French wine experts judged and ranked the wines, and the 1973 Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay came out on top, making history. There was also a red blind tasting featuring California Cabernet Sauvignon vs. French Bordeaux in which Napa’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Cabernet took top prize. This single event helped to change the world’s perception of California wines.

Grgich made 1,800 cases of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay using 14 tons of grapes from the Bacigalupis, 20 tons from Henry Dick’s vineyard in Alexander Valley, and 5 tons of grapes from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich. Today, the Bacigalupi vineyard still produces fruit, but at about half its 1973 levels. Even so, the family plans to keep the famed vineyard for as long as it produces grapes.