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the north bay


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the north bay

Editors’ Note 4 Food 6 Drink 22

Recreation 36 Arts 50 Cannabis 62

PUBLISHER Rosemary Olson

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Jimmy Arceneaux Alfred Collazo Tabi Zarrinnaal

EDITORS Stett Holbrook, Molly Oleson COPY EDITORS Gary Brandt, Tom Gogola, Lily O’Brien CONTRIBUTORS James Knight, Charlie Swanson, David Templeton, Flora Tsapovsky, Nate J. Voge DESIGN DIRECTOR Kara Brown PRODUCTION OPERATIONS MANAGER Sean George

ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Lisa Marie Santos SALES OPERATIONS MANAGER Deborah Bonar ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGERS Augusto León Danielle McCoy Marianne Misz Mercedes Murolo Lynda Rael CEO/EXECUTIVE EDITOR Dan Pulcrano


Cover photograph by Tyson Rinninger/Seaplane Adventures

modern and contemporary art, explore Sonoma County’s rich past, and visit our beautiful Sculpture Garden. Our two museums are conveniently located in Downtown Santa Rosa, just an north of the Golden hour no Gate. With multiple changing exhibitions per year, there are always new things to discover!


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Now more than ever, the North Bay invites exploration There are now several North Bays in popular consciousness. There is the North Bay of world-class wineries, great breweries, delicious farm-to-table restaurants, stunning ocean and mountain vistas, thrilling mountain bike trails, a thriving legal cannabis industry and a lively arts scene. And now there is also the North Bay of the fires. Starting on the eerily warm and windy night of Oct. 8, ferocious wildfires burned for nearly four weeks across Sonoma and



Napa counties, and left an unprecedented toll of death and destruction. But early on in the fires, another North Bay emerged, one characterized by courage, resilience and, above all, compassion. Thousands of volunteers from all corners of Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties materialized in a matter of hours to gather and deliver donations of clothes, toys and medical supplies. Volunteers cooked thousands of meals and helped at evacuation centers for those who lost everything. Local businesses are offering fundraisers and free services for those affected by the fires. Countless others are helping house those left homeless. The worst of times brought out the best in people. And that spirit of generosity is ongoing. The road to recovery will be a long and sometimes painful one. But just as the first

rains of fall have given rise to the greening hillsides, the North Bay is taking steps toward rebirth. All the things that make the North Bay the singular place it is—stunning natural beauty, great food and drink, artistic creativity—have even greater resonance now as we collectively count our blessings and enjoy what we have. It’s in this spirit that we present our debut issue of Explore the North Bay, a celebration of some of our favorite people, places and things. The fires damaged the North Bay in profound ways, but they also highlighted what makes this a very special part of the world. We hope you’ll come explore it with us. Stett Holbrook, Editor, Bohemian Molly Oleson, Editor, Pacific Sun





































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FOOD ON TOUR Discovering West Marin’s culinary wealth BY MOLLY OLESON


“Daunting,” is the first response, followed by laughter. “I know it’s hard to narrow it down,” says Hill, founder and operator of West Marin Food & Farm Tours. “It’s like choosing between children, right?” Naming favorite edibles and introducing new ones is all part of the dream job Hill has created for herself: guiding groups of people through West Marin (or the “Wild West,” as she calls it) on gourmet adventures by van to sample the best local cheeses, baked goods, grass-fed meats, produce, wines and oysters. This one, on the Friday before the



history as an agricultural center, rich tales of the people who worked hard to preserve the land and insight into the flourishing sustainable food movement—sprinkled with encouragement to “Dig in!” and countless mmmmm’s from the satisfied group. The first stop of the tour sets the tone for a day full of behind-the-scenes glimpses of the processes behind the region’s most beloved edible creations. “We’re sneaking in the back,” Hill says, leading the group past a pile of almond wood used to feed the fire at Brickmaiden Breads. Inside the small bakery, three women—

homemade cookies to employees (“You are such a doll,” they tell her). A certified natural chef with a master’s degree in education, Hill says that her tour company—which was born after friends she invited to the area were so impressed by her hospitality and knowledge that they convinced her to write up a business plan— is the perfect combination of her love of food and her passion for teaching. The East Bay native’s fondness for the area sprouted when she was young, visiting her grandparents in West Marin every summer. “I just fell in love with it,”




veiled by a cloud of flour—are lizabeth swiftly kneading, rolling Hill places and pinching the dough that a cheeseboard will later be placed in the containing five old-fashioned brick oven to different types of become crunchy-on-theoutside and soft-and-fluffy-onCowgirl Creamery the-inside loaves. cheeses on a picnic “You can see how much table—speckled with effort goes into one baguette,” sun and decorated Hill says, before passing with books full of around a warm one for the group to yank pieces from. “It’s history, maps, stories definitely a labor of love.” and old photos of Hill’s admiration of and West Marin—outside appreciation for the hard work Tomales Bay Foods in behind the culinary gems that Elizabeth Hill, founder of West Marin Food & Farm Tours, takes guests by van Point Reyes Station. she reveals throughout the to experience the best of the region. She then presents day is contagious. Her love of unincorporated town celebrates the annual not only the food, but the community that a challenge to the group of five Western Weekend, is the seven-stop fosters it shines through in everything she friends that have traveled to the “Flavors of West Marin” tour. does—from waving to fellow locals on the area for the weekend: name your “It’ll be a lovely day,” Hill promises, after street, to wishing someone a happy birthday favorite cheese. an engaging rundown of the area’s long and another congratulations, to slipping


At Marin Sun Farms, a stop on Hill’s “Flavors of West Marin” tour, grass-fed burgers are enjoyed outside.




Cowgirl Creamery has become one of West Marin’s signature brands.


she says, sharing the history of her great grandparents settling in Inverness in the late 1800s, and reminiscing about sailing on Tomales Bay and picking huckleberries. “Let’s wander to our next destination,” she says, shimmery angel-wing earrings swinging above her crisp white chef’s coat, and food-lovers in tow, munching on bread. Past what will soon be a community farm stand, she introduces the group to the popular Bovine Bakery, opened in 1990 and famous for using local organic ingredients. “It was kind of an overnight hit,” she says, describing the scene on weekends, when swarms of cyclists line up outside. A ride in Hill’s big white van— adorned with a hand-painted-onwood dashboard ornament that reads, “We [heart] Drake’s Oysters”



(protecting the land has not been without challenges, she explains)— leads to Marin Sun Farms, founded by a fourth-generation Point Reyes rancher. The shop and eatery, which offers year-round, 100 percent grass-fed meats, displays bags of hickory smoking chips and a beef chart next to a large glass case containing things like Hawaiianstyle short ribs, pork garlic sausage and beer bratwurst. “I want to grill all of this,” a wide-eyed guy on the tour says. Lunch on the lawn, at a table with hay bales for seats, consists of Brussels sprouts ash-fried in pork lard, four different kinds of beef burgers and waterbuffalo-milk gelato for dessert (the announcement of one exotic flavor—candy cap mushroom— garners a loud, collective “Whaaaaaaa?!”). With full bellies, the group heads

to the roadside Table Top farm, “a cute little organic farm” that greets visitors with mason jars full of brightly colored flowers, bins of fresh produce and a whiteboard that reads, “Thanks for eatin’ your greens.” “It’s all on the honor system,” Hill says of her friend’s farm. “You take what you like and put your money in the slot.” She tells the group to feel free to wander through the field, where one woman discovers ripe raspberries. She holds one up to the sky and then savors it. “These taste better than the ones back home, and not just because I handpicked them,” she says. In the van, Hill’s love for the natural landscape is evident at every turn—from the way she admires the hills and the grazing animals to the way she wistfully glances across the bay at the beaches she swam at as a kid. “Here are some of the bees,” she

says, pulling into Heidrun Meadery, which specializes in the production of naturally sparkling meads using honey sourced both locally and from places like Hawaii and Oregon. Tastings—which take place in a greenhouse lined with California natives, succulents, edibles and herbs—are followed by a tour of fermentation equipment and a visit to the hives. “The bees are happy,” says Carly Verhey, director of sales and marketing. “They’re really productive these days.” Back on the road, the skies turn from sunny to foggy as we approach Hog Island Oyster Company, the last stop on the tour. Hill pulls into a space marked by a giant rock engraved with the words “Live to shuck.” “Let me tell you guys a little about the oysters,” she says, holding up a book titled Oyster Culture. Two “big old batches” arrive to a table the group has gathered around, and slurping from shells begins. On the way back, Hill points out the dairy farm where they make a favorite blue cheese, and explains how the tides affect the oyster beds that line the marshes. Her passengers are full of good food, laughing and feeling connected to the land. “Back to the big city,” Hill jokes, heading into Point Reyes Station. One doubts, after joining her upbeat, adventurous tour for a day, that there’s anyone better fit for the job of sharing West Marin through a local’s eyes, and celebrating everything that makes the history, landscape, food and community special. “Now you know all the good spots,” she says with a smile.


Inside Healdsburg’s one-of-a-kind Single Thread BY STETT HOLBROOK


rom the outside, Single Thread looks more like an embassy than a restaurant. The creamcolored, two-story Italianate building occupies a corner lot in downtown Healdsburg. It’s imposing and elegant. While it was once the site of a government building, the profusion of potted plants, black awnings and subtle signage reveals that it’s now a house of luxury. Open the heavy wooden door, step inside the dimly lit foyer, and you enter a carefully calibrated decompression chamber. Serenity pervades the hushed, small space. The attendants behind the reception desk don’t ask for the name of your party or consult a reservation list, but rather greet you by name as if they already know you. They do. The black and brown hues and earthy calm of the room stand in contrast to the brightly lit kitchen framed by an opening in the wall opposite the front door. Inside the proscenium, chefs in white coats, gray aprons and neat beards move with quiet focus, barely seeming to notice the guests peering in.



Single Thread executive chef Kyle Connaughton.

Unseen to diners in the kitchen is a wall of nine video monitors that track guests as they flow through different zones of the restaurant—the parking lot, the approach to the front door, the lobby, the hallway of the

five-room inn upstairs, the dining room. The video system alerts staff to guests’ arrival and whereabouts. Kind of creepy, but such is Single Thread’s attention to detail in the name of service and hospitality. Before stepping into the dining room, guests are whisked up an elevator to the roof garden for an aperitif, an appetizer and a leisurely view of the western sky above Healdsburg before heading back down the elevator. Pushing through the dining room door reveals the inner sanctum. It feels like a living room with appealing rooms and corners. Eames-like chairs were custom-made with seat backs at just the right angle to promote comfortable sitting while eating. Soft overhead lighting, potted plants, floral displays and handmade Japanese pottery arranged around the room like family heirlooms add to the elegant, but inviting effect. It’s good to get comfortable. Meals last three to five hours. The kitchen is fully open to the dining room. It’s a gleaming room of stainless steel manned by chefs who move around workstations with the deliberate precision of lab techs, hunching over plates or searing meats on an open hearth in a quiet culinary ballet for all to see.


The food at Single Thread is a work of art, as are the restaurant’s plateware and serving vessels.



Single Thread’s immaculate kitchen is on full display to diners.

«« ONE OF A KIND There is nothing in Sonoma County like Single Thread. While there are upscale restaurants, nothing compares to the ambition, vision and, yes, price of Single Thread. The nine-course, kaiseki-style tasting menu is $294 per person.



The wine pairing goes for $200. For the price, the caliber of the food and professionalism of the staff, the Sonoma County–influenced Japanese restaurant is in a category of one. Shortly after it opened in December 2017, the James Beard Foundation named Single

Thread a semi-finalist for best new restaurant in America. The 2017 Michelin guide awarded the restaurant two stars in October. Top new restaurants generally don’t get more than one star, but there are exceptions, and Single Thread is a case in point. Over in Napa County, the French Laundry and Meadowood both have three stars, and Single Thread is clearly looking for entry into that exclusive club. Single Thread is the creation of chef Kyle Connaughton and his wife, Katina. High school sweethearts, the couple’s career in food and farming has taken them all over the world—Japan, England, Seattle and Los Angeles. Single Thread is the first restaurant of their own. “The vision was always to have a very small restaurant, just a few [hotel] rooms, something manageable, and for Katina to be able to farm,” says Kyle, whose softspoken, cerebral manner calls to mind an academic, albeit one with an arm of vivid tattoos. “It matches almost 100 percent of what we saw in our mind’s eye of how the pieces all work together. It was worth the time and the wait.” The road has been a long one. The Connaughtons moved to Healdsburg in 2012 with two daughters, a dream and little else. “There’s this notion that we arrived here one day and said, ‘We’re opening a restaurant,’” Kyle says, referencing some of their critics. “We moved out here without jobs or anything. There was no investor saying, ‘Come out and we’ll back this.’ It was 100 percent start-from-scratch.” The couple had been visiting Napa and Sonoma counties for years and, in spite of their Southern

California roots, were drawn to the North Bay. “It spoke to us much more than Los Angeles,” Kyle says. “This is where we want to be.” While developing the plan for the restaurant and raising cash, Kyle worked as an editor for Modernist Cuisine, the publishing company and R&D firm founded by Microsoft CTO turned avant-garde chef Nathan Myhrvold, as well as doing private cooking events and teaching at the Culinary Institute of America. Katina, who honed her horticultural skills during their travels, helped create the landscaping for the Barlow in Sebastopol and worked as greenhouse supervisor for Santa Rosa Junior College’s agriculture program.

AN EARLY OBSESSION Kyle’s passion for food began as a child, when his father, who sold Olympic-level gymnastics equipment, took him on extended business trips to Japan. “Japan really spoke to me,” he says. “There was something about the flavors and the aesthetic and the hospitality, the focus on a craft . . . Something just fused for me and it became a very early obsession.” Back home in Pasadena, Kyle worked as a busboy in a sushi restaurant before enrolling in culinary school. While still passionate about Japanese cuisine, he switched gears and worked in many of L.A.’s top restaurants— Spago in Beverly Hills, Lucques, A.O.C. and Campanile, many of which were run by chefs who spent their early years in iconic



Northern California progenitors like Chez Panisse and Stars. The rustic, farmcentric Northern California aesthetic took root in him alongside his Japanophilia. “As much as I study, speak and learn Japanese, I will never be Japanese. California is my home and my culture.” When French chef Michel Bras, one of Kyle’s culinary heroes, tapped him to work at Toya restaurant in Hokkaido, Kyle went running. It was the best of both worlds. He took full advantage of his time in Japan. On days (and nights) off, he also trained in kaiseki, sushi, soba and izakaya in other traditional Japanese restaurants. From there he was hired as head of research and development at the Michelin three-star-rated Fat Duck in Bray, England, by famed culinary alchemist Heston Blumenthal. Blumenthal is renowned for his inventive, multi-sensory approach to cooking. When added to his experience at Modernist Cuisine, it’s a résumé few chefs can match.

ON THE MENU Kaiseki is a rarefied, highly symbolic style of Japanese cooking that’s built around a multicourse structure and a deep reverence for presentation and seasonal ingredients. This seasonality goes beyond summer, fall, winter and spring, and draws on more subtle seasonal expressions, like early spring, late winter, etc. Meals at Single Thread consist of nine courses as well as several small dishes. Each meal begins with hassun, an ever-changing, multi-item course that sets the theme for the dishes to follow. On my visit late last year (a media preview dinner before the restaurant opened to the public), the hassun consisted of mushrooms, sashimi, raw oysters, savory egg custard and other one-bite wonders nestled in and around a multitiered section of wood, moss and leaves. Kyle calls it an “Easter egg hunt for adults.” It was delicious fun and had me anticipating what was to come. Each course was distinct in terms



of ingredients, plateware and cooking techniques, flowing from lighter vegetable and seafood dishes to more substantial flavors of guinea hen and foie gras. Bite after bite, course after course, it was extraordinary. The black cod dish with leeks, brassicas and a chamomile dashi served in an earthen donabe vessel was among my favorites. Kyle is the author of a book on donabe cookware and cooking. The Japanese clay pot is opened tableside with a flourish to let diners inhale the heady aromas before the pot is taken back into the kitchen and the dish plated and brought out again.

In Sonoma County, nothing compares to the ambition, vision and, yes, price of Single Thread. While the style, ingredients and techniques are decidedly Japanese, Kyle stresses that Single Thread is not a Japanese restaurant. Some of the dishes— like the sunchokes with mangalitsa pork and preserved lemon, and the molded Gravenstein “apple” filled with whipped chestnut cream, apple butter and apple sorbet—tasted more of California than Japan. The challenge of a multicourse meal is not to over- or underdo it. Kyle says he watches to see what plates look like when they come back into the kitchen, adjusting portions up or down to keep pace with diners’ appetites. I did not leave hungry. Of course, if your idea of fine dining is a cheeseburger with bacon and avocado, Single Thread—with its endless parade of multi-ingredient dishes, custom steak

knives with handles made from wood sourced from the farm and proffered to diners from ornate boxes, and $5,000 toilets with warmed seats and lids that rise upon approach—will be insufferable. In that case, stick with the burger joint. Kyle realizes this experience is not for everybody. Everyone has hobbies and passions, he says. Some would rather spend $1,000 on a Super Bowl ticket or $300 for a pair of jeans than pay for an extravagant meal. To each his own, he says. “We don’t have the expectation that people are going to say on a Wednesday night, ‘Oh, let’s pop down to Single Thread to have dinner,’” Kyle says. “That’s OK. We want to be, maybe, the special place where you come to celebrate or when you have someone visiting from out of town and you’re really proud of the county you live in and you want to have a place to take them and show the best of what’s here. We want to be a place of pride for people that live here.”

DOWN AT THE FARM Katina spends her days at Single Thread’s farm, just a few miles from the restaurant near the Russian River. Once she’s done at the farm, she changes out of her muddy Blundstones and jeans to lead the restaurant’s floral department, where she creates the elaborate garnishes for the hassun course and other dishes, as well as the restaurant’s flower arrangements. But it’s clear the farm is her passion. With her neck-to-knuckles tattoos, blackframe glasses and knockout smile, she doesn’t fit the Wrangler-wearing farmer image. But she’s no dilettante. Katina oversaw the transformation of the five-acre farm from a weedy, former Chardonnay vineyard. With the help of her brother, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend, her goal is to grow as much as 80 percent of the restaurant’s produce. Her biggest challenge? Slugs. The farm is not certified organic, but uses chemical-free, organic methods. “The slugs have been the worst


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problem we’ve had,” she says with a sigh. In addition to staple crops like green onions (Single Thread’s logo is a spherical bunch of green onion flowers drawn by Katina’s Portland, Ore.–based tattoo artist), mustard, kale, carrots and cabbage, Katina grows obscure Japanese greens and vegetables. While she’s already been farming the plot for nearly three years, she admits she’s still learning how best to work the land. “It’s going to take some time to get to know each other.”







Though Healdsburg is arguably the culinary star of Sonoma County, not everyone was eager to see Single Thread come to town. Months before they opened, the Connaughtons were hit by a rash of opposition by those who saw it as a gilded enclave for the 1 percent. While Healdsburg had long since gone from sleepy farming community to a NorCal Aspen, critics said Single Thread went too far. Adding to that sentiment is the building itself. It’s owned by winemaker Pete Seghesio and it’s built on the site of downtown Healdsburg’s post office, and, as such, the location evokes strong feelings of civic pride and ownership among many longtime city residents. Kyle has tried to see the upside to the criticism. “It showed us that it was important to be part of the community and not just say we’re going to come here and build some sort of ivory tower,” he says. “You have to appreciate that people care that much about this community.” Once Single Thread opened, the negative sentiment seemed

to fade and the glowing press reviews came in. Kyle says they are committed to Healdsburg. “We have to be ambassadors,” he says, pointing to work they’ve done with the Sonoma Land Trust and local food pantries. “It’s a small community. We need to show who we really are.”

A STAR ON THE RISE If a restaurant of Single Thread’s caliber opened in Napa County, it would not be met with complaints over the high prices. Napa has been there, done that. In some ways, the Connaughtons are pioneers in Sonoma County, where the fine-dining scene is not on the same level as Napa’s. In addition to Single Thread’s two stars, the 2017 Michelin Guide lists only two other star-rated restaurants in Sonoma County: Terrapin Creek and Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, each with one star. Counting three stars each for Meadowood and the French Laundry, the guide awarded single stars to five other Napa County restaurants. That’s a total of 11 stars. Douglas Keene’s Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg was Healdsburg’s premier fine-dining restaurant. It earned two Michelin stars before it closed in 2012, but did not incur the kind of populist criticism leveled at Single Thread. But Kyle sees Sonoma County’s culinary star as rising, particularly in Healdsburg. “If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. And there may be someone else behind me. There’s so much room here to showcase food at all different levels. I’m excited about the future.”


PR A ISE CHEESES Savoring Marin’s cheese scene BY TANYA HENRY

Fortunately, for those of us who fall in the camp of Brie lovers, Marin French Cheese, more than 150 years old, makes some of the best French-style cheeses around. Affectionately known as “the Cheese Factory,” the cheesemaker is easily recognizable by its iconic sign The goal of Miyoko’s Kitchen is to make the world’s best that has been a landmark on artisan vegan cheese and vegan butter. Pt. Reyes Petaluma Road for decades. The company was originally founded in 1865 as The company boasts a state fair gold the Thompson Brothers Creamery. medal for its Dark Moon ash-rinded, tripleGenerations of Thompsons ran the cream Brie—subtle but tangy, with exquisite operation—under the name Rouge et Noir— creaminess, and it was a Sofi Finalist in the through Prohibition, the Great Depression prestigious Specialty Food Association’s and World War II. In 2011, the Rians coveted awards. Group, a French Company that also owns neighboring Laura Chenel, acquired it. Look for Marin French Cheese in





or many of us, the discovery of Brie cheese is usually memorable—you either love it or you don’t. It’s a pungent experience, and depending on the quality of the cheese, textures can range from creamy and delicate to rubbery with excessively chewy rinds.

Marin markets that include United Markets, Andronico’s, Mollie Stone’s and more.

“I want to get people off dairy and make it easy for them to switch to a plantbased diet,” says Miyoko Schinner, founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen, which produces more than 10 different nut-based artisan cheeses, Europeanstyle cultured vegan butter and two flavors of mozzarella. Opening its doors in September of 2014 in Fairfax with just four employees, Miyoko’s Kitchen now operates out of Petaluma, employs 56, ships products nationwide and its cheeses are sold by more than 50 retailers in the Bay Area. Schinner, a vegetarian since she was 12 and now a vegan, is clearly on a mission. “If we want to be sure the planet will be inhabitable for future generations, we each have a responsibility to change the way we eat,” says the longtime Marin resident, who moved to Mill Valley in 1964. After going to college in Maryland and living in Japan



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for 10 years, she returned to Marin and now lives in Nicasio, where she has created a sanctuary for her goats, a sheep, pigs, dairy calves and chickens—all saved from being slaughtered or rescued from abandonment. Not only are Miyoko’s cheeses an eco-friendly product alternative, they also taste good. But Schinner didn’t develop them overnight. She spent several years experimenting with ingredients, temperature and multiple flavors. In 2012 she published a cookbook titled Artisan Vegan Cheese. She also looked to culinary great Julia Child for inspiration, and that is perhaps why her cheeses are more refined, have a silky feel in the mouth and bear no resemblance to those unidentifiable blocks of faux cheese that we have encountered over the years at our favorite health food stores. It’s safe to say that vegan products from Miyoko’s Kitchen, including the creamy rich Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash and buttery Double Cream Garlic Herb, are making nut-based cheeses far more palatable than they have ever been before.

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Thanks in large part to families like the Giacominis—who bought a working dairy farm in Point Reyes Station in 1959—cheese

has become synonymous with West Marin. The family’s four daughters came back to the farm as adults and launched their handcrafted blue cheese under the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company label in 2000. “When we started, there was no other blue cheese being made in California, and very little made throughout the country,” says daughter Jill Giacomini Basch, who, like any family business owner, wears many hats. Today, the awardwinning cheese company has expanded beyond its signature blue to include a mozzarella, toma (an Italian, semi-hard cow’s milk cheese) and the Bay Blue. All of the cheeses are produced entirely from the farm’s own cows, which gives the company complete control over the quality of the finished product. Not only has Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company expanded its product line, but it also has a wildly popular culinary and educational center where cooking classes, tours, dinners and tastings are offered. The programs often fill up to capacity and sell out weeks in advance. “Our focus for the immediate future is to make more cheese— especially toma and Bay Blue,” explains Giacomini Basch, who notes that the increased production will require hiring more employees to help in the farm’s creamery, dairy and hospitality capacities.

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Winemaker Sean Thackrey on terroir, home cooking and the wine of ancient mariners BY JAMES KNIGHT


ven if you can’t find Sean Thackrey in Bolinas, you expect to find Sean Thackrey in Bolinas. He’s been called eclectic, eccentric and idiosyncratic, and that’s just in one magazine article. Add cryptic, enigmatic and even downright medieval, and you get the picture that the winemaker inhabits the outskirts of wine country proper—of course you’d be more likely to find such a character in a bohemian enclave like Bolinas.

Except that for many years, I could not find Sean Thackrey. Yes, he had a website, but even that was arcane: much of the text is in Latin, Italian and Middle French from the scholarly winemaker’s personal library. An email went nowhere. I made a reconnaissance to Bolinas, poking around in the eucalyptus groves where the vintner was said to be ensconced with his barrels and his books, and making wine according to ancient recipes.



And it wasn’t just me. As novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney once told the Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood, for all his world travels, finding Sean Thackrey in Bolinas was one of the most confounding tasks. Thackrey must be the last vintner in the world that doesn’t send out regular press releases to tout his wines. Then one day, there it was in my inbox: a press release from Thackrey & Company Fine Wine. What happened? Whole Foods happened, for one. Thackrey’s lowest priced and once slightlyless-than-impossible-to-attain wine, a red blend called Pleiades, got picked up by the behemoth grocer for its Northern California stores, which means that Pleiades must be on the shelf at all times. Thackrey ramped up production, hired a marketing assistant and an office manager, and, at their insistence, even became an enthusiastic participant on social media—which he used to call “antisocial media.” A photographer and art history dropout, Thackrey co-owned a San Francisco art gallery when he founded a winery at his Bolinas home in 1981. He first sold wine to his friends at Chez Panisse and garnered

early acclaim when his first official release was called “the best Merlot ever made in California, blah blah blah,” according to Thackrey, by a budding wine critic named Robert Parker. When I finally meet Thackrey, he bounds out of his Bolinas barn—a newer location that holds extra barrels and a few old redwood fermenters, and which is just a little more artistically bent than your average barn—and begins talking a mile a minute about the origin of Pleiades. Clad in a jean jacket and sporting a gray mop coiffed by randomness, Thackrey’s affable, academic quickness and vintage style are reminiscent of a radical campus professor with roots in the ‘60s. EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY: From reading articles over the past decade or so, I would think people have this impression of Sean Thackrey as the reclusive, mysterious winemaker. SEAN THACKREY: People just get so enamored of that kind of simplification. The other one that I love is being called eccentric, just because I don’t do things the way [UC] Davis does




be really delicious, using all sorts of techniques that we don’t even think of now. Some of the most famous wines of Greece, for example, were cut pretty severely with seawater. The island of Kos was kind of famous for its wines, and apparently a shipment of wines was going to Athens from Kos, and when it arrived, there were two amphorae that were decidedly better than the others. The shipper was really interested in getting to the bottom of why these two were so much better than the others. To make a long story short, it turned out that the crew had said, we want some wine, so they broke into these amphorae and they took a bunch of wine out to drink on the boat and replaced it with seawater. And apparently that was so much better, that became a standard technique of making what they called Coan wine. I’ve never tried it, but it’s just an example of something that you wouldn’t dream of doing now. And yet you have to think that the people who made the Parthenon had a reasonable taste in wine.


What are some examples of ancient or Medieval techniques that you do apply? While Sean Thackrey the man is hard to find, thankfully his wines are not.

them—it’s not eccentric in the slightest. Would you say that your use of ancient texts is overemphasized? Well, I think it’s a little overemphasized. Wine has really been made a lot of different ways.



I don’t think people understand how different earlier wine styles are than what we now do—I mean just totally different—and yet they gave great pleasure. So I think it opens your eyes to the immense number of possibilities to make something that might

It’s more the idea of being open to different tastes in wine than just the narrow band that we’re now working with. I’m not advocating adding seawater to wine, but you at least might want to do the experiment just for the hell of it. As I said, do you really think that the people who designed the Parthenon were sitting down and drinking absolute rot? It’s a little hard to believe; that’s not the

way it generally tends to work. I just think it’s very nice to keep an open mind about what can actually work in winemaking, and I think studying ancient texts is a very good way to do that. Most of the time when people talk about the ancient technique of winemaking that they’re doing, it’s just crushing, not adding stuff, and punching down. And they say, well, that’s the way it’s always been done. You’re saying there’s more to it than the bare bones? Far more. Winemaking used to be far more invasive than it now is. Half of the old winemaking texts are ways to fake things, ways to add stuff, because there were so many ways for wine to go bad. After all, it wasn’t until Pasteur that people even realized—microbes were thought not to exist and there was a lot of sentiment that any suggestion they might exist was considered heresy at that point. That’s what’s interesting about the history of winemaking, is how little of it was undisturbed. If you lived in the village of NuitsSaint-Georges, you could get some pretty much undisturbed wine; if you lived anywhere else—I mean, that Burgundy was going to be put through so much nonsense by the time it ever got to you that it would be pretty much amazing to talk about it as just being the real thing straight from the source, not being touched by anything but pure virgins or something. It was unbelievable. So a lot of those texts are meant to be very practical, which is what makes them interesting to me. Because they actually go into


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the detail about what you’re supposed to be doing. And some of the detail was very surprising! For example? If you go anywhere in Burgundy, they tell you it’s all been done exactly the same way since the seventh century or whatever—the pretense is that we’re just doing the same old thing; wine is made in the vineyard; we don’t really do much of anything, and so on. Well, the first text that really goes into great detail on winemaking in Burgundy is from about 1831. And it was by a Dr. Morelot who owned some major estates in the Côte d’Or, so he knew what he was talking about. I was just very struck, for example, by where he talks about how long a great red Burgundy should be fermented. He said it should be on the skins for something between 24 and 36 hours. Hours? You know, that wouldn’t be enough to make a rosé nowadays. I mean, our Fifi is on the skins for much longer than that. What about the cold soak?

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I use a different version of the same sort of idea, and I’m the only one I know that does that, although it used to be very common. That is definitely an idea that I would not have had if I did not get it from old books. The first mention I have of it is from the Greek poet Hesiod—that would be eighth century B.C., so that’s going back quite a ways—and it goes as a leitmotif all the way up through the entire history of winemaking until the late 19th century. That was the idea that you get the grapes off the vine, and then you

simply put them some place and let them rest for a while before you then crush them and make them into wine. We do that now absolutely as a matter of course. There’s no question whatever that the wine produced from fruit

“The idea that fruit grown in different places tastes different is hardly revolutionary.” that had just been allowed to sit for a while was simply better. And it was better, because it was more harmonious. It was an unusual sort of quality about it. Nobody in classical cider texts ever talks about taking apples right off the tree and fermenting them. They would let them sit in a pile. It was called “sweating” the apples. They would sit there and they would be practically rotting, a long time. . . . And then they would crush them and make them into cider. And it was very much the same idea [with grapes]. It was meant to improve the taste. That’s the kind of thing that is, I think, a legitimate use of early texts, and it certainly was a surprise to me. Have you come across anything regarding the Medieval Warm Period, when temperatures were

maybe two degrees warmer until the 1400s? It struck me that varieties like Pinot Noir became celebrated during that time. So were they making the Californiastyle wines that people talk about these days, or what? Who the hell knows, but that’s just the fad that we’re in now—the low-alcohol fad. It kinda gets to you after a while, particularly if you read back historically. All of the great vintages—the vintage of 1811 or the vintage of 1945—they were all the hottest years around. That’s what everybody said—the wine had concentrations we’d never seen before. Well, now we hear about the French palate, the American palate, fruit bombs and crude, overextracted wine—and I’m so tired of that. I mean, there are ways to sell wine, and that’s one of them. But ripe fruit is ripe fruit. Yes, fruit will be ripe at different points for different kinds of wines. Obviously, fruit that’s made into Champagne is perfectly ripe for Champagne; it’s certainly not ripe for Amarone. If you think about it, the difference between 15 percent and 13 percent is 2 percent. Well, 2 percent of 750 milliliters is 15 milliliters. If you look at 15 milliliters, that’s the difference in the amount of alcohol in a bottle of wine at 15 percent vs. 13 percent. Do you really think that’s just going to totally unbalance everything and wreck the thing and make it into this horrible, hot finish, chemical-tasting wine? It’s crazy. To me, the classic argument is, OK, so you can’t drink port, because it’s 21 percent alcohol, right? It’s got a hot finish, right? Ah, well, no!

I hear people talking about how they want a wine with a “sense of place,” and that it should taste like it “comes from somewhere.” Oh, I’ve heard that so many times. If you wanted to talk about it as being a cultural thing, then I wouldn’t have any problem with that at all. For example, let’s suppose we’re sitting here at the table with an old guy from MoreySaint-Denis and we serve him a Chard, and he says, “That doesn’t taste at all like our home cooking, that doesn’t have the sense of place that I want it to have, that doesn’t taste like Morey-Saint-Denis to me.” Well, that’s a cultural thing. It’s a personal history. It’s a personal history, absolutely. That’s home cooking, is what it really is. That’s perfectly valid; there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s great. But for people to invent this whole idea that somehow the subsoil of the Morvan Forest wants to express itself in a glass of wine, I mean, it just sets off so many short circuits for me, it’s very, very hard to stay entirely polite. I’ve seen this applied to recently developed vineyards. Oh, sure, and you go on the website and all you see are pictures of dirt! I don’t understand it in the slightest. The idea that fruit grown in different places tastes different is hardly revolutionary. The point is, somebody has to do something with this. And what they do with it is going to be what bats last as to how it winds up tasting. After all in so many cases, I will

be buying part of a vineyard’s production of Sangiovese, say, and somebody else will be buying the rest of it. So we’re both making wine from exactly the same grapes. And very often we’ll harvest it on exactly the same day. And we will wind up with wines that are radically different from each other. And it’s not that either one of us is some mechanically minded winemaker that just ruins everything into the same stuff; it’s just you make different choices as you’re going along, as a cook would. Nobody would expect that two different chefs working with the same source of chicken would wind up making chicken that tastes the same. I mean, of course you wouldn’t think that. It’s a matter of what people want to believe. The part that I

“Winemaking used to be far more invasive than it now is. Half of the old winemaking texts are ways to fake things.” don’t like about the whole thing with terroir is the part that is simply in bad faith. In other words, it’s absolutely to the economic self-interest of people

that own vineyards to attribute the quality of the wine that results from that vineyard to the real estate that they own. This is very bankable. It’s like having a restaurant that’s called Chez Jacques and Jacques dies—well, what happens to the restaurant? Well, that’s very much true with winemaking. So obviously if Chateau Margaux can sell people on the idea that it’s because of the real estate that is owned by Chateau Margaux that Chateau Margaux tastes the way it does, they’re way ahead of the game. Do you feel that at this point people will keep coming back for your wines for the name, or do you really have to keep up the innovation and quality? Well, I do. Nothing ever goes out of here that I don’t absolutely like, completely. And I mean in the sense that I want personally to drink it as often as possible. That is a rule about which there is no negotiation whatever. We even call the catalogue that we send out to our mailing list, “The Catalog of Reliable Pleasures.” Because that’s what I like to think of them as being. If someone feels just like a glass of Pleiades, they’re going to go up there and take down the bottle and pour themselves a glass of Pleiades, and you know, they’re going to like it! They know that. So consistency I think is extremely important, particularly if you do as much experimenting as I do. I think people still have to feel that the end result is going to be something that I actually, really, no kidding, feel was pretty terrific. 2018 EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY


HANDMADE HOOCH Grain-to-glass takes root in North Bay BY JAMES KNIGHT


hen Explore the North Bay reached out to North Bay spirits producers for samples of their whiskey, we were pleasantly surprised at the brown booze bounty that showed up at the door— happy, too, that they sent no more than 13 bottles of the stuff. It was more than enough for a stimulating Fridayafternoon tasting. There might have been more, indeed, if not for one stipulation: we asked for their best “grain-to-glass” whiskeys. Alley 6 co-founder Jason Jorgensen samples a batch of whiskey. Spirits haven’t been this big in these parts since they were cooked up on the sly during Prohibition, and this the clear spirits first, if not only to get the recent raft of whiskey is an echo of the cash flowing—most will profess their love craft-spirits boomlet that got our attention for excellent gin—then, in part, to weather the capital-intensive, time-consuming path with locally made gin and vodka in recent they’ve chosen by going grain to glass. years. Since whiskey takes months and But when I asked Explore the North years longer to bring to market, most brightBay staffers what “grain to glass” meant to eyed new distillers fire up their stills for



them, the answers I got were hardly warm. Does it mean the whiskey is better quality? Might be, but it depends. Is it made with local ingredients? Well, some use organic California grains, and Griffo Distillery says it’s just now getting locally grown rye from Open Field Farm of Petaluma, but no, that’s not it, either. Does it pair better with food? While Alley 6 Craft Distillery recently paired up with Healdsburg’s Brass Rabbit restaurant to serve maple-glazed pork sliders with barrelaged Old Fashioneds, that’s far from the mark, as well. “The basic definition,” explains Spirit Works Distillery co-founder Ashby Marshall, “is that we bring in whole grains and mill, mash and distill that entirely on site. It’s a brewery and a distillery.” All whiskey is made from a grain mash, which is fermented either as a soupy “wash” similar to the way beer is made, or as a sort of boozy porridge, and then heated and distilled into a liquid of usually 80 percent






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alcohol by volume (abv) or less (while vodka can also be made from grain, whiskey is not vodka aged in oak—vodka must be distilled to 95 percent abv or higher). And it generally ends up in a glass—with the exception of your hardcore, swig-fromthe-bottle moments. So why the fussy term that sounds so much like “farm to table,” the foodie catch-phrase that’s more watereddown than a cheap cocktail? Because not all craft spirits are created equal. Many, in fact, are created in Indiana. Some purported California “craft” distilleries purchase bulk whiskey—much of it from a giant facility in Indiana that churns out a large proportion of the nation’s whiskey— and only store and bottle it here. Despite a 2015 settlement that stymied Iowa-based Templeton Rye’s efforts to market a “small batch” product of said facility, statements like “handcrafted” have about as much substance as words like “natural” or “sustainable.” “Labeling in the spirits industry is, unfortunately, the least regulated aspect of the industry,” Marshall laments, regarding the “craft” word. “The word can be tossed around without any implications at this point.” There is nothing wrong with blending outsourced whiskey, which is what respected brands like Bulleit do, while aging bourbon in wine barrels that held Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, like Sonoma’s Prohibition Spirits does with its Hooker’s House series (they call it “Sonoma-style”). And yet there’s this: the top vote-getter in the Explore the North Bay’s whiskey tasting comes from a tiny Healdsburg outfit that was almost not included because I’d lumped it together, after a brief read of the label, with another critter-labeled craft whiskey from that same town, but which is not grain-to-glass. Like most distillers I talked to, Alley 6 cofounder Jason Jorgensen is diplomatic when speaking about fellow craft entrepreneurs. “I don’t think it affects us that much,”



Jorgensen says. “We’re so damn boutiquey!” It takes from 75 to 90 hours to produce 100 gallons of Alley 6 whiskey, from mashing through distilling, and then it’s aged a minimum of nine months. “Then again, some people buy on the dollar value,” Jorgensen allows, “and the bulk tends to be cheaper than the hand-crafted product.” When I first visited Griffo Distillery in Petaluma’s light industrial “maker district,” Jenny Griffo was hammering at a grain hopper to keep the mill going, while her husband, Mike, tinkered with the copper

How do you know a craft-spirits company is making its own just by reading the label? pot still. They’re clearly making booze by hand, and they want their operation to be as transparent as the tasting-room window that looks out into the cluttered production area, but they’re concerned that their efforts could be lost on consumers amid the welter of craft brands. “Even if it looks like craft,” says Jenny Griffo, “most of them are just marketing people.” It does a disservice to the category, her husband adds during a later visit, if there are a hundred bottles on the shelf but they’re all from the same source. “It really does matter where it’s produced,” Mike Griffo asserts. He cites a UC Davis study that analyzed chemical signatures in various whiskeys. The clusters of similarity, it turned out, had less to do with different styles, like bourbon

or rye, than the specific distilleries they came from. It’s a good, empirical argument for grain-to-glass, Griffo says. “It’s not necessarily the most economically intelligent route to go down,” says Marshall of their approach at Spirit Works. “But for us, it’s definitely worth it in the flavor and the quality of the spirit.” It isn’t just aging, or even distillation, but it’s hands-on control of the fermentation itself that’s crucial to the ultimate flavor of the spirit. Distillation may seem like a radical removal process—only a tiny fraction of the original grain mash travels with the stiffly alcoholic vapors down the copper “swan’s neck” of Spirit Works’ hybrid whiskey still. Marshall says that, flavor-wise, it’s just the opposite. “You can say that a still is a magnifier. If you have a great fermentation, that will be magnified in the spirit. But if you have a funky fermentation, it will come through in the spirit.” How do you know a craft-spirits company is making its own, just by reading the label? It’s confusing if you’ve got the same exercise down cold with wine: whereas “produced and bottled by” means that a wine is, indeed, fermented at the named winery, it isn’t the same with spirits, where a whiskey that’s “distilled and bottled by” the producer is the real deal. “Distilled” trumps “produced.” Some distillers are catholic on the issue, mixing purchased whiskey with their own spirit, as Brendan Moylan does with his bourbon at Moylan’s Distilling in Petaluma. In Graton, Purple Wine & Spirits is quietly amassing both purchased and house-made hooch. Although Moylan’s is among Sonoma County’s oldest distilleries, it is also run a bit under the radar. Not so Sonoma County Distilling Company of Rohnert Park, which is stepping out with a tasting set of its “West of Kentucky” bourbons in 200-milliliter bottles that boldly declares, “This is California’s bourbon.” Savvy marketing and making


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an appeal to both regional identity and small-batch, craft production? Check and check— and all true to their word. Cheers to that.

GRAIN DRAIN Explore the North Bay staffers blind-tasted these whiskeys onequarter ounce at a time—it’s important to maintain focus when conducting a whiskey tasting. Our clear favorite just happens to fall first on this otherwise alphabetical list:

ALLEY 6 CRAFT DISTILLERY Rye The “spice” characteristic of rye is expressed with a smoky quality here, while the wee hint of plaster may be familiar to Scotch whisky fans. Apple-pie spice and orange peel add charm on the nose, and the winning finish balances malty sweetness



with ashy dryness. No doubt, 22 percent malted aromatic barley in the list of ingredients contributes to this appealing whiskey, which is aged only one year in the standard regimen of charred oak barrels, but surely there’s something of that unquantifiable distillery magic at play here. Single Malt Maybe my favorite, on second tasting—the third, too. While an agave note reminded some Bohos of good tequila, the cookie-dough-in-aglass goodness here is headed in the direction of Glenrothes.




Stony Point Made from organic corn and rye, and aged in American and French oak, this hits herbal high notes of anise and dry hay. Patience reveals a sweet center of orange-spiced black tea.

American Single-Malt Finished in orange brandy barrels, this comes regular and cask-strength (58.7 percent alcohol). While it nearly torched Boho palates, its malt and oak flavors meld better with the orange, to my taste, when poured over ice. Bourbon Cask-Strength Bohos picked up on the sweet, caramelized oak and corn character of this bourbon, which is a blend of outsourced and house-made spirit, and also benefits from a ice cube or two.

Cherrywood Rye The suggestion of cherry liqueur is more alluring than in the smoked bourbon, while the finish seems to be smoking, still. Sonoma Rye Minty Piney— Christmas tree?

West of Kentucky No. 1 Cherrywood Smoked Bourbon Amber-hued, cinnamon and wood ash–scented, this dry spirit is more Highland whisky than the standard bourbon fare; No. 2 Wheated Bourbon Whiskey blends an intoxicating perfume of wheat berry with cotton candy and kettle corn notes; No. 3 HighRye Bourbon Whiskey adds spice.

SPIRIT WORKS DISTILLERY Straight Rye Draws the nose in with sweet hints of cream soda and caramel, only to spike it with woodsy spice. But this ultimately mellow rye gained acclaim around the table for its “zero bite” finish. Straight Wheat Showing roasted celery seed and lemon peel notes, this whiskey is delicately wood-spiced after a two-year sojourn in charred barrels.

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CRAFT MALT Hey, there’s terroir in my beer BY JAMES KNIGHT


oes a patch of earth in the Napa Valley still have terroir when there are no grapes planted on it? It sure does, says winemaker and brewer Nile Zacherle—at least when it’s planted with barley for making beer. For Zacherle and a few other brewers, the last frontier in craft beer is as surprising as it is bare-bones: malted barley, the very foundation of beer. And they’re helping to create a whole new niche industry, in estate craft malting. In a field of dry grass just off the Silverado Trail, Zacherle crouches to pluck a head of barley off a stalk. He rubs it between his fingers, releasing a few kernels, and chews on the grain. Still pretty good, he says. He just might try a second harvest. From the road, this four-and-a-half-acre field looks like any other. A portion that was harvested several weeks ago looks roughly mown, and the unharvested barley bends seed heads two feet high. But it’s the site of something quite new and rare: Zacherle, who owns Mad Fritz microbrewery with his wife, Whitney Fisher of Fisher Vineyards, plans to make an estate-grown, singlevarietal beer.



To malt the barley, a process of partial sprouting and drying that prepares the grain for brewing, Mad Fritz purchased a floor malting machine for the tiny St. Helena brewery, and is now producing single-origin beers from both Napa and Sonoma counties. Zacherle has also purchased malt from small-scale operations in Colorado, Oregon and Nevada, often dealing with the farmers directly.

Can beer taste of place? Even in the fast-growing, experimental world of craft brewing, it’s a radically different approach. But Zacherle feels that people will “get it” when tasting his beer. “You taste enough of these beers, and it’s just like wine,” he says. “It’s no different. It’s just that nobody thinks about it.” What nobody thinks about is where their grain comes from. Most brewers buy malt from just a few mega-suppliers, called maltsters. They differentiate their beers by secret recipes of roasted malts, hop varieties and other ingredients. But Mad Fritz prints the recipe right on the label. “Because, like

wine, it’s not about the recipe anymore,” Zacherle explains. “It’s about the raw materials and where they come from.” Seth Klann grows some of those raw materials in the high desert of Oregon. Klann, who shares the title of owner, farmer and maltster at Mecca Grade Estate Malt with his father, just started malting estategrown barley in January of this year. “We’re the only craft-malt house that is sourcing all of our grain from ourselves on our farm,” Klann says. “It’s kind of like an estate vineyard and winery in that sense. And that’s what we’re modeling it after.” Previously, the Klanns grew wheat on their 1,000-acre farm. Now they grow a variety of barley called Full Pint. Developed by Oregon State University 20 years ago, it’s loaded with flavor. Mecca Grade can’t compete with the big maltsters on price. “So we have to offer a really unique product,” says Klann, “that focuses on the terroir of Central Oregon.” There’s that word again. Indeed, Mad Fritz beers sell for $25 per 780ml bottle. How does Zacherle respond to someone who says that’s just a little too precious for beer? “Well, I think they need to sit down,” he says, “and taste these beers.” For more info, visit



HYDRODYNAMIC Jamie Murray and the craft of the North Coast surfboard BY STETT HOLBROOK


urfing in Sonoma and Marin counties is dodgy in the best of times. Northwest winds scour the coast, often rendering waves into ragged, unsurfable junk. Onshore winds dredge up deep, cold water to give surfers brainfreezing headaches as they duck under waves. But the coast does have its glory days, especially in fall and winter. No matter what the conditions, Jamie Murray manages to stay connected to the ocean inside his 186-square-foot shop tucked behind his home in Santa Rosa’s Bennett Valley. Murray, 44, is a surfboard shaper, one of just a few in Sonoma County. If he can’t ride a surfboard, he can make one. He doesn’t advertise or sell his boards in surf shops, but the word has spread about his handiwork through the North Coast surf underground. “He’s talented,” says Jay deLong, a veteran North Coast surfer who has ordered several boards from Murray. “He’s really a craftsman. He’s got curiosity, and he’s not afraid to fail. He’s that classic person who is enjoying the ride.”



As an in-demand shaper, Murray spends a lot more time in his shop than he does in the water. Once he closes the shop door, he disappears for hours in a private world of tools, foam dust and hydrodynamics. “My wife and kids have to get me,” he says. “There’s no possible way I can keep track of my own time.”

CONNECTICUT TO CALIFORNIA Murray is an unlikely shaper and surfer. With his short-cropped hair, glasses and wry smile, he doesn’t fit the surfer stereotype. He looks more like an English teacher. Which he is. He was a founding faculty member at Sonoma Academy. His writing skills and sense of humor come across on his blog at headhighglassy. SHAPING IN SPRING The deeper into spring, the weirder the boards: long, wide, fat boards that will catch everything. Short, wide, fat boards that catch almost everything. Medium, wide, fat boards that fit perfectly between short-period windswell troughs. Many ways to skin the grumpy, uncooperative, foggy cat of spring. Take that, spring!

PARENTING IN SPRING My kids now think I’m effing with them at bedtime. “How could it be?” They plead, pointing out the window. “It’s still light outside!” And they’re correct, but it’s also 8pm and daddy needs a Manhattan, so off they go. Take that, spring! Murray grew up in Connecticut, a state with a nearly nonexistent surf scene. Because there were no local surf shops, he and his friends surfed scavenged old boards. “We were 10 to 20 years behind,” he says. “We were always surfing stuff that was out of date.” He learned to surf on a 1970s-era 5-foot, 11-inch twin fin. “It was pretty retro before retro was cool,” he says. Murray got used to those outdated designs, and when he moved to California in the 1990s after college in Colorado, he wanted to rekindle his love of surfing. By then the surf industry was focused on short and thin boards patterned after the high-performance, competition-style boards surfed by the pros. For someone used to riding boards with more foam and width, they were no fun. Murray asked a Santa Cruz shaper to make him one more suited to his liking. He got turned down. So Murray decided to make his own.




Jamie Murray shapes surfboards designed for fickle, often challenging Sonoma County conditions.



For all their graceful lines and high-gloss finishes, surfboards begin life as an unremarkable plank of polyurethane foam called a blank. It’s a shaper’s job to artfully saw, plane and sand away the blank to reveal a surfboard



shape within. Once the blank is shaped to the shaper or client’s specifications, colors, decals and fin boxes are added; then it’s layered with resin and sheets of fiberglass. Before it’s ready to be surfed, it gets sanded and polished. There are mass-produced, computer-cut surfboards, but since surfing’s rise in popularity in

the 1950s, there has always been demand for handmade surfboards. Other than custom bicycles, there are few sports where you can work with a designer and craftsman to create a piece of equipment built to your specs. Back home in Connecticut, Murray’s dad, like many Yankee dads, had a basement workshop that kept him busy through the long winters. As a kid, Murray made his own skateboards because his father wouldn’t buy something he could make himself. “If you wanted it, you were going to have to make it,” Murray says. “That was his philosophy.” And it became his son’s philosophy, too. So Murray got a blank and set to work making his first board. “It was totally shitty and came out terrible,” he remembers. But he learned from his mistakes, and the next one was better. So was the next. These were the early days of the internet, and there wasn’t much information available on surfboard shaping. To expand his knowledge, he spent time observing a few master shapers and asking questions. After making 30 or so boards, he started to get the hang of it. By this time, Murray had moved to Santa Rosa and taken a job at Sonoma Academy. During the day he taught literature and writing, and at night and on weekends he continued to make boards and surf them in the heavy waters of the Sonoma and Marin coasts. Eventually, someone saw one of his boards and asked if he’d make one for him. “I was loath to take orders,” he

remembers. “I really didn’t know what I was doing.” But his boards got better, and soon he had a growing list of customers. Paddle out at Salmon Creek or Dillon Beach, and chances are you’ll see a board with a dragonfly decal, Murray’s logo. It turns out his fondness for the retro boards of his youth—wide, thick ones designed for easy paddling and their wave-catching ability rather than aerial maneuvers and competition—fit right in with the North Coast’s surfing demographic. Murray sums up the area’s surfers with one word: “Old.” Most surfers here have been around for a while. The area is challenging and doesn’t offer many beginner-friendly spots, so there aren’t many first-timers or young kids in the water. Old guys—and girls—rule. Whether it’s nostalgia for old designs or simply the desire for a board that will help surfers paddle through the North Coast’s notoriously heavy currents and surf, Murray’s designs are tailormade for the region. “It’s a big playing field out there,” says longtime Sebastopol surfer Neil Ramussen. He ought to know. He’s been surfing the North Coast since 1966. “You want something to get you around. Bigger boards are better.” Several of Murray’s shapes were created with local surf breaks in mind. Winemakers talk about terroir and how their wines reflect the local soil and climate. Murray’s boards reflect the power and mercurial nature of our stretch of coast. While springtime is rough, the North Coast can get good waves. Sometimes really


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good. And when it’s on, you want the right board for the job. Murray’s “Pit Boss” was created to surf a powerful, barreling wave near Dillon Beach that requires a long paddle over notoriously sharky waters. His “Clover” design is suited to Salmon Creek when a winter groundswell is pulsing and the waves get steep and hollow. He also makes “Broadswords,” longboards suited to both smaller, mushier summertime waves and big winter surf. There is demand for highperformance surfboards, but Murray usually steers those customers to Ed Barbera, a master shaper who makes boards behind Bodega’s Northern Light Surf Shop. “He does such a killer job with them,” Murray says.

HEAVY WATER Though people have been surfing in Southern California and Santa Cruz since the early 1900s, surfing is relatively new to Sonoma and Marin counties—mainly because it’s so damn hard to surf here and there is more consistent surf just about everywhere else in the state. “Twenty years ago, the Sonoma Coast was the frontier,” says veteran surfer deLong. DeLong counts himself as the first wave of young surfers in Sonoma County. There were a few older surfers like Rasmussen who surfed back then, but they were few in number and some scampered farther north when their solitude was disturbed by newcomers paddling out. “Back then, there was hardly anyone in the water,” he says. “You’d be happy if there was someone else out there with you.”


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Murray says most surfers he meets simply want to get into the ocean and enjoy the area’s natural beauty and bag a few waves along the way. He includes himself in this group. “As older, experienced surfers, we’re looking for a wilderness experience. It’s not about wave count or blasting big airs.” He says he enjoys working with surfers, half of whom are women, to bring their ideas to life. What do customers want from a board? “Everything,” Murray jokes. “It’s got to handle everything from ankle high to double overhead. Our conditions are wild and unpredictable. [Shaping for those conditions] is a fool’s errand, but that’s part of the challenge.” He much prefers customshaping to sticking a board in a shop for someone he’ll never meet. “I like shaping for people I know. It’s more fun to imagine who I’m making it for.” Murray isn’t planning to quit his day job. He figures he makes enough from each board he shapes to buy a good sandwich. Every dozen boards or so he’ll have enough money to make a board for himself. Which he apparently does a lot. There are boards stacked in and around his house like cordwood. What is it that compels him to shape in his tiny shop and lay awake at night thinking about foils, rockers and hulls? “My wife asks me that all the time,” he says, smiling. “It’s my quiet time, and it’s nice to do something physical after teaching all day. If I put in four hours in the shop, there’s a [finished] product. It’s what I want to be doing.”

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Marin Outdoor Adventure, offering world-class surfing, hiking and biking trips, hopes to ‘inspire, empower and awaken others to a conscious way of travel and living.’


AUTHENTIC ADVENTURE Outdoor experts offer insider’s look at Marin’s beauty BY FLORA TSAPOVSKY


hat makes an adventure? Can a divorce be one? For Nicki Clark, the founder of Marin Outdoor Adventure, one turbulent escapade led to another much more joyous one, and a business based on connection, empowerment and community was born.



“About four years ago, I was in a pretty major life transition,” says Clark, a Marin native. “I had just gotten divorced with two children, now 10 and 9, was eager and ready to start working towards financial independence for the sake of personal growth and confidence and simply to be able to continue to live in Marin.” Around that time, Clark, who had previously worked as a mountain biking guide, a snowboarding instructor, a glacier

tour guide and a CrossFit coach, got an email from a friend. “I learned that Airbnb [was] starting a pilot program for offering ‘experiences’ and looking for people who were interested in being a part of that,” Clark says, describing what recently launched in multiple cities across the United States as a brand-new offering by the hospitality giant. The premise: in addition to staying in people’s homes, travelers can book an experience with a


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local guide—be it in the form of an artist’s studio visit, a cooking class, a behind-the-scenes look at a ballet group and more—as a way to deepen their romance with a place. “The opportunity to work with Airbnb during the beta phase of this new product was a catalyst for me to start Marin Outdoor Adventure,” Clark says. “Within a few months, I had my first booking for ‘Mountain Biking in Marin,’ which was the first ever Airbnb experience to be booked.” Currently, Clark’s venture offers countless local outdoor adventures for groups and individuals. Led by experienced guides, excursions range from exploring Muir Woods, to beginner and advanced mountain biking to group surfing lessons on the coast. “Having an expert who is passionate about whatever the activity may be makes the experience completely different,” Clark says. “We bring a quality of connection to the experience with each guest—a person-to-person connection that tends to lead the guests to a feeling that is memorable and special. It has to do with human connection and passionate, kind and experienced experts.” While Clark hires both male and female guides, the representation of women adventure guides and what they offer is vast—Marin Outdoor Adventure lists Kathy Hutton, a windsurfing expert and triathlon runner, Audrey Le, a hiking enthusiast and Casey Daigle, a mindfulness and yoga teacher, among its guides—and it’s no coincidence. “I am passionate about empowering and inspiring women and young girls,” Clark • 707.769.0429 2018 EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY

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says. “I have a weekly girl’s and women’s surf club that meets every Tuesday afternoon, and I think it could turn into something very powerful and special.” Clark also works with Send It Foundation, a nonprofit offering adventures for young adults who are cancer survivors. On a regular week, clients could be locals and travelers alike, as well as companies aiming for teambuilding through mindfulness, adventuring and simply getting down and dirty. Almost four years in, Clark’s business is blossoming; in November of 2016, Airbnb invited her to speak at Airbnb Open, the company’s community-based hospitality festival in Los Angeles. “I had the opportunity to speak at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A. and give a presentation on what it takes to be a successful experience host,” Clark recalls. In addition to participating in the experiences and running Marin Outdoor Adventure, Clark keeps busy in more ways than one; she recently completed a teacher’s training with Mark Coleman, a mindfulness guru, to become a meditation teacher in a nature context, and is now focusing on developing wellness offsites for companies and organizations and mindful outdoor adventures to facilitate team building. “I feel like I am at a point in my life where my capacity for productivity is growing and developing, which is exciting,” Clark says. Add raising two young kids to the mix, and you’ll get an adventure like no other.




REBOOT COMMUTE The New Wheel and the rise of electric bikes BY DAVID TEMPLETON


t looks like a bike, only with a few sleek upgrades. On average, it can carry a rider at speeds of up to 20 mph, and is legally allowed everywhere a traditional bike can go. Because of its pedal-assist mechanics, a commuter can assail hills and make excellent time on his or her trip to work—at speeds higher than cars can go through some congested areas—and get a decent aerobic workout on top of it, avoiding (in most cases) showing up at work stewing in a messy pool of heat, sweat and exhaustion.

Best of all, for every electric bicycle (commonly known as an “e-bike”) on the road, that’s one less car out there clogging traffic and spewing exhaust—a positive move for commuters, pedestrians and, above all, the environment. “E-bikes,” says Karen Wiener, co-founder of The New Wheel, “are really exciting—and they have enormous potential to actually change the way our cities work.” If she sounds a little extra-optimistic, Wiener knows it and makes no apologies. She’s clearly having fun. When it’s pointed out that folks have predicted such transportation shifts in the past, such as when the makers of the Segway boasted

that their device would remake roads as we know them, Wiener doesn’t budge. “Have you ever ridden a Segway?” she asks. “E-bikes are really a different experience. Riding a bicycle is fun. It’s like magic. Remember being a kid, riding a bike for the first time? Well, riding an e-bike is like being a kid every day.” The New Wheel co-founder Brett Thurber and Wiener opened the first New Wheel in San Francisco in March of 2012, and in July of 2016, opened the Marin County e-bike dealership in Larkspur. Though e-bikes are not exactly new to Marin, having been offered for years by most Marin County bike stores, The New Wheel is the first dealership focused





solely on electric bicycles. The service department is set up to do repairs on traditional bikes as well. One wonders if The New Wheel is perhaps just one shiny spoke in some newfangled, fast-spinning, alternative transportation revolution. “To be fair, electronic bikes are an evolution, not a revolution,” says Thurber, standing in the gleaming showroom, where dozens of test bikes wait, ready to ride, and more hang invitingly in front of a massive enlargement of an old railroad and ferry map from 1890. “An e-bike is made of all standard components you’d find on most bicycles, because, you know, it’s a bicycle.” Thurber and Wiener met while students at UC Berkeley, both in Robert Reich’s public policy class. Thurber was born in San Francisco, and is thoroughly accustomed, he says, to hills. Wiener, who was born in Copenhagen and moved from Denmark to Sausalito as a youngster, suspects that Copenhagen’s bike-friendly culture is embedded in her psyche. “In Denmark, bicycles are just how you get around,” she says, “and I’ve always bemoaned the fact that you can’t really do that in San Francisco or Marin or Oakland. You have to be really committed to ride a bike to work. And you have to change your clothes when you get there.” “The experience of riding a pedal-assist electric bicycle,” Thurber adds, “is like riding a really nice normal bicycle, but with a strong tail wind. You are always cycling, you’re getting an aerobic workout, but the pedal-assist just makes it easier,



effectively taking all of the hesitancy out of riding bikes.” Thurber and Wiener admit that building a business around electric bicycles is not exactly what either of them predicted for themselves while students in college. The one thing they hoped for, they both now admit, was to find work that mattered. “I think it’s relatively difficult to find something in life, these days, that is actually hopeful and positive,” Wiener says. “I never imagined being an employer, but here we are.” Exactly how they got here—like many experiences out on the backroads of life—involved a few curves and one or two bumps. “After we graduated,” explains Thurber, “I read an article about electric bikes in the New York Times. I thought it sounded really interesting.” They rode a few, but weren’t thrilled with what Thurber calls their “clunkiness.” “They were more like scooters,” he says. Eventually, when “pedal-assist” models began to hit the market, the two budding world-changers began to see a potential new market for e-bikes—one that might provide meaningful employment while actually also making a difference. OK, so how exactly do e-bikes work? There are three classes of electric bike, one allowing riders to reach speeds of up to 20 miles an hour, the other, known as “speed class e-bikes,” effectively doubling that. Then there are high-performance models that are more for thrill-seekers and extreme sports types. Each e-bike carries an electric motor, which engages as the rider

pedals. The harder you pedal, the more the motor works to assist in your efforts, resulting in a smooth, even ride whether you are moving slow or fast, or riding uphill, downhill or on flat streets. “It’s like a spin class that you can take to the streets,” Thurber says, adding, “Even if you’re going up a hill, which would normally require a lot of extra effort on a bike, the effect is that the pedalassist flattens everything out and helps you get over the hill.” The average e-bike runs from about $1,500 for a very basic model to $5,000 and up. Concerns about bicycle theft, one of the most common and oft-unsolved crimes in the state, are addressed in that most e-bikes contain electronics which will send an alarm to the owner’s smartphone if the bike is moved, and will track its movements using GPS. Electric bikes use removable five- to eight-pound batteries that can be carried indoors and charged at any standard outlet, just like a cellphone. A full charge takes about three and a half hours, and will power a bicycle for between 30 and 60 miles, with some e-bikes taking a rider as far as 120 miles on a single charge. “People aren’t using them so much for touring, honestly, as they are using them for commuting,” Thurber says. “That is where e-bikes are really positioned to make a significant impact.”


Thurber and Wiener are hardly the only ones who believe that. In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill AB 1096, legislation designed to iron out some confusion where electric bikes are concerned. Initially regulated like mopeds or scooters, e-bikes are now classified as equal to traditional bicycles, subject to the same rules and regulations. Electric bikes, under AB 1096, are not subject to the same insurance and registration requirements that apply to other motorized vehicles. The new law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2016, was happily applauded by e-bike enthusiasts, who point to it as evidence that the electric-bicycle movement is being viewed in the government and civic planning level as much more than just a fad. “For one thing, the shop is literally at the hub of the local transportation center of Marin,” says Tom Boss, the off-road and The founders of Larkspur’s The New Wheel e-bike shop believe that electric bikes have enormous potential to change the way cities work.

events director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, of The New Wheel. “It’s at the crossroads of the North-South Greenway. It’s right where people hop on and off the ferry. It’s where motorists cross paths getting on and off the freeway. It’s a perfect location to promote alternative modes of transportation.” Boss predicts that e-bikes will continue to grow as more people recognize them as a reasonable transportation alternative, standing somewhere in between a bike and a car. “I do think e-bikes are a real enabler for people who want to use their car less,” he says, “who want to get off of Highway 101, but who have never considered cycling because of the area’s hilly terrain. A mom with a toddler, or a commuter who’d normally stop at the grocery store to pick up groceries and haul them up the hill—they’re not going to do that on a bike, probably. But with an e-bike, all of that becomes a whole lot easier.” Speed is a factor, too. Though e-bikes must stay within legal bike lanes and follow the same rules, the steady speed they are capable of, regardless of the angle of the road, allows them to make better time than on a regular bike. “With electric-assist,” he says, “it brings my average commute time more in line with that of a car. I don’t think it’s going to solve the traffic problem in Marin, but I do think it’s going to help. If we can get 2 or 3 percent onto bikes that weren’t on bikes before, that’s a very good thing.” Longtime e-bike enthusiast Michael Bock—whose interest in electric bikes dates back to before

they were called e-bikes—believes that the newer models, though still a little too expensive for the average person, are poised to make a difference as more and more commuters see them in action. “Right now, the cost is mainly in the battery,” he says. “And as the industry evolves and that battery technology gets really dialed in, I think the price will come down, and the battery length will improve, and the bikes will become more and more user-friendly. “I think e-bikes really could have the effect of getting people out of their cars,” he continues. “People want to get out of their cars. But people have a funny idea about cheating. Some people do think of e-bikes as cheating, but all they are is a tool for getting people around with more fun and more ease. And believe me, it’s not like you aren’t getting exercise on an e-bike. You are. You just have some help with the parts that maybe are just too hard for some people to deal with.” In other words, the future looks good for e-bikes, which—unless they go the way of some other “next big things”—could be a very positive thing for the future of Marin. “What we are doing here,” Wiener says, “is very hopeful. It’s a great, big hopeful thing. “In San Francisco, what we see in the shop every day is that people come back to us after they’ve gotten their bikes, and they love them, and they almost always say they use their bike more than they thought they would. How cool is that? A bicycle that people use more than they thought they ever would! What’s not hopeful about that?”

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The Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, located in Fairfax, showcases the birth and evolution of the mountain bike.

FAT TIRE TEMPLE Curating mountain biking’s roots in the place where it all began BY NATE J. VOGE


icycles predate paved roads, so in a way, mountain biking has always existed. Yet Marin County is considered the birthplace of the sport, because in the 1970s local riders organized the first mountain bike race on a trail overlooking Mt. Tamalpais, the Repack, and designed bikes that would set the path for modern bike design. The Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, opened in 2015 in Fairfax, offers tribute to that history, and to bicycles in general. “There was only one place where that activity reached a critical mass,” says Connie Breeze, curator of the museum along with her husband, Joe, a Hall of Fame inductee and



mountain biking pioneer. Joe Breeze and fellow pillar of the sport Charlie Kelly helped organize the first Repack race in 1976, a downhill trail on Pine Mountain that Breeze went on to win 10 times. He also welded the first ever mountain bike from new parts, dubbed it the “Breezer” and won Repack on it the next year. “This was our off-season fun, exploring the territory we grew up hiking around,” says Joe Breeze, at the time a road racer. Breezer No. 1, the first bike he made, is in the Smithsonian museum; if he’s around, be sure to listen to his stories and check out the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame to read about his achievements in the sport, because he will humbly downplay them on his walk around the museum.




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Napa Valley native Melissa Baker (pictured) and her sister Mercedes transformed an old hay barn into an art studio that centers their creative collective the Society. THE NORTH BAY 2018 EXPLORE 50Ehlers

SISTER ART Napa Valley natives form collective of likeminded artisans BY CHARLIE SWANSON


ucked among vineyards and palatial estates in Napa Valley lies the Ehlers Society, a collective of artists, filmmakers and performers led by sisters Melissa and Mercedes Baker.

Through their paintings, installations and productions—and with the help of their friends—the Baker sisters are transforming their little corner of wine country into an arts oasis. Oakville natives, the sisters grew up on a cattle ranch with their other sister, Anna, also an artist and writer. “We were really the only kids out there, and we had a lot of time on our hands, so we started doing art and performing plays really young,” Melissa says. After high school, the sisters studied art at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh before transferring to San Francisco State University. Melissa’s paintings are decidedly abstract, with color and atmosphere emphasized

over form. Mercedes’ works are a mixture of representational and expressionist that layer semitransparent figures and architectural structures of every era to reflect a passage of time.

“Artists tend to gravitate toward each other...we all fuel each other creatively.” “All of time and history can be seen in the present day,” Mercedes says, “and I explore the idea that our heritage forms who we become.” “My paintings feel more celestial,” Melissa says, “Like they’re scenes from another world. It’s funny when you look at our work together, because Mercedes’ paintings will

be representative of something and mine will feel like the subconscious element of that representation, what’s going on under the surface.” After a decade of traveling and living in various locations around the country, the sisters moved back to the Napa Valley together in 2008 to be closer to family. They rented a house on Ehlers Lane in St. Helena that came with a 1920s hay barn littered with old appliances and farm equipment, which the sisters transformed into an art studio. Since their return to the North Bay, the sisters have shown their oil paintings at wineries and alternative art spaces, yet their imaginations quickly propelled them beyond the canvas. They formed the Ehlers Society in 2010 to produce large-format installations at events like Nimbus Arts’ annual Nimbash gala. Today, the Ehlers Society is made up of filmmakers, fashion designers, welders and everything in between. “Artists tend to gravitate toward each other,” says Melissa. “And we all fuel each other creatively.”



Headlands Center for the Arts’ Artist in Residence program, a renowned opportunity for working artists of various mediums, allows creators time and space in the inspiring Marin Headlands.

REFLECTIVE RETREAT Headlands Center for the Arts provides artists with resources to push their work forward BY FLORA TSAPOVSKY


he Headlands Center for the Arts, a long-standing Marin County staple, is having a renaissance. After an extensive closure through 2017, it has reopened with a renovation, and a new area called The Commons.



The redesigned outdoor space between the center’s two main buildings enables additional public programming, and provides a “welcoming space to relax, connect with art and artists, and enjoy the natural environment.” The Commons is the seventh of Headlands’ building commission projects, which include the Rodeo Room

and Eastwing by David Ireland and Mark Thompson (1986–87), the Latrine by Bruce Tomb and John Randolph (1988) and most recently, the Key Room by Carrie Hott (2016). There’s more to the $1.8 million project than originally meets the eye. Funded by a group of individual supporters and foundations, The Commons features newly


commissioned, permanent artwork by local, national and international artists, an outdoor amphitheater and a promenade that connects the two main buildings—plus, of course, the location’s famous views. The renovation process, led by San Francisco–based CMG Landscape Architecture, was punctuated by work commissioned from friends of the center. While change and progress are welcome forces in the art world (the center has spearheaded not one but six rehabilitation projects since 1986), the campus has always kept a smidgen of

austerity and simplicity in its atmosphere, staying true to its military past. Originally home to the coastal Miwok, then Spanish and Mexican ranchers, and later Portuguese immigrant dairy farmers, the space was mobilized for military purposes in the 1890s, adding the Fort Barry buildings to its landscape. The area served as an active military center until 1950, and the National Park Service took over in 1972, eventually turning it into the Headlands Arts Center in 1982. Now, it’s the home of events, art programming, changing exhibitions open to the public,




an affiliate artists program and a graduate fellowship program. Headlands’ centerpiece is a lively biannual artist-in-residence program, running since 1982. Offering residencies that generally run four to 10 weeks, with studio space, meals prepared by chef Damon Little and housing, travel and living stipends, the program is one of the county’s most sought-after gigs—especially given its dreamlike location and multidisciplinary approach (painters, sculptors, photography, film, video and new-media artists are all welcome, as well as nonfiction writers, poets, dancers and musicians). Artists are chosen by panels comprised of curators, educators, scholars and artists, specific to each discipline. “The Headlands residency is quite well-known in Bay Area performance circles, and many friends have done it in years past— Jesse Hewit, Erika Chong Shuch, Larry Arrington,” says Oaklandbased Christopher White, who attended the residency in the fall of 2016. “I had heard wonderful things about the experience and decided that this would be a good time to apply, because it would give me the space to refocus on my art-making practice and slough off some of the sclerotic administrator-brain that had accumulated over the years.” According to White, the Headlands residency is a retreat, in the truest sense of the word. “The location is remote; despite its proximity to the city, you feel far from civilization, and you’re surrounded by miles of gorgeous hills and trails and coastline,” he says. “There’s almost no phone



service, and the internet available there is very weak and spotty. It was very valuable because it forced me to get out of ‘go’ mode and shift into a more reflective mental space.” Upon visiting, one finds the reflective, calming space adorned with artwork incorporated into the new Commons area. A standout feature is the sculptural installation Wall Space, created by Rotterdam-based designer Chris Kabel and meant to turn Headlands’ building façade

The Headlands campus comprises a cluster of artist-rehabilitated military buildings at Fort Barry.


into a canvas for commissioned texts. Historical-movie-theatermarquee-inspired hidden armature features a modular lettering system rendered in transparent metal mesh; responding to changing light conditions, it makes the text readable to viewers as a cast shadow. Another new addition is Doubledrink, a sculpture by San Francisco–based Nathan Lynch. The functional piece is a ceramic drinking fountain designed for two people to drink simultaneously while looking each other in the eye.

For artists living in the current social climate and economy, the opportunity to stay at the center is fuel. White says that disconnecting, relaxing and carving out space and time allows artists to “connect to the basic root impulses that drive us to work, quieting some of the pressures of deadlines and technology and urban living that insidiously shape our habitual thinking patterns.” The same can be said for visiting—if only for a day.

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hese days, the global is local and the universal can be deeply personal. If this sounds like an empty statement, take a look at the story of San Rafael-based Cristina Rose-Guizar, an accessories designer with an international reach and a unique coming-toAmerica story. For her brand, Centinelle, Rose-

Guizar illustrates colorful silk scarves, pocket squares and silkcotton blend bandanas, decorating them with whimsical, fantastical worlds made up of hypnotizing cats, koalas in tiny pedal boats, dancing donkeys, colorful guitars, corn husks and ‘Mexican pinup’ ladies. The latter two are a nod to her home country of Mexico, which Rose-Guizar left two years ago, after meeting her future husband in San Francisco, while visiting a friend. As a girl growing up in Morelia, a four-hour drive from Mexico


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Cristina Rose-Guizar’s scarves, sold around the world, feature the artist’s original illustrations.



City, Rose-Guizar always loved sewing. “I started sewing when I was 5 years old with a little toy machine that my mom bought me for my birthday” she recalls, “making clothes for all my dolls.” The artist also expressed, from a young age, a special interest in drawing. “All kids draw, but I continued, always forming projects that would need some illustration, and I drew for the high school newspaper.” Rose-Guizar went to Jannette Klein Fashion University in Mexico City and launched her first collection in 2010. The scarves were there from the beginning, as a simple and straightforward product. “I wanted to create something easy to sell, so Centinelle started with handmade/homemade

accessories, focusing on local fabrics and between friends at first,” she says. “When traveling, I started to look for the fabric store wherever I was and get fabrics.” Centinelle accessories soon became Centinelle clothing, with pieces focused on craftsmanship, natural fabrics and prints designed by Rose-Guizar. The name of the brand is a story among friends, too. “My friends in Mexico City gave me the nickname of Chispa, which means ‘sparkle,’ 20 years ago,” RoseGuizar says. “So I wanted to give the brand a name related to that. Centella is a Spanish synonym for ‘sparkle,’ so playing with that I ended up with Centinelle.” Besides their practical appeal and the ease of their production,


Rose-Guizar loves the versatility of scarves. “As a child growing up in the ’70s, I remember my mom having these gorgeous scarves in her walk-in closet, lots of them, from different places; beautiful, colorful, elegant but fun, with bold prints that some people probably will never dare to wear, but would accept in a scarf. It’s like a well-kept secret,” she says. The artist’s lifelong passion for illustration, too, contributed to the expansion of scarves. “I started to realize that I enjoy the textile design process the most,” Rose-Guizar says. After Rose-Guizar draws and adds details digitally, the prints are placed on the scarves at a manufacturing facility in China; they then make the trip around the world back to Rose-Guizar’s home studio in San Rafael. Rose-Guizar and her partner lived in San Francisco upon her arrival from Mexico City, and later moved to San Rafael. While living in San Francisco she came pretty close to her favorite Mexico City vibe; the move to Marin was an adjustment. “You can’t walk to run errands here; everything is done by car and cars are not my favorite thing,” Rose-Guizar says of San Rafael. “But I love to be surrounded by nature, and almost every day I get to see deer; this makes me feel so lucky.” In addition to her online store, Rose-Guizar’s accessories are sold in more than 15 stores across the U.S. and Mexico, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gift shop and Mexico City’s Tamayo Museum. She’s taken part in trade shows in New York

and L.A., and has displayed her creations at Tictail Market, the brick-and-mortar Manhattan store of the online platform Tictail. “In a few words, fiction, fantasy, memory and myth are what I would use to describe my scarves,” Rose-Guizar says. “These four concepts mix together to inspire each scarf design, all with a common thread: a chic sense of humor. Humor is a part of my daily life, and I would like it to be a part of the lives of many others.” The inspiration for the outthere illustrations, according to the artist, is very everyday. “I get inspired by my daily life as a city girl who loves animals, nature and life’s simple pleasures, as well as my fascination with foreign culture and traveling in general.” Sometimes, the motivation is to fix a pop-culture injustice: take the playful donkey scarf as evidence. “I just thought that the donkeys are so underestimated and deserve the same focus as magical unicorns,” she says. Escapism is echoed in some of her newest illustrations, featuring peaceful bunnies, pink flamingos and always, Rose-Guizar’s greatest muse, cats. “I don’t think the move changed me much,” Rose-Guizar says. “I still travel to Japan and other places, I am still Mexican, still love nature and cute things, my friends are still my friends. And I think that is why the transition of Centinelle from Mexico to the U.S. has been well-received—because the brand gets inspired by simple, daily things that could happen to any gal in the world.”



11:15 AM

Preserving the History of Calistoga & the Upper Napa Valley Take a break from wine tasting and visit our award-winning museum created by Ben Sharpsteen, animator, producer, and director for Walt Disney from 1929-1959. Meet Sam Brannan, California’s first millionaire and visionary founder of Calistoga who saw the potential of the natural hot springs of the area and built the first Hot Springs Resort. Read about a white-knuckle stagecoach ride from Calistoga to the Geysers as written in the 1871 book, “Handbook of Calistoga Springs”; it can be purchased in our bookstore $14.50. See our amazing 30-foot diorama depicting Brannan’s Hot Springs resort in 1862. Look closely to discover the antics and everyday life during that era. Get up close and personal with one of Ben’s 11 Oscars earned for his work at Disney. Walk into one of only 3 surviving original Brannan Cottages from 1862 (California Historical Landmark #675), fully restored and complete with authentic vintage furnishings from the era.

Museum, Gift and Book Store Open Daily 11-4 • Admission is free (donations appreciated) • Docent-led group tours available by appointment

30 minutes from Santa Rosa - 60 miles from the Bay Area

Sharpsteen Museum & Brannan Cottage 1311 Washington St., Calistoga 707-942-5911 Like us2018 on EXPLORE Facebook THE NORTH BAY


SLAP HAPPY Santa Rosa’s Andy Graham makes music and makes the instruments he plays BY CHARLIE SWANSON


ndy Graham is funneling small plastic particles into a homemade injection mold when I greet him at his Santa Rosa shop. The particles are heated and put under thousands of pounds of pressure to form the end pieces of his original percussive instrument, the SlapStick. The injection mold is one of several custom-made machines that Graham developed in his shop to Musical mad scientist Andy Graham is happiest building craft his patented hybrid and playing his original instruments. instrument. The SlapStick is made of a high-tension metal band strapped on an aluminum N-100, also known as the Noodle, with body and amplified by an electric pickup. precision accuracy in a timely fashion. By hammering on the strap with fingers Whereas traditional luthiers might spend or a drum stick, the musician can produce several weeks on one instrument, Graham sounds like a slapped bass guitar, combining can produce 50 instruments a week. melodic and percussive elements. Growing up, Graham played drums in “The only way to make money various bands and worked as a toolmaker. manufacturing by yourself is to make your He says it came together when he starting own machinery,” Graham says. “I put all building his own custom instruments. the work into this,” he adds, showing off his One of Graham’s first musical inventions metal cutting and drilling tools. was a mounting rack for didgeridoo that he By designing his own machines, Graham could use while also playing drums. From is able to produce the six-foot-tall SlapStick there, his creations became more elaborate, and the popular two-foot-long SlapStick such as the electric stringed didgeridoo he



built from a staircase hand railing. The SlapStick was conceived 15 years ago, when Graham happened to smack a metal cable that was tightened around a shipping container. The resonating hum stuck with him, and the next day he brought an electric guitar pickup to the container to see how he could capture that sound. “It’s just one of those funny things,” he says. “That’s how a lot of my ideas come to me; I’ll just see something in a scrap yard or a crate, and I visualize something and start hacking away at it.” As owner and machinist of Slaperoo Percussion, Graham is a fixture at events like Maker Faire and the annual National Association of Music Merchants trade shows. Stevie Wonder has played Graham’s inventions, as does bassist Doug Wimbish (Living Colour) and Hammond B3 legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, who had Graham make his SlapStick into a usable walking cane. As a solo performer, Graham incorporates his inventions into a neo-world music exploration that has made him a staple at events like the North Bay Cabaret in Santa Rosa. “This is wanted I’ve always wanted to do: be an inventor and play music,” Graham says.

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Terrapin has been built as a destination for artistic expression and exploration within our community. Enjoy free live music every night in the bar, treat yourself to a show in the state of the art Grate Room or enjoy a game of bocce in Beach park.


The calendar is packed with activities such as yoga, holiday celebrations, kids events, craft classes and more.

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11/7/17 10:19 AM

ON THE BUS Pot Tourism has Arrived BY STETT HOLBROOK


e were packed and ready to board when a couple hustled over to our idling Mercedes Sprinter cargo van at a Rohnert Park parkand-ride lot. “Is this the van for the beer tour?” asked the man.

“Our goal is to empower people with information, promote a sense of wonder and let them feel transported.” Applegarth is not creating a booze cruise for stoners. There is no smoking or vaping on the bus. Cannabis consumption is not allowed for legal reasons (but participants can partake off the bus where permitted), Our tour guide, Brian but Applegarth also wants Applegarth, chuckled a bit the tours to focus on cannabis and greeted the eager beer culture, heritage and health drinkers. “This is a cannabis and wellness, not clouds of tour,” he said. “It’s the first of smoke. He’s also working on its kind in the North Bay.” a self-guided tour with key Applegarth, co-founder Emerald Country Tours include visits to Sonoma County cannabis farms stops along cannabis’ road to of Emerald Country Tours, like this one near Forestville. legalization, with a focus on California’s first cannabis tour the people who fought for company, explained what the the plant’s acceptance as a health benefit for in cannabis culture and products, Applegarth tour was about and where we were going, those with chronic illness. is poised to capitalize on Sonoma County’s and by the end of their conversation, the “The history is deep,” he says. unique location in the middle of what he calls couple wished they could get on our bus and Applegarth has traveled extensively “Emerald Country”—a region from Santa Cruz skip the beer tour. But this was a test run for internationally and gone on many media and the tour wasn’t open to the public to Arcata that’s home to decades of cannabis sightseeing tours himself, and he likens his yet. That happens next year. The couple said cultivation, culture and history. The Emerald tours to Vietnam’s Cú Chi Viet Cong tunnel they would be back. Triangle (Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity tours, a window into a formerly secret world. The exchange was a bit of a vindication counties) is the heart of California’s marijuana Our first stop was Rohnert Park’s notfor Applegarth, who has been working cultivation, but the larger region outlined by with partner Jeromy Zajonc to get the tour so-secret OrganiCann, a dispensary that Applegarth has great stories and characters, company off the ground for the past few bills itself as the first and biggest outlet in and Applegarth wants to guide pot tourists years. With recreational cannabis becoming Sonoma County. Guerneville’s Riverside there just as they now flock to the North Bay legal Jan. 1, and growing mainstream interest Wellness might dispute that claim to being for winetasting and beer tours.



first, but OrganiCann is certainly the biggest. The 30,000-square-foot warehouse retail space is the largest in California. Anyone with a medical recommendation can visit the dispensary (and after Jan. 1, that won’t be necessary). So what is there on the tour that’s not available to the public? Access. While the nature of the tour will likely evolve once it’s open to the public, our stop at OrganiCann featured a behind-the-scenes tour of the business operations and plant nursery. It would be an eye-opener to anyone who has never entered a dispensary before—more than a hundred kinds of edibles—but probably not particularly illuminating to those who have. Applegarth says his tours are aimed at anyone with interest in the history, culture and medical benefits of cannabis. “It’s an exciting time because we get to invent what cannabis tourism looks like,” he says. Will people spend the $179 for a tour? It remains to be seen. Applegarth says interest is high. “We’re excited to see where it goes,” he says. “We’re going to follow the direction of the consumer.” For newcomers and old hands alike, visits to cannabis farms will probably be the most interesting part of Emerald Country’s tours, since these are the places that were hidden and off-limits until we entered the new legal era. And to be sure, many operations still want to remain hidden. Applegarth says he reaches out to growers looking to build brands and stake a position in the new legal marketplace. He’s in contact with about a dozen growers for the tours. On the way to visit a grower in Forestville, Applegarth unfurled a poster of “cannabis man,” a medical chart that described how the human endocannabinoid system works and how cannabis affects the body. It was a short tutorial, just a hint of some of the health and wellness information he will be imparting on the tours, one of which is focused just on that subject. For a bit of fun, Applegarth invited us

to don blindfolds as we neared the grow site to recreate the experience of “trimmigrants” being shuttled to clandestine gardens to trim and process freshly harvested pot. Back in the day, some growers hid the location of their grows, lest some trimmers come back and rip them off. Turning off Highway 116 near the Stop one on the tour featured a visit to Rohnert Park’s Blue Rock Quarry, OrganiCann dispensary. we bumped up a dirt road and immediately passed a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Russian River and a visit to the shoeboxhandcuffing a Latino man. Was this a pot size Riverside Wellness, a densely stocked bust, we all wondered? It turns out the man dispensary that caters to the Russian River was an undocumented worker arrested community. It was a pretty idyllic end to the on an immigration charge and headed sneak-peek tour. to the clutches of Immigration Customs Will cannabis tourists come running Enforcement. But as we drove up the road, next year? My guess is yes, especially as we were reminded that even growers who Applegarth and Zajonc add more growers comply with state and local authorities can to the itinerary. Everyone wants to meet still face arrest and destruction of their crops. former outlaws and their old hideouts. The grower we met was “Oaky” Joe As the North Bay tourism industry seeks Munson. He grows cannabis for AIDS to attract visitors after the fires, pot tours patients free of charge. He’s been raided by may be an attractive option. the sheriff and had his plants confiscated Applegarth sits on Sonoma County several times. He said he showed deputies Tourism’s marketing committee, but so his permits to grow medical marijuana, but far the organization is not promoting the that hasn’t stopped the raids. tours alongside the many excursions it does “They said, ‘No, marijuana is bullshit.’” support in Sonoma County. That’s not a Even though he says he’s in compliance, slight against the tour company, but simply he fears another raid. a reflection of the fact the tours aren’t open “I put the biggest plants at the bottom of to the public yet, says Tim Zahner, Sonoma the hill so the cops have to work really hard County Tourism’s interim CEO. There may to get them out.” be opportunities for collaboration next year, He asked us not name him or publish any he says. “After January we’re going to start figuring photographs before he harvested his crops, all this stuff out and have a lot of good which he has since done. questions,” says Zahner. From Munson’s farm, we headed to “Right now we’re in a waiting game.” Guerneville for a catered lunch on the 2018 EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY



AbsoluteXtracts, Lagunitas get Super Critical BY STETT HOLBROOK


t’s a match made in . . . Sonoma County.

Santa Rosa’s AbsoluteXtracts and Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Co. have partnered to create two new products that are unique to Sonoma County and may signal more alcoholcannabis collaboration in the years ahead. This summer, Lagunitas released Super Critical Ale, a THC-free beer made with cannabis and hop terpenes, the fragrant oily compounds that give cannabis and hop strains their characteristic taste and aromas. While the beer is non-psychoactive, it weighs in at 6.6 percent alcohol by volume and 88 IBUs. The beer is named after the CO2 extraction process used to isolate and preserve cannabis and hop terpenes. Super Critical Ale is brewed with seven hop strains and cannabis terpenes from Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookie cultivars. The limited-edition brew will be available on tap at select locations in The flavors of hops and cannabis are showcased in Lagunitas’ the North Bay. Super Critical brew. On the flip side, AbsoluteXtracts debuted its version of Super Critical, a cannabis vape cartridge infused Kial Long, vice president of marketing with hop and cannabis terpenes that for CannaCraft, AbsoluteXtracts’s the company says will give the products parent company, said Lagunitas and a distinct Lagunitas flavor. At over 80 AbsoluteXtracts have been chatting about percent potency, this one definitely has THC in it. The vape catridges are available at partnering for a year but only got serious dispensaries throughout California. this past summer. Because both companies



use the super-critical extraction process for hops and cannabis respectively, exchanging one oil for the other made production easy, says Long. The collaboration comes from the companies’ appreciation for one another’s product. “We’ve always noticed a lot of similarities between our industries, and we wanted to see what we could come up with if we started brainstorming together,” said Karen Hamilton, director of communications with Lagunitas, in a statement. While this is the first time Lagunitas has made beer with cannabis oils, it’s not the company’s first weed-friendly beer. The brewery’s OneHitter series (ahem) includes the Waldos’ Special Ale, an ode to the supposed originators of the term “420.” This past summer, the Wine Industry Network hosted its Wine & Weed Symposium in Santa Rosa, a sold-out event that explored collaboration between those two industries. Long says the partnership with Lagunitas is their first such collaboration, and she sees more alliances in the future. “Everybody is talking about it,” she says.








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11/17/17 3:37 PM






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Third-party certification offers growers an edge BY STETT HOLBROOK


s California’s cannabis industry gathers mass, the message to small growers seems to be, get big or get out. Harborside Farms, Oakland’s heavyweight cannabis dispensary, also operates a 47-acre farm in the Salinas Valley alongside more traditional lettuce and flower crops. The farm, much of it under greenhouse glass, has about 360,000 square feet of growing space and the capacity to produce 100,000 plants. “Harborside takes grief for being the 800-pound gorilla,” says Jeff Brothers, chief executive of Harborside Farms’ parent company in an interview with the New York Times. “But if we want cannabis to be widely accepted, we need it to be cheap.” Is that true? Big farms and cheap pot sends chills down the spines of Northern California’s cottage-scale growers who fear the rise of industrial-scale cannabis. But third-party certification and branded, boutique farms may help small-scale growers compete. Single-vineyard-designated wines have found a lucrative niche. Why not artisanal pot? A small but growing number of biodynamic certified farmers are adding cannabis to their crops. Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic

method of farming that goes beyond organic standards and draws esoteric concepts developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s. Among other things, certified biodynamic marijuana has to be grown outdoors without light deprivation. (Cannabis farms cannot be certified organic under the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of federal marijuana prohibition.) Elizabeth Candelario, managing director of the biodynamic certification nonprofit Demeter USA, says California wineries were early adopters of biodynamics because of the superior wine it produces and the ecological benefits. “Those of us who worked in the wine industry need look no further to see where cannabis is going to go,” she says. “The only difference is this a plant that can really help heal people.” Mike Benziger is a nationally recognized expert in biodynamic viticulture whose small plot of medical cannabis was certified by Demeter in 2015. He’s also a twotime cancer survivor, thanks in part to pot, he says. “I want to raise the level of respect for the land and farming practices,” Benziger says. “My dream for Sonoma County is, of course, for a vibrant wine industry, but also a vibrant farm industry with some medical marijuana to help with the income stream.” 2018 EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY


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