Barbera Festival Highlights California's Celebrated Varietal Wine

Barbera festivalCourtesy of Balzac Communications & Marketing

More than 70 California wineries will present their wines at the 7th Annual Barbera Festival, taking place on September 16, 2017 at Terra d’Oro Winery in the Amador Foothills. New this year, wineries will not only showcase Barbera varietal wines, but also a limited selection of other Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese, Vermentino, Montepulciano, Fiano, and Nebbiolo.

The Barbera Festival is an outdoor wine and food festival highlighting Barbera varietal wines from more than 70 wineries from throughout California and beyond, including the Sierra Foothills, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Paso Robles, Livermore, Ventura County, Lodi and the Bay Area. In addition, noted area restaurants and chefs will again offer prepared gourmet food for sale, and more than 60 vendors of art and artisan crafts will be showcasing their wares.

“While Barbera becomes more and more popular in California, these wines still remain fairly obscure,” says Brian Miller, founder of the festival. “We started the festival several years ago to draw focus to this delicious varietal wine, and it’s grown into a huge success. Each year is a sell-out and we constantly get feedback from wine enthusiasts how much they love it.”

Barbera originated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. John Doyle (Cupertino Wine Company, and later Las Palmas Winery) first imported Barbera into California and produced his first Barbera vintage in 1884. Post-prohibition, Louis Martini was the first to produce a varietal Barbera (a wine labeled as Barbera) in 1954. Today, about 7,000 acres are planted in California and nearly 200 California wineries produce Barbera wines. Barbera can also be found from Washington State, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

The 2017 Barbera Festival will again be held at Terra d’Oro/Montevina Winery, from 11:00am to 4:00pm on September 16, 2017. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased online in advance at http://barberafestival.com. Tickets include admittance, wine tasting, and commemorative wine glass. Food is sold separately. Free parking is available on-site. Attendees must be 21 or older to taste or purchase wine, and will be required to show photo I.D. as proof of age.

Check here for lists of participating wineries, artists, restaurants, and musicians.

All proceeds from the festival benefit the Amador Community Foundation.

Terra d'Oro Winery
20680 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, California 

Balzac Communications & Marketing


Farm to Table: Heal The Ecosystem Through Regenerative Farming

This summer, reSoul Food Farm Dinnertreat from the heat at peaceful Soul Food Farm at a series of dinner parties focused on regenerative farming. In the open, warm summer evening air, share a locally grown and produced, regenerative meal with others passionate about living well. The event series is  hosted by Alexis Koefoed, owner of Soul Food Farm, Spencer and Abbey Smith, leaders of the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management. Engage in deep conversation about how we can change our behavior, farming and consumption habits in order to improve the future of our world. Each event focuses on a different topic within regenerative living. 

This event is a Savory Global Network worldwide field day. Savory Global Network Hubs across the globe will be hosting similar events in their region. Together, they will regenerate our world. Join them at this very special event.  

The menu, designed and created by  Chef Anne Goffin and Alexis Koefoed, features locally sourced meats, produce and wines. 
 

Schedule:
5:00 pm - Arrive, appetizers and drink
5:45 pm to 6:30 pm - Short presentation before dinner
6:30 pm to 7:30 pm - Dinner and film
7:30 pm to 8:30 pm - After dinner walk to ask questions and look at pasture
8:30 pm to 9 pm (ish) - Coffee and continued conversation
Date: June 24. 2017
Time: 5 pm to 9 pm|
Location: Soul Food Farm
6046 Pleasants Valley Road
Vacaville, Calif. 95688 

Part of a three-part farm-to-table dinner series focused on the impact of regenerative farming on the ecosystem, community and economy, the following events are also at Soul Food Farm:

  Soul Food Farm
Jefferson Center
Savory


Whitney Portal Store & Hostel

4 Star Star Star Star - You don't have to climb to #loveWhitneyHostel

Whitney Portal Store & HostelSo remiss on my part for not penning this review sooner.  Whitney Portal Store & Hostel was the perfect overnight location on my short visit to Lone Pine.  I arrived later than expected and found the lobby open and staff waiting to check me in. A long day in Bishop, I happily climbed the stairs to my second-story private room and queen bed. Clean, quiet, TV, microwave and in-room coffee maker. I was a happy camper; minus the camping, of course. I was in Lone Pine for the annual Owens Lake Bird Festival. The hostel was conveniently located just a few blocks from the festival headquarters. Up just after dawn, it made for an easy morning commute.

For those on a budget, the dorm-style Owens Lake Bird Festival OWAC Bishiop 2017 Credit Barbara L Steinberg04rooms (male and female) are the best deal and all rooms have private baths. Views of Mt. Whitney come at no extra charge. The hostel is downtown Lone Pine and an easy walk to local stores and restaurants.


I didn't have a chance to really check out all the hostel has to offer as I was up and gone so early - I would likely have give then that fifth star had I been there longer. Thank you to owners Doug and Earlene Thompson!

Next time a longer visit and that extra star!

 

 

If my Subaru can't get me there, 
that's a good reason not to go!

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BeFries are fry perfection

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 5 Star Star Star Star Star

Yes, I finally found them. French fry perfection. Although, in this case, it's Belgian fry perfection. BeFries has stolen my heart. There can be no other fries beyond this moment. So lucky we just happened upon this new (less than one year) establishment while exploring the streets of Brighton. And happier still I had resisted ordering fries at the local pub.

This family of siblings -- Joe, Dash, Chan and Ezda (and friend Harry) have created fry magic. Locally sourced potatoes, fresh-cut and double-fried are crisp on the outside and a melting soft on the inside. Not overcooked crisp -- but a crust like nothing I have ever experienced. Delivered in their paper cone, the BeFries are also a perfect IMAG3590temperature. Slowly making our way through the large order, they were still nicely warm to the very end. 

First timers, we indulged in 10 dipping sauces. Moving from one to another and then back again, I decided Green Peppercorn and the daily special, Jerk Mayo, were my favorites. I have never used ketchup on my fries and the idea of 'mayo' is just something I've never understood. However, at BeFries I broke my fry purist rules with total abandon. 

Open seven days a week, I wish these young fry fiends nothing but success. And who knows maybe franchises down the road will cross the great wide pond and find their way west. I lied when I said, "These might just be the fest fries ever!" No 'might' about it. They are the BEST! Vote for BeFries for Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Awards 2017. I already did!

BeFries
46 West Street
Brighton, England
BN1 2RA

Photos on Facebook


Make Lemonade

Interesting that I wrote this more than 10 years ago, just publishing for the first time today and adding the current year's date. California will remember the winter of 2017.

We've all heard the old adage about when life gives you lemons.

Caples Lake Sierra Nevada Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2017The same can be said about California waters. Dry winters of little rain or snow translate into lackluster springs. The early browning of grasses across mountains and valleys; a mere window of time between the chill of winter and the fire of summer. In other words, no lemonade.

But in winters of plenty: Plenty of snow, plenty of rain and plenty of cold, that's a lemonade year. Hills above Fish Slough Credit David Mazel

While Californians pine and moan about the winter weather, I say, "Go live where they actually have winter weather! Places like South Dakota or Minnesota. Our winters of plenty--such as 2017--translate into a spring exploding with wildflowers from the hottest desert valleys to the coldest mountain peak. Our winters of plenty mean landscapes of wildflower eye candy.

Thank you Mother Nature for a winter abundant with lemons and a spring overflowing with lemonade.

 

 

If my Subaru can't get me there, 
that's a good reason not to go!

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Sacramento's Best Cookies

Goodie Tuchews wears the crown for more than 35 years! 

It’s shocking tGoodie Tuchewso hear that some of you are not into sweets! A box of expensive chocolate truffles holds no fascination and luscious cakes aren’t your Achilles’ heel. You don’t wait breathlessly for all those candy-laden holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas – to be swept away into a sugar coma. However, on the rare occasion when your sweet tooth is itching to be scratched do you know where to go? A place – special above all others – called Goodie Tuchews. Sacramento’s bona fide cookie castle and where Terry O’Reilly, owner and lone baker, reigns as the Cookie Queen.

It’s amazing – nay, stunning – that longtime downtown residents and workers say they’ve never noticed the cookie heaven at 1015 L Street (circa 2007)-- and for many more years at 10th & J streets. Terry’s love affair with cookies pre-dates Goodie Tuchews’ 1981 opening. For five years she honed her cookie skills as a regional manager for Cookie Magoo, a Berkeley cookie chain (which eventually succumbed to the wilds of Mrs. Fields.) Terry had a short-lived break on the road to cookie connoisseur when she went to “live” in Europe . Three months later she was back in Sacramento working at the family-run Goodie Tuchews.

Terry’s dad came up with the 10th Street location. Though lackluster, the rent was cheap. And the name? Just a fun play on words, Goodie Tuchews, it was somehow fated. They found out after the fact that people use to call the Cal Western building the “Goodie Two Shoes Building ” because it housed so many non- profits. Terry, along with her father, Gerald, and six siblings crafted their cookies. Six Cookie Magoo recipes (Terry was granted these as long as she stayed out of the Bay Area) evolved into 19 and a local cookie legend was born. Eventually the other family members left the business and Terry became the cookie maven in 1994.

In more than 25 years at her 10th Street shop and now 10 years at 1015 L Street, Terry has baked thousands and thousands of cookies. About relocating she said, “Everything happens for a reason. The new space is luxurious by comparison and a better location.” Though she’s joined the ranks of prettier storefronts, her cookies will never be cookie-cutter. Each one is made with love. The most popular cookie is always the semi-sweet, chocolate chip without nuts. The only cookie to ever be retired was the gingersnap – due to lack of interest. And rumor has it that the chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips is a real “adult cookie”…try it with red wine. My personal favorites are Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut!

Quoting the Cookie Queen:  “People said, ‘We thought you’d never make it!’ I never imagined after more than 35 years that I’d still be doing this. I made myself a job that I love. My motto has always been, Peace & Cookies on Earth!”

I say, "Amen to that and eat more cookies!"  You can also enjoy Sacramento's Best Cookies and Ice Cream Sandwich!


Yolo County might just be the new Mediterranean for Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Capay Valley and California Blue Ridge Mountains Courtesy of Yocha Dehe Wintun NationMarch winds sweep across lowlands to undulating hills and valleys, where deep grasses rush like waves to an imaginary Mediterranean shore. In olive orchards, silvery white and green leaves shimmer on the zephyr and on warm autumn days, rich fruit dangles as precious jewels. Throughout Yolo County, they promise a bountiful treasure of liquid gold.

As in ancient times, the ripened fruit delivers a heavenly elixir. Among the oldest cultivated trees in the world, olives spread from Asia Minor (Turkey) to the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. The Mission varietal brought to Mexico as cuttings by Jesuit missionaries was first planted at Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá in 1769. Eventually growing as far north as San Francisco Solano de Sonoma (Sonoma Mission), these same Mission olives made their way to John Wolfskill’s ranch along Putah Creek in what is now Winters, California. Thanks in part to Wolfskill’s horticultural expertise, California’s olive industry flourished. Over time, supply exceeded demand, olive prices fell and so did the olive oil industry. Only in the past few years have producers and consumers renewed their love affair with California olive oil. Today, Yolo County olive oil is gaining a reputation as some of the best in the country. It’s time to discover it for yourself.

Why Yolo Olive Oil
Olives Courtesy of Visit YoloTerroir, a French term, literally translated means “earth” or “soil”. While most commonly associated with wine, terroir of olive oil is equally significant referring to the natural environment where olives are grown, including factors such as soil, topography and climate. The combination of warm days, cool nights and no fog create the perfect terroir for Yolo County olive orchards. Not only has California olive oil made a meteoric rise, but Yolo County might just be the new Mediterranean for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).

“One of the most interesting micro-climates for growing olives, Yolo County gets warm but generally cools off at night. Olives like fog in the winter when they go to sleep after harvest,” stated renowned gourmand Darrel Corti of Corti Brothers gourmet grocery in Sacramento and Chairman of the Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition. “They like the kind of climate that humans like—where the living is easy—not too hot, and not too cold or damp. “ 

Olive trees Courtesy of Visit YoloYolo County has been proven as a top olive oil producing region because of the increasing amount of acreage, the perfect mix of sunshine, soil and water—that Mediterranean micro-climate—becoming a tidal wave of both planting and milling.  Prior to 2011, olive oil wasn’t included in the county’s Top 20 Commodities. According to the Yolo County Agricultural Crop Report, olive oil burst on the scene at #20 in 2012 and then leaped ahead to #12 in 2015.

“We are quietly becoming the nucleus of the new wave of California EVOO production, not only because of the dramatic increase in plantings and improved technology, but because UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science contains the UC Davis Olive Center,” said Dan Flynn, Executive Director, UC Davis Olive Center. “Escalation of the California industry has been dramatic, growing from 500,000 gallons in 2008 to more than 4 million in 2015-2016.” UC Davis Olive Center is doing for olive oil what UC Davis did for wine by elevating it to be some of the world’s best. Established in 2008, the Center put UC Davis on the map for olives and olive oil research and education.

Boundary Bend, Australia’s largest producer of extra virgin olive oil, arrived on Yolo County’s olive oil scene in 2015 – growing, milling and producing – shining a spotlight on Woodland, California. “Climactic conditions in Yolo County are some of the best suited for EVOO production in California. While the county has not historically been a large olive oil producer, there are a number of groves in the county that are among the top producers for both yield and quality,” said Boundary Bend’s president Adam Englehardt. “We’re betting heavily on the quality of olive oils produced in the county and, so far, we have seen results that have matched our expectations. Residents should expect to see the industry grow for both large and small producers. Especially with the support of local residents and retailers.”

COOC SipSwirl, Sip, Slurp, Swallow
Olives are to olive oil what grapes are to wine. Wine is generally better when aged. Optimally, olive oil should be consumed within a year of production as it degrades over time. (When buying EVOO always look for the “harvest date”.) As with wine, EVOO tastings and pairings are encouraged through Yolo County tasting rooms. The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) also encourages learning the “4 Ss”: Swirl, Sniff, Slurp and Swallow. Aroma and flavor are subjective and, as with wine, you should drink what you like. Positive attributes of EVOO are fruity, buttery, pungent, bitterness (fresh olives), black pepper, tomato; the list of descriptors is long.  The COOC’s rule of thumb is to sip EVOO “neat,” on its own without bread or other food. Savor the oil as you would any vintage wine.

Awards and Accolades for Yolo Olive Oil
Made with the most up-to-date technology, the quality of Yolo County EVOO is improving every year. Gone is the romance of granite wheels turned by horse or mule. The best oil is made with modern technology, which is something that no other food industry can say. According to Darrel Corti, “What we have today was unthinkable even 20 years ago.” 

LA Logo Olive OilYolo County olive oils are top winners at prestigious competitions internationally and statewide. The Los Angeles International EVOO Competition, New York Olive Oil Competition, California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair, California Olive Oil Council and California State Fair have heaped honors upon some of Yolo’s best including Bondolio, Grumpy Goats, Hillstone, Séka Hills, Frate Sole, Bariani, Yolo Press, Cobram Estate and Buckeye Creek Farm.  Celebrating its 25th year, the COOC put California EVOO on the world stage by establishing strict standards with its Seal Certification Program. A trade association, they encourage the consumption of certified California EVOO through education, outreach and communications. The COOC Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition is open to member producers only.  Yolo County’s Grumpy Goats Farm’s (Capay) took Best of Show 2017 for their Picual (Medium Producer) along with two gold medals for their Picual and Italian Blend. Cobram Estate’s (Boundary Bend/Woodland) Sevillano also brought home gold. The California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair is the state’s largest competition. Established in 2005, only nine oils were submitted and judged. A huge learning curve, the competition now attracts some of California’s best – tasters and producers—and more than 100 individual oils annually. The Los Angeles County International Olive Oil Competition is the top ranking EVOO competition in the U.S.

Olive Friends – A sample of tours, tastings, and stories
Seka Hills Olive Oil Mill Tasting Room Seka Hills Tasting Room Courtesy of Yocha Dehe Wintun NationWhile some producers are only available online or through retail outlets, other Yolo County EVOO producers and tasting rooms welcome visitors.  “The number and diversity of facilities varies from very large to small mom and pop.  It’s amazing!” stated Jim Etters, the director of land management for the Yocha Dehe tribe. A magical journey up Capay Valley offers a wide array of options including Séka Hills Olive Mill. Opened in 2014, this beautiful state-of-the-art facility was thoughtfully designed by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the owners and operators. The estate-grown Arbequina is milled at the 14,000-square-foot facility; you can try it, along with other Séka Hills products (like wine and balsamic vinegars) in the spacious tasting room. “It’s consistently wonderful,” Executive Chef Steve Toso, Biba Restaurant, remarked. “A nice fresh flavor and not too spicy. Wonderful on cooked fish and Mozzarella di Bufala.”  

Many growers are relative newcomers, but they are a dedicated and passionate lot. The couple behind Grumpy Goats, Pamela Marvel and Stuart Littell, traveled the back roads of California looking for the right weather, soil, water and community. Yolo County’s Capay Valley had it all. “This is it!” they exclaimed and relocated about 10 years go from the Bay Area. Why olives? Well, Pam and Stuart didn’t want to be completely tied down and olives are more forgiving than seasonal row crops. They require less water and love the heat. You’ll hear this again and again in a land of sometimes little water, where olives rule. The orchards are Coratina and Picual varieties whose Mediterranean roots are well-suited to the region. Grumpy Goats' Picual brought home gold from the New York 2017 competition,

Kim and Paul Consol, Star Rose Ranch, tell a similar story. Ten years ago they bought a horse. Soon after, 20 acres in Capay Valley followed. Olives planted as a hedgerow thrived with minimal irrigation and provide habitat for their heritage livestock and poultry. Probably the smallest producer in Capay, their grove contains 200 trees, mostly Italian varietals and a few California/Italian hybrids.

Bondolio Credit Barbara L. Steinberg 2017In 1986, Karen and Malcolm Bond bought a 10-acre almond orchard in Winters but it wasn’t very profitable.  Six years later, a vacation in the Italian countryside changed everything.  Some crusty bread, fresh EVOO and sea salt and the rest is Bondolio history. After additional journeys to Italy, more tastings and research, the almonds were replaced with 1,200 olive trees. Awards soon followed including California State Fair 2017 Best in Show EVVO and Best EVOO by an Artisan Producer. ““If you smell our oil it’s very fruity and grassy, sometimes herbs—the flavor profile of traditional Sicilian oils. Our very first year, we won gold at the New York show. Our phone rang off the wall,” Karen said. Bondolio offers private tours by appointment only and groups are welcome.

Originally from Italy, the Bariani’s moved to a 4-acre orchard near Sacramento. Necessity is the mother of invention. So when they couldn’t find good olive oil, they decided to produce their own, bottling their first oil in 1991. However, Californians had little interest in locally-produced EVOO. “We would go from store to store, but the response was always, ‘It’s too expensive,’” Sebastian Bariani said. Selling at farmers markets, devoted customers asked local stores to carry Bariani. A segment on Martha Stewart changed everything. By 2004, they needed more room and relocated to 200 acres in Yolo County. “We stumbled on this property and just loved it.”

Frate SoleLocated in Woodland, Frate Sole (‘brother son’ in Italian) EVOO is available at the farm, Davis Food Co-op, IKEDA’s (Davis) and Masullo Pizza (Sacramento). Additionally, the oil is used at The Press in Midtown Sacramento in preparation and as a menu item for dipping. Frate Sole’s robust Tuscan blend took Best of the Best at the California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair 2017.

Where to Buy Yolo County Olive Oil
Yolo County EVOO is regularly available at kitchen specialty and gourmet markets including Corti Brothers, Taylor’s Market, Bi-Rite, Market Hall Foods Oakland/Berkeley, Sprouts, Ikeda’s California Country Market/Davis, Well Stocked Kitchen & Home and Nugget Markets. Producers large and small can also be found at farmers markets in Sacramento, Davis and Palo Alto.

UC Davis Olive Center’s Estate EVOO is available at the UC Davis Bookstore and at Picnic Day.  Proceeds support the self-funded Olive Center.

Events
Bici and Bevi Yolo Wine and Olive Oil Ride – Yolo EVOO and wine is presented by Hot Italian and set to benefit the UC Davis Olive Center. Cap off Bike Month this May and join Hot Italian and Bondolio for a benefit ride to explore olive oil, wine, and pizza in Yolo County.

Olive Crush Festival – Enjoy a fun afternoon at the Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room celebrating the olive crush. The afternoon will be filled with olive oil and honey tasting, wine and sangria by the glass, mill tours, and live music, local vendors, food trucks and more.


Roots to Wine in the rolling green valleys of Yolo County California

Barbara Matchbook Wines Credit Janet Fullwood 2016

After too many years of little rain, California's valleys are lush with agricultural bounty thanks to plentiful rainfall. The back-roads of western Yolo County are shaking off their winter blues for the rich greens of spring and summer. Vineyards and orchards are humming back to life and soon will be burdened with luscious fruit. Family farms will labor to produce world-class wines, olive oils, and jams and jellies -- providing eager visitors with Mother Earth's very best.

That "best" isn't just about buttery Chardonnays and deeply rich Tempranillo or grassy olive oil. It's also about a sense of place, restful views, and family-friendly farms full of smiles. Bring a map and leave GPS behind. Let a quieter pace guide you through rolling hills and along numbered county roads -- a simpler time. Allow yourself to get lost in Yolo.

Roots to Wine, a guide to western Yolo County, is everything you'll need for this idyllic getaway either day-tripping or overnight. More is always better! Like so many before, you'll be saying, "I never knew this existed!"

Now you do!


California Wildflowers are bursting after a year of epic snow and rain

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Wildflower Power!
Spring heralds an explosion of color as California hillsides, mountains, valleys and deserts come to life after a short winter's nap.  A variety of climates and terrain keeps California wildflowers blooming throughout the year, but at no other time is the petaled pageantry this prolific. Wet winters almost without fail mean an eye-popping wildflower season. This year's epic snowfall and rain should translate into a wildflower season like no other. In higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Eastern Sierra, the deep snows could mean a later than usual wildflower show. However, is should be spectacular. Keep your eyes on Mono and Inyo counties. 

Wildflower names like scarlet monkey-flower, Indian paint brush, Western cranesbill and hummingbird sage stir exotic images. These are but a few of the hundreds of wildflower species found in California. 

Everywhere the landscape is transformed into a palette of color. Fields of blue cornflowers, lupine and baby-blue eyes rival any Spring sky. Hills and dales are sun-splashed with the yellows and oranges of California Poppies, wild mustard and goldfields.  The High Desert is a Technicolor showing of desert candles, Mariposa lilies and white and pink primroses.  In the foothills, tiny "redbuds" clinging to leafless branches are some of the earliest signs of Spring.  Later, at the higher elevations, dogwood blossoms lace the trees.

Regardless of when visitors plan to take a walk on the wild(flower) side, they should keep in mind several helpful tips:

*It's against the law to pick wildflowers in California.  They are pleasures for the eye only.

* It's best to stick to specified trails so as not to damage fragile wildflowers and plants.

* Some wildflowers close up at night -- especially in the desert -- and need an hour or so of morning warmth to open up.

* Both wildflowers and cactus flowers depend on rain.  A quick call to any of the areas listed or to local visitor bureaus can confirm that the flowering has begun.

Following is a partial list of the many wildflower viewing areas in Northern and Southern California.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFLOWERS

Jepson Prairie Preserve, Solano County 
The time to visit Jepson is late February through late April.  Violas and owl's clover are among the wildflowers lending sun-color to the countryside.  The tiny blue downingia can be found here, too.  Wildflower Tours led by docents are free, but must be scheduled in advance. This year's monumental rainfalls should translate into a vibrant prairie and an overlfowing Olcott Lake. 

Feather River Canyon, Plumas County.  Cascading waterfalls and wildflowers in the spring highlight the canyon's natural beauty - especially showy from mid-March through June with a constantly changing display of wildflower color.  Early color may be seen in the yellows of the delicate waterfall buttercups and the reds of redbud shrub  followed by the delicate white dogwood blossoms. Later wildflower colors may be seen in the yellow bush monkey flower hanging from the rock walls and the blues of the shrubby silver lupine. 

Chico's Bidwell Park, Butte County 
Blossom-filled wildflower walks range from easy strolls to climbing over rougher terrain.  The Yahl Trail from Big Chico Creek to Brown's Hole, for instance, gradually stretches uphill for some two and a half miles while the round-trip on the North Rim Trail covers about nine miles of varying grades.  Spring brings out lupines, poppies, delphiniums, buttercups and Western Redbuds.

Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County 
During March, April and early May, for many people, the sea views from Chimney Rock, near the lighthouse, take second-place to the sight of Douglas iris, violets, goldfields, lupines, poppies, baby blue-eyes and more.  Each month brings a different batch of wildflower blooms.   

Wildflower Along Hwy 94 -3San Bruno Mountain State and County Parks, San Mateo County 
The Summit Loop--a three-mile walk that gains a bit in elevation--is the place to find yarrow, Wright's paintbrush, sun cups, seaside daisies, hummingbird sage, goldfields and others.  The best wildflower-viewing times are in March and April. 

South Yuba State Park, Nevada County 
The volunteer-built Independence Trail is one of the few nature trails in the U.S. to have wheelchair access.  From late March to early June, a spectacular array of wildflowers -- California Indian pink, delphinium, California pipevine, mock orange, iris, pink phlox, white fairy lantern, yellow cat's ear -- are visible here.  More good wildflower viewing -- though not wheelchair accessible -- is along the Sierra Gateway Trail.  This trail is about 15 road miles from Independence Trail, but only eight miles or so down the South Yuba River.  Wildflower bloom here begins in late February and runs into April.

Sierra National Forest, Mariposa County
From El Portal, a mile below Yosemite National Park, the Hite Cove Trail traverses the South Fork of the Merced River.  The trail -- about eight miles in all -- leads past 100 or so species of wildflowers.  In March, April and early May, the ground is carpeted with baby blue-eyes, lupines, California poppies, mariposa lilies and other wildflower blossoms.

Kern County 
If your schedule doesn't allow for hiking, Kern County offers driving views of California wildflowers.  In Kern River Canyon along Hwy. 178, lupine, blue dicks and popcorn flowers will delight you.  On Hwy. 223 at Hwy. 58, be sure to stop for the poppies and owl's clover.  In the Glennville-Woody area, you will be treated to fields of wild mustard and yellow thistle.  For more information, contact:  Kern County Board of Trade, 2101 Oak Street, Bakersfield, CA  93302

WILDFLOWER FESTIVALS & EVENTS

March:  Blossom Day Festival, Sanger 
Car show, a 10k run and two-mile walk, and a street fair, arts and crafts booths, live music, and food booths with funnel cakes and Mexican specialties in surroundings that are expected to include the annual spring flowers in bloom.

April:  Mather Vernal Pool Flower Walks, Rancho Cordova 
Two-hour tour to explore this magic carpet of flowers.  These unique wildflowers bloom only for a brief period in the spring.  Sponsored by the Sacramento Chapter of the California Native Plants Society.

April:  Bufferlands Birds & Blooms Tour, Sacramento
California poppies, lupine, owl's clover, and baby blue-eyes grow around the uplands and wetlands edges. Thousands of waterfowl and other wetland birds winter at the Fishhead Lake wetlands. Meeting location is weather dependent.

April: Wildflower Music Festival, Chico 
This is a day of fun for the whole family! Check out our kid's area with free activities, jump houses, petting zoo, crafts and more! Visit our food vendors for lunch, snacks, dinner & dessert, and don't forget to stop in for a Sierra Nevada brew all while listening and dancing to the best music Chico has to offer!

April: Western Railway Museum, Suisun City (707/374-2978)
The Scenic Limited takes visitors on a six-mile round-trip ride on the old Sacramento Northern Railway, south from Highway 12. The trip lasts about an hour and passengers catch views of the native wildflowers that cover the rolling hills and fields.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFLOWERS

Wildflower Desert Blooms 13During wildflower blooming season (from March through May), visitors to southern California can take advantage of the 24-hour Theodore Payne Wildflowers Foundation hotline in Sun Valley, (818/768-3533).  The hotline offers weekly updates on wildflower status in the Antelope Valley, Santa Monica Mountains, Angeles National Forest, Joshua Tree National Monument, and Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area, Santa Barbara County 
Located near the town of Los Olivos is La Jolla Spring.  March and April are the best months to see phacelias, mariposa lilies, lupine, delphiniums and a bouquet of other wildflower blooms.  

Point Mugu State Park, Ventura County
In February and March, along the Ray Miller Trail, dainty shooting stars are out in multitude together with larkspur, sage and rattleweed.  Other trails good for glimpses of spring color include La Jolla Valley Trail and Mugu Peak Trail.

Antelope Valley State Poppy Reserve, Los Angeles County
Just 15 miles west of Lancaster, visitors will be amazed by 1,700-acres of California poppies and wildflowers.  April, May and June are generally the best months; travelers are advised to confirm the flowering.

Topanga State Park, Los Angeles County
Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, this park abounds in widlflower blossoms. Canyon sunflowers, poppies, sage, lilies, Chinese houses and foxglove blooms come out early and can last well into the summer.  A good starting place is the four-mile Musch Ranch Trail.

Joshua Tree National Park, Riverside County 
Wildflowers begin to blossom in Pinto Basin.  Beavertail, chollo and pincushion cacti bloom from late April until June.  Evening primroses, desert dandelions, lupines, goldfields, desert stars, Mojave asters and various other wildflowers also dot this desert landscape. Starting near the Cottonwood Visitor Center, the four-mile Lost Palms Oasis Trail offers one of the better walks. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County 
In February and March, the desert terrain is brightened by red, pink, yellow and orange cacti flowers.  Borrego Palm Canyon Trail (three palm-studded miles round-trip to Palm Canyon oasis) is a popular place to see cactus blossoms this time of year.  More than 600 species of wildflowers are on view, including fireweed, desert lavender, white forget-me-nots, indigo bush and California fuchsias.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego County 
This oceanfront terrain is covered with sand verbena, brittlebush, sun cups, wild snapdragons, California poppies, monkey flowers, shooting stars, phacelia, rockroses, golden yarrow and blue delphiniums.  A well-labeled native garden center outside the adobe visitor center provides a more formal viewing experience. 

WILDFLOWER FESTIVALS & EVENTS
April: Orange Cove Blossom Festival, Orange Cove 
Parade, vendors, and pageant to crown the Orange Blossom Queen.

April: Theodore Payne Native Garden Tour, Los Angeles
Thirty-nine Los Angeles-area home landscapes are showcased on the self-guided tour. At least 50% of the plants in each garden are California natives, and some of the region’s most creative homeowners and garden designers will be represented.

April: California Poppy Festival, Lancaster 
The California Poppy Festival kicks off spring in the Antelope Valley with a glorious array of celebrated performers, unrivaled events, and mouth-watering delicacies designed to delight, enchant, and amuse people of all ages.

May:  Wildflower Show, Julian 
Desert to high mountain flowers are on display at Town Hall, includes flowers High Mountain, Desert, Oak and Pine Forest, Chaparral, and High Desert.

Although they aren't wildflowers the earliest blossom frenzy of the season is along the Fresno County Blossom Trail.  Off Highway 99 just east of Fresno, a 67-mile-long flowering fantasy showcases the nut and stone fruit orchards of Fresno County.  In February, pale pink almond blossoms are some of the first performers in this floral extravaganza.  The breathtaking spectacle continues with the blooming of apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines and apples.  The final curtain call is April through May when citrus blossoms perfume the air.  

More Wildflower Resources: SeeCalifornia.com, Plumas County, California State Parks, National Forests, Wildflower Hotline, California Academy of Sciences, Desert Wildflower Report and BLM.


California waterfalls

After years of drought, California waterfalls give thanks to plentiful winter rains and snow 

Vernal Falls Yosemite Barbara 2011The adjectives:  awe-inspiring; breathtaking; spectacular; mesmerizing.  The verbs:  plunging; plummeting; crashing.  The metaphors:  like a thundering curtain or the roar of a hurricane; or like the sound of  bells or murmuring voices. 

Waterfalls. They are mystical and magical. Their size and strength are often times terrifying; their beauty: tranquilizing and hypnotic.  Who hasn't dreamed of showering in their chilling spray or swimming in an emerald pool; or longed to track the water's ancient origins in search of a quiet resting place?  In California, there are memorable waterfalls to match any you have imagined.

The winter rains and (eventually) melting snow pack will have California waterfalls exploding with water. Springtime is generally the best time to view these natural wonders as many of the falls dry-up in the summer heat due to decreased water flows. But during the right winters, waterfalls come crashing back to life. The Native Americans called them "laughing waters."  Though spring is still many months away, California waterfalls are giggling, chortling, screaming, and lifting their voices in tumultuous laughter.

Burney Falls, once called "the eighth wonder of the world" by Teddy Roosevelt, is fed by spring flows of  200 million gallons daily.  Much of the water from these underground streams actually spouts from the rock.  The divided falls rumble down a 129-foot cliff into an emerald pool before flowing into Lake Britton.  Trails that almost anyone can manage lead Burney Falls 3down to the pool on both sides.  For the best view, hike the 1/2-mile trail that traverses the hillside.  You can cross the top of the falls most of the year, but waters run heaviest in the Spring.  McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is located mid-way between Lassen National Volcanic Park and Mt. Shasta.

The McCloud Falls (upper, middle and lower) are 5.9 miles east of the town of McCloud and can be reached by following the signs to Fowler's Camp.  The three falls are within two miles of each other and accessible by car.  There is fishing and a natural swimming hole on Hwy. 89.

Located near Dunsmuir are Mossbrae and Hedge Creek Falls.  Approximately 50 miles north of Redding, Mossbrae is fed by melting water from the glaciers on Mount Shasta.  Hedge Creek is well marked and has a picnic area near the base of the falls.

Approximately 41 miles east of Redding, Potem Creek Falls empties into the Pit River.  A gentle, winding trail makes the falls accessible to hikers. For additional information, contact:  Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association.

Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in North America (and fifth tallest in the world), drops 2,425 feet to the valley floor.  The Upper Fall plunges 1,430, feet, connecting with the 320-foot  Lower Fall by a 675-foot cascade.  Follow a 3.6-mile trail, which includes a 270-foot gain in elevation, to reach the top of Yosemite Falls.  Start at Lower Yosemite Falls for a 1/2- Romance under the wintry spray of a Yosemite waterfall on the Mist Trail Credit www.YExplore.comday hike with excellent views of Half Dome.  The best views are about two thirds of the way up, so don't feel as if you're missing out if you don't make it to the top.  Impressive views of the falls are seen on the path to the base.

The Merced River flows from the snow fields in the Sierra Nevada, spills over the 594-foot Nevada Falls and then plummets another 317 feet over Vernal Falls.  Known as The Mist Trail,  the hike starts uphill through the mist sprayed by Vernal Falls.  When the light is right, hikers are rewarded with rainbows in the mist of Vernal Falls.  The climb to the top of Nevada Falls is difficult; the last 900 feet of elevation gain are up steep polished granite.  The half-day round-trip up the falls is 3.4 miles one way.

Yosemite Indians called the 620-foot  Bridalveil Fall, Pohono, or "spirit of the puffing winds."  Strong winds often lift the thundering water and blow it sideways.  Bridalveil is visible from the road, but an easy 10-minute walk will take you to its foaming base.

On a strenuous 9-1/2 mile walk from the Tuolumne Meadows area, you can view the exuberant Tuolumne Falls.  Other falls such as the spectacular Waterwheel Falls, are a short distance beyond, near Glen Aulin Camp in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Other lesser known falls include:  Cascade Falls, Chilnualna Cascades,  Wapama and Tueeulala Falls.  After the winter snow melt, Yosemite is easily accessible by Hwy. 120 and 140 from the west and Hwy. 120 from the east (Mono Lake Area).  For additional information, contact: Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau or Yosemite National Park.

Just five miles from the south entrance to Yosemite, along the 3.7-mile Lewis Creek Recreational Trail, lies a hidden treasure -- Corlieu Falls.  The trail follows the route of the historical Madera Sugar Pine lumber flume past the 80-foot waterfall, and the smaller Red Rock Falls.  With  no signs to publicize their existence, Corlieu Falls can be enjoyed in a kind of quiet solitude not possible at some of the better known falls. For additional information, contact: Yosemite Experience.

Rainbow Falls Courtesy of Visit MammothOn the eastern side of the Sierra is Rainbow Falls, located in the Inyo National Forest south of Devils Postpile National Monument.  Along a 1.3-mile trail the San Joaquin River plunges 101 feet over volcanic rock into a box canyon.  Multi-colored rainbows are clearly visible in the mist of the mighty falls.  Devils Postpile is a brief walk from parking lots and shuttle stops.  The trail to Rainbow Falls is a short 1-1/4-mile hike from Devils Postpile.

Drive around the Mammoth Lakes Basin -- Lake Mary, Twin Lakes, Mamie, George and Horseshoe (there is no Mammoth Lake).  Spilling down from Lake Mamie west of the town of Mammoth Lakes is Twin Falls, which cascades 300-feet along a granite bed into Twin Lakes.  It can be viewed from the overview at Twin Lakes.  For additional information, contact:  Visit Mammoth.

Located 25 miles east of Oroville, the Feather Falls National Recreation Trail will lead you to 640-feet high Feather Falls.  The trail, located within the 15,000-acre Feather Falls Scenic Area, winds through the foothills 3.8 miles to Feather Falls.  Water flows at Feather Falls are heaviest during the spring months.  

Indian Falls Credit Barbara L. Steinberg 2013The diminutive Indian Falls in the Plumas National Forest is just 20 feet high, but creates a dramatic affect falling on Indian Creek. Large sun-bathed rocks, swimming holes, and sandy shores beckon. The 0.5-mile round-trip hike is easy but can be icy in winter months. Well-placed interpretive panels provide insight into the lives of the Maidu tribes who inhabited the region. Ten miles west of Quincy, the falls are two miles north of the intersection of Highways 70 and 89.  For additional information, contact: Plumas County Tourism Recreation & Hospitality

The Bay Area has been blessed with a number of beautiful water falls.  At a height of 70 feet, Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, may be the Bay Area's most impressive waterfall.  A fairly comfortable hike, take the Skyline to the Sea Trail to the falls and back for an 8-mile round-trip. For additional information, contact:  Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Twenty-five miles from Foresthill in Placer County is Grouse Falls, one of California's most scenic waterfalls.  Cascading down several hundred feet, the falls are hidden at the head of an isolated box canyon.  The falls were largely inaccessible until 1992, when a trail constructed to a deck perched along the canyon wall allowed the falls to be seen.  The trail is an easy, 1/3-mile walk.  The best time for viewing the falls is in the spring when water flows are high. For additional information, contact:  Foresthill Ranger Station at 22830 Foresthill Road or (530) 367-2224 or Visit Placer.

Truly an oasis in the desert is Darwin Falls, with its sparkling stream and year-round 30-foot cascading waterfalls.  Just off Hwy. 190, leading into Death Valley National Park it's an easy half-mile hike to lower Darwin Falls.  Another short hike ends at the rushing waters of the upper falls. In sharp contrast to this water wonderland is Fossil Falls, located 45-minutes north of Ridgecrest.  The trail is a short 1-1/2 mile, round-trip hike and leads to a sculptured and polished 40-foot dry waterfall.  Black lava cliffs were smoothed and shaped over thousands of years by the now-dry Owens River.  The graded dirt access road to Fossil Falls is accessible with a two-wheel drive vehicle. For additional  information, contact:  Ridgecrest Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.


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