Sunday, November 23, 2014
we're a different kind of california up here
it occurs to me that there are a lot of folks out there who have no idea that California exists north of sacramento, if they even know that there is a sacramento. most people seem to be under the impression that san francisco is the state capitol, and that if it isn't, then l a certainly must be. all of those assumptions are incorrect.
in fact, California life actually gets better once you put sacramento in the southside of your rear-view mirror (although sac's airport is pretty nice). woodland, which lies just north of the airport on i5, isn't a bad place, although it has become a bedroom community for the capitol city over the past 10 years or so. my wife used to keep her horse there, when we lived in a quiet little condo community just across the American river from sac state university, and she liked to get out to woodland on weekends, even though she kept getting speeding tickets for 35 in a 25 zone and it got to be pretty damn expensive after awhile.
however, as happy as we were, and be that as it may, we discovered life anew eight years ago when we decided to get out of the city and took the great leap northward all the way to the valley's end, toward mounts lassen and shasta; the foothills of the cascades to the north, the sierra Nevada to the east, and the coast range to west. paradise, I came to realize, after wrestling with the lifestyle changes for a few years.
this is a different california. it begins to get that way just about the time you enter glenn county: it becomes rural in all the best senses of the word. olive groves, some ancient and unkempt and others newly-planted and clearly intended to be serious commercial enterprises, line both sides of i5, along with the occasional vineyard, peach orchard, or tomato field. the little towns that you pass through are all farm and ranch centered, and if you pull off to take a closer look, and penetrate deeper than the chevron, texaco, and shell stations lining the freeway, what you find is pretty much like what you would have found 30 or 40 years ago: insular communities of country folk going about their business just like mom and dad did before them, with the same focus on family, church, high school football this time of year, and worrying about the weather.
as you hit the city limits of red bluff, things change again, as you transition from intensive agriculture into what was once mining and timber country (and still is, to a degree), but is now more focused on regional health care (city of redding) and recreation (all points north to the oregon line). fishing, rafting, climbing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, running, and golf are all important in this part of the state, and a lot of people eke out livings doing things that don't pay much or have a lot of upside so that they can live here and live that lifestyle.
as you might expect, there are thriving wine and craft beer industries scattered across our part of the state. we're lagging behind our more glamorous neighbors in napa, sonoma, Mendocino and even lake counties, but we're working hard to catch up. oddly enough, the world's largest commercial winery was once located in our part of the state: leland stanford's (yep, that leland stanford) winery at vina, the little village off highway 99 between chico and red bluff, was a huge operation, with more than 4,000 acres under vines. after stanford's death the winery was operated for the benefit of the university for a number of years, but ultimately was closed by the school at the onset of prohibition.
however, as often happens, what goes around comes around, and little vina is, today, again home to a very fine winery, that being the cistercian monastery of new clairvaux. we mentioned their albarino in an earlier post, but that's only one of several very good wnes they're presently making. and they're not alone; there are a half dozen more scattered around the area which we'll have more to say about in the future.
and there's beer, too. lots of it. the sierra nevada brewery in chico is well known
throughout the west, with excellent distribution and very competent marketing. mad river brewing company, in blue lake, isn't much known outside the north state yet, but they will be in the not-too-distant future; their beers are outstanding, their steelhead double ipa being one of my all-time favorite brews, and those who know them will go to serious lengths to get them. and, as with the wineries, there are more breweries to talk about, and we will very soon, but not tonight.
so all this is the long way of saying that even though we're not napa, sonoma, the bay area, l a, or any of the beautiful places not mentioned, we're here and we're pretty cool in our own homely way. we've got rivers, mountains, wine, beer, national forests, some pretty decent golf courses (more on those soon), and other stuff, too, and that's a fairly big part of the reason I bother to write this letter two or three times each week. I hope you'll take the time to read it, and maybe even come to visit...
okay, enough for now...good night.