As a few of you noticed, I've been quiet for a few weeks. This was not, unfortunately, due to a vacation in the south of France (or even the south of California), but instead to my having gone under the knife for surgery to repair damage to the retina of my right eye. I won't bore you with the details, but I'll tell you this: I don't intend to take it up as a hobby. Having said that, I'll also tell you that the surgery experience was, like many in life, a lot less unpleasant than I had expected it to be, thanks to a very good anesthesiologist. In fact, the recovery period is a bigger pain than the actual surgery due to the fact that you spend the first week staring at the floor for half of every hour so that the gas bubble that's in there to keep the retina properly positioned while it heals remains where it's supposed to be. Anyway, all is progressing well thanks to Dr. Rinkoff and everyone at Ashland Community Hospital in Ashland, Oregon, and now it's time to get back to work.
A side note to the travelling back and forth from Norcal to Ashland was the opportunity to get several good looks at the north face of Mt. Shasta, which was the one aspect I had never seen before now. It's a very different look than either the west or south elevations, with a pronounced "volcanic" appearance that is not so evident in the south face, especially. I'm looking forward to spending some time on the north side this summer when we take our semi-annual photo tour of the area; our Shasta gallery is devoid of anything from that side, so we need to fix that.
Bad news from CalFire, but not unexpected. Due to the ongoing (and worsening) drought conditions they are predicting a very bad fire season for the north state; in a report yesterday they said that forest fuel conditions are already at levels not normally seen until late June-early July. As you might expect, different people are reacting in different ways to the new water restrictions: lots of tears and bitching from some of the state's more affluent and/or privileged folks, but for the most part people seem to be committed or resigned to the new reality and are trying hard to comply. It certainly appears that the governor means business on this issue, as do the water authorities, so I'm guessing that we'll begin seeing large penalties levied on abusers very soon, which is what it generally takes to convince everyone to straighten up and do the right thing. We'll see.
Speaking of doing the right thing, the folks at Alpen Cellars, in Trinity County, seem to be doing just that, at least with the first of their wines that I've just tasted, that being their 2013 Trinity Lakes Gewurztraminer. This is a very pretty wine: medium gold color, with a fresh, understated but unmistakably floral/spicy nose that tells you to pay attention. On the palate the wine continues to show subtle gewurz characteristics that linger through to the finish despite their restraint. Overall a well-made wine with true varietal character that will serve equally nicely as a summer cocktail wine or a great wine list item for those of you with sauced chicken dishes, curries, or cold crab and lobster on your menus. At present I know nothing about Alpen Cellars' distribution, but I'll do some research over the weekend and get back to you; I suspect that it's limited and regional, but we'll see; I also intend to taste another couple of their wines over the next few days, so we'll pass that along, as well.
In closing, a heads -up for you all: local farmers' markets are beginning their seasons right now, so get out and support your friendly agriculturists. You'll get better, fresher, healthier foods, meet a lot of cool folks, and probably be a better person for it. It's the American Way.
I'm out for now...