Friday, 09 June 2023


NORTH COAST – Thousands of acres around the state continued to burn Sunday in hundreds of lightning-caused fires, with state and federal officials doing their best to contain them.

Heavy smoke continued to clog Lake County's skies, with the smoke coming from fires in Mendocino County's Covelo and Anderson Valley regions, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Tracy Boudreaux.

Cal Fire reported that nearly 400 fires were burning in its units around the state, from Northern California south to Fresno and Monterey counties.

In Mendocino County, Cal Fire reported 90 fires had been reported and have burned more than 5,000 acres. The Orr Fire is 200 acres and has evacuations of the Orr Springs Resort and 20 homes in the area; the Navarro Fire is 1,400 acres and 5-percent contained; the Foster Fire is 60 acres with 0-percent containment; the Table Mountain Fire is 1,000 acres and 5-percent contained; the Mallo Pass Fire is 600 acres; and the two Juan Creek fires are at 100 acres each. Cal Fire said there are eight additional fires at 30 acres each.

In the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Cal Fire Unit, five fires had been reported burning near Napa, west of Fairfield. All but one of the fires was contained. The fire had burned 3,500 acres Sunday, and was 35-percent contained.

In the Mendocino National Forest, lightning over the weekend caused at estimated 50 fires across the forest's three ranger districts, according to Forest Service spokesperson Phebe Brown.

The largest of the fires is a 50-acre blaze on the Upper Lake Ranger District, said Brown.

Some structures in the area are threatened, she said, although there are no evacuations ordered yet. Fire equipment is on the roads and people are advised to be careful if traveling in the forest.

Most of the fires are small, and some already have been contained, Brown said.

Smoke jumpers are working on some of the larger fires, said Brown.

Containment across all of the fires is estimated at 10 percent, she said.

“We have requested more equipment and crews,” said Brown.

Although the forest has been getting much of what it's requested, Brown added, “The crews are pretty scarce.”

The push around the state was for more personnel, with officials reporting a shortage of available firefighters. Over the weekend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger deployed the California National Guard to assist with firefighting, according to the Associated Press.

Lake County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Sunday that the fires were resulting in smoke, haze and degraded air quality for the area.

Reynolds explained that smoke is trapped in the cooler marine air layer and transported inland, causing the present smoke impacts. At times smoke can be transported to sea within a circulation cell, and then return back over Northern California in a wide band of smoke filled air.

He said the smoke and sunlight cause chemical reactions in the air that further reduces visibility by forming secondary particles aside from the smoke. These particles draw the moisture out of the air, growing in number and size, making the haze even worse.

Many areas, he said, are being affected more severely than Lake County.

He said that, although health standards have not been exceeded, levels are abnormally high, and it is suggested that persons sensitive to respiratory irritants or who have a respiratory illness stay indoors and avoid unnecessary exercise. Place air conditions on “recirculation” mode and consult your physician if you suffer from asthma or pulmonary disease, or have other health problems, and are experiencing difficulties.

Reynolds said the residual haze and particulate from the fires can be expected to continue throughout the northern part of the state until the fires are out.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – It would be easy to report that “The Fish” won this year’s Hidden Valley Lake Association Fishing Derby: Only 24 fish were caught compared to 65 last year.

However, at 6 a.m. Saturday, 42 anglers signed up at the marina to take the opportunity to compete for some great fishing prizes, and to contribute to the HVL Lake Committee's continued effort to improve and increase the fishery in Hidden Valley Lake.

In spite of some initial wind, they eventually enjoyed what turned out to be a beautiful day on our Hidden Valley Lake.

Winner of the prize for the Senior Division’s Heaviest Fish with a 2.54-pound Bass was 19-year-old Chris Gracheff, who also caught a second 1.81-pound bass.

The Junior Division winner, with a 1.80-pound bass, was 12-year-old Jesse Armstrong.

Chris won the 50-50 cash pool prize of $70, and Jesse won a rod, reel, and complete tackle pack valued at about $60.

The Senior Division’s heaviest stringer of bass was caught by 16-year-old Scott Munk. His five fish weighed in at 7.61 pounds.

The Junior Division winner of this category was Jesse Armstrong. Jesse brought in five bass with a total weight of 6.91 pounds. Both won rods, reels, and tackle packs valued at more than $50.

Justin White, 9, caught the only trout in the Derby. Justin’s 0.33-pound trout won him the Junior Division Trout Stringer prize of a rod, reel, and tackle pack valued at $50.

Also catching fish were Jim Munk (five bass), Fernando Carneiro (two bass), Brad Michnevich (two bass), Carter Michnevich (one bass) and Brady Michnevich (one bass).

All anglers received complimentary insulated lunch bags from the HVL Community Services Division.

The oldest angler award was a sassy fishing cap, an Arctic Circle jacket and T-shirt. That prize, once again, went to the venerable, 75-year-old Ron Hughes. The youngest angler award went to the very excited Justin Foell, age 6, who won a SolarBee Cap and youth fishing rig.

The Derby Raffle proved to be a source of big winnings for the anglers, and also for the many volunteers and the approximately 30 guests who were in attendance.

There were more than 45 raffle prizes donated by our generous donors. This year’s prizes also included the fishing awards which were not claimed, and Scott Munk’s prize, which he graciously returned to the fundraising pool.

Also this year there were two special raffle fishing trips: One for halibut, provided by professional sports fishing guide, Mike Martin, and one for bass by professional bass fisherman Chuck Michnevich.

Longtime derby participant, young Katreena Galindo, won the Grand Raffle Prize of a Lakeshore Bait and Tackle Cap, an Arctic Circle jacket, rod, reel and complete tackle pack valued at nearly $200.

The Special Raffle Halibut Trip was won by Duncan Mac Innes. Kyle Triola came away with the Special Bass Trip prize. Each trip is valued at nearly $300.

Because of an efficient Live-Well set up at the Little Beach weigh-in site, we were able to preserve and release all, but one, of the bass to the Lake.

As in previous years, anglers and guests enjoyed the nearly-all-you-can-eat grilled hot dogs and Vicki’s chili lunch.

Proceeds from these lunches, the raffles, our generous cash donations and the derby entrance fees totaled $2,531 – within $100 of last year’s gross revenues.

More than the dollars, however, the derby was for the fun, the happy prize winners and the good sportsmanship.

Even all those lucky fish were happy ... and are still lurking in the lake to test your skills!

Jim Serventi lives in Hidden Valley Lake, and assisted with putting on this year's event.


CLEARLAKE – A Thursday crash on Highway 53 resulted in minor injuries, police reported Friday.

Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said the collision involved a Hey, Taxi minivan and another vehicle on Highway 53 at the Olympic Drive turnoff.

He said the minivan, traveling northbound, was turning onto Olympic.

The van driver thought the car coming from the opposite direction was slowing, so the driver pulled out to make the turn, said Hermann.

However, the other car wasn't slowing for a turn and the two vehicles collided, he said.

There were complaints of pain from the vehicles' drivers and passengers but only minor injuries were reported, according to Hermann.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTH COAST – Lightning was the cause of a series of fires around Northern California and the North Coast that were first reported Friday, and which on Saturday had blanketed Lake County with a thick layer of smoke and, in some areas, falling ash.

Cal Fire reported Saturday that 339 fires were burning across 12 of its units in Northern California and south to Fresno and Monterey counties, aided by this year's extremely dry conditions and, in some cases, by winds.

In Mendocino County alone, Cal Fire received more than 100 fire reports beginning at about 6 p.m. Friday and stretching through Saturday night, said Tracy Boudreaux, a fire prevention specialist with Cal Fire's Mendocino Unit.

“We're still getting reports of fires,” Boudreaux told Lake County News Saturday night, all of them resulting from lightning strikes around Mendocino County.

Total acreage estimates weren't available, although Cal Fire reported that the fires ranged in size from one to 125 acres.

Crews and equipment “from all over” – including local government, Office of Emergency Services, out-of-county Cal Fire units, some of them from as far away as Southern California – were battling the fires, said Boudreaux.

Strike teams from Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit also were on scene, she said.

Many of the lightning-sparked fires were in remote areas of the county, such as the Orr Springs area. Boudreaux said there also was an ongoing fire at Navarro, and an evacuation advisory in the Flynn Creek area, where some individual structures were threatened, not a local subdivision.

Another fire was burning in Anderson Valley near Boonville, she said.

“We're basically tapped for resources right now,” said Boudreaux.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had ordered the California National Guard to assist with the firefighting effort.

Red skies loomed over the Anderson Valley and Ukiah areas Saturday, said Boudreaux. “It is overwhelming.”

Heavy smoke was visible around Lake County all day, with residents reporting that it was so thick in some areas they could no longer see Mt. Konocti.

In parts of Lakeport Saturday afternoon and evening, ash was reported falling.

Boudreaux said the smoke coming through Lake County was coming from two sources: lightning fires in Covelo and Anderson Valley.

Anderson Valley is inundated with smoke, Boudreaux said, and a marine layer of air is pushing the smoke into Lake and Sonoma counties.

In nearby Napa County, Boudreaux said lightning also sparked a fire that had reportedly burned 750 acres by Saturday night.

Boudreaux said the challenge for Cal Fire was prioritizing all of the fires in order to best use its stretched resources.

“Right now I think we're looking at several days of firefighting before we can actually get containment on most of them,” she said.

Boudreaux said Cal Fire is urging everyone to be prepared in case of fire during this busy fire season. Readiness includes having documents and personal possessions in an easy accessible location, and having plans for where to take one's family, pets and livestock.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MIDDLETOWN – Facing budget challenges and the potential for tough times ahead, the Middletown Unified School District Board plans to discuss possible solutions at a meeting next week, where they'll also present the 2008-09 fiscal year budget.

Superintendent Korby Olson said the June 25 board meeting will include consideration of a charge to bus children to school – in light of major increases in fuel costs – and a possible increase in developer fees.

Both proposals will impact the district’s budget, as well as builders and parents, so Olson said the district wants to invite comment and input up front. No action will be taken on the proposals at the meeting.

Initially, the district, which serves about 1,700 students, was looking at having to cut as much as $850,000 from its $14 million budget, based on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed January budget. However, Olson said the May revise reduced necessary cuts by about $200,000.

In March the district gave out 10 layoff notice to teachers, said Olson. Six of those positions ultimately were cut from the district, but three positions were restored, four teachers retired, two resigned and one took a leave of absence.

The budget and its specifics will be presented at the June 25 meeting, he said.

Jim Comstock, who has been on the school board for 18 years, said he's seen similar tough times for the district “but not to this extent.”

“School financing tracks with the California economy,” Comstock said. “It's very cyclic.”

In past years, the district has issued layoff notices, but they've almost always been able to rescind them. “This is a little different.”

In an effort to find ways to address the shortfall, Olson said the district is considering busing fees.

“To my knowledge there's no one in the county charging for transportation right now,” he said of other districts.

However, he added, it's common practice for school districts in other areas.

The district's general fund currently contributes about $300,000 to transportation, he said. “That money could be used another way.”

While there's some reimbursement to the district from the state for transportation costs, it's not enough to cover everything, he said.

Then, there's the issue of rapidly rising gas prices, which Olson said has had a “tremendous” impact on the district's budget.

He had to adjust the district's transportation budget by $20,000 to finish out the year, he said.

The proposed budget for next year includes $222,000 for supplies and materials in its transportation budget, most of which is for fuel, said Olson. That amounts to a 50-percent increase over the 2007-08 budget year.

Fuel prices, said Comstock, have “hit everyone right up side of the head,” and the result is that those costs are eating up more of the district's budget.

“The encroachment into the general fund is becoming significant,” he said.

The district has some options, said Olson, and the board thought it was time to discuss them in order to spare cutting more personnel, materials and resources.

The board will consider the pros and cons of charging between $0.50 and $2 per day for bus service, said Olson. The lower rate would cost parents about $90 a year, the higher rate $360 a year.

“We have discussed for years the potential of having to charge a bus fee,” said Comstock.

Added Olson, “There are lots of question marks about how you do it,” which is why the board wants to discuss it with the community.

Instituting a charge for busing would help cover the rising costs of gas, said Olson; it also would help the district hire another bus driver, which it needs to do in order to maintain the bus runs it currently has.

Another option is to collapse or reduce the number of bus runs, said Olson. However, the district's bus drivers are reporting more ridership as more parents themselves grapple with fuel costs and take advantage of the bus services.

“That's the rub,” said Olson.

He added that the district can't do both options at once – collapsing runs while charging for services.

Comstock said several years ago the district instituted an athletic transportation fee, which helped it buy vans for transporting student athletes to games. There was no outcry over that measure, he added.

While the bus fees could help address more immediate concerns, the proposal to increase developer fees would be done with an eye to needed district upgrades and improvements, said Olson.

Developer fees, which were put in place many years ago, help address the impact on area schools that result from construction, he said. A fee is charged based on the square footage of a new home or commercial building.

Every other year, the state issues a new fee amount districts can seek, said Olson. In January the State Allocation Board adjusted the fees to $2.97 for residential development and $0.47 for commercial development.

Middletown Unified last adjusted its developer fees two years ago, he said, based on a developer fee justification study. The current rate is $2.63 for residential development and $0.42 for commercial development.

The developer fees, he explained, can only be used for school building and construction – not for any other purpose, like meeting budget shortfalls in other areas.

While current district enrollment “is very flat,” Olson said there are improvements the district needs to make for its student levels now.

The district's schools employ a lot of portable buildings, he said. “We're looking to improve our facilities and make them more up-to-date so we can eliminate some of the portables eventually.”

Accepting new fees will allow the district to keep up with inflation, said Olson.

“We haven't had much protest in the prior years when we've had this,” he said, adding that it's unlikely the district can do anything else but raise the fees.

However, he said the district is mindful that builders might not welcome the change, which is why they're being careful to notify the community to give everyone an opportunity to comment.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Middletown Multi-Use building, on Wardlaw Street. The district office can be reached at 987-4100, or visit them online at

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's detectives have closed what one official has termed an “unusually complicated” case involving the stabbing last month of a young Kelseyville man, arresting a suspect Thursday morning.

Nicholas Gene Wood, 30, of Kelseyville was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's Det. Nicole Costanza just before 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Chief Deputy James Bauman, the sheriff's office spokesman.

News of the arrest came as a relief to Uriarte's family.

“Today was a very good day,” said his mother, Christine Diener.

Bauman said Wood was booked on felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault resulting in great bodily injury for the May 16 stabbing of 21-year-old Loren Jason Uriarte, also of Kelseyville.

Judge Richard Martin signed the warrant for Wood's arrest, said Bauman. Once the arrest warrant was secured, Wood agreed to voluntarily meet sheriff’s detectives at the Lake County Jail on Thursday morning, where he was arrested and booked. His booking sheet reports he is a store manager.

Bauman said Wood was released from jail later in the day after posting a $25,000 bond.

On the night of the stabbing Uriarte and friends Darrin Sullivan and Josh Ponce had reportedly gone to downtown Kelseyville to pick up Sullivan's father, Dave, according to Diener. When they arrived, they encountered a fight in the street, during which Uriarte was stabbed.

Bauman said the “alcohol-related brawl” took place in front of the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro and involved numerous people – both male and female – many of whom reportedly had dinner at the restaurant earlier in the evening.

Wood's arrest, Bauman said, followed “a lengthy and challenging investigation.”

As Lake County News reported late last month, as many as 11 people were named in the initial investigative report, with four potential victims among them. An argument between some of the parties had apparently led to the fray.

Amidst the complexities of trying to unravel all of the witness statements, Bauman said investigators' primary focus was who stabbed Uriarte.

The young man and his friends went to his grandmother's home following the stabbing, and from there he was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as Diener told Lake County News last month.

He underwent a four-hour surgery on the morning of May 16 so that doctors could repair the internal damage from the knife wound, which was located on the left side of his abdomen, a few inches from his belly button. During surgery doctors removed 6 inches from his small intestine, said Diener.

Uriarte, who was hospitalized for five days afterward, is on the mend, according to his mother. “He's recovering well.”

With the relief of an arrest also comes home of moving on, said Diener. “We're just trying to put this behind us now, really.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..







LAKE COUNTY – A Saturday evening crash resulted in major injuries for a driver along Highway 20.

The California Highway Patrol reported that a solo vehicle collision occurred along Highway 20 near mile marker 33. The initial call was dispatched at 9:16 p.m.

The vehicle's male driver had been ejected and was lying in the roadway bleeding, according to the CHP.

CHP reported the vehicle itself was on fire, and the highway's eastbound was shut down completely.

Emergency personnel transported the man to Santa Rosa Memorial, where a CHP unit also was dispatched for a test to check if the man had been driving under the influence.

A flatbed tow truck was called to the scene to remove the vehicle, with the eastbound lane reopened at 9:42 p.m.

No other information, including the man's identity, was available from the CHP Friday night.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


From right to left, Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown; Linda Gibson, Redbud Community Hospital vice president of operations; Cameron Reeves, hospital governing board member; JoAline Olson, St. Helena Hospital/Redbud Community Hospital President & CEO; and Dr. David Betat, Kelseyville Creek Clinic physician. Photo by Harold LaBonte.





KELSEYVILLE – On Friday Redbud Community Hospital held a ceremony to break ground on a new $1 million family health center that will replace the Kelsey Creek Clinic early next year.

Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown, Redbud Community Hospital Vice President of Operations Linda Gibson, Hospital Governing Board Member Cameron Reeves and St. Helena Hospital/Redbud Community Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer JoAline Olson and Kelseyville Creek Clinic physician Dr. David Betat donned hard hats and wielded shovels painted gold for the morning groundbreaking ceremony.

The Kelseyville Family Health Center will be located at 5290 State St., about two blocks north of the existing Kelsey Creek Clinic on Church Street, according to hospital spokesman Jeff Davis.

The Kelsey Creek Clinic has been housed in an outdated 1,800-square-feet building since the early 1990s.

The center will offer family medicine, podiatry, diabetic education and behavioral health services in a 2,900-square-foot building with seven patient exams rooms, a new patient education and consultation room, and easier street access with additional parking spaces.

Linda Gibson, Redbud’s senior vice president of operations, said in a written statement that the clinic “is a visible symbol of Redbud Community Hospital’s commitment and investment to make sure Lake County residents have access to superior medical care.”

Kelseyville is one of three community clinics Redbud operates in the county, with approximately 7,200 patients annually, according to Davis.

Clinics also are located in Clearlake and Middletown and Kelseyville. Davis said the three clinics combined had 76,000 patient visits in 2008.

The hospital also has a dental clinic that is located within the Redbud Family Health Center in Clearlake, Davis reported. Additionally, Redbud and St. Helena Hospital jointly operate the Hidden Valley Medical Services clinic, which opened in October 2007.


MIDDLETOWN – An alcohol and drug recovery center suffered a loss early Thursday morning when a fire destroyed one of its buildings.

A small residential unit caught fire at Hilltop Recovery, located in the hills above Middletown in the former McKinley Camp, according to South Lake County Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Dave Miinch.

Lori Carter-Runyon, the center's executive director, did not return a call seeking comment.

The fire broke out about 2:19 a.m. in the guest residence, which was vacant and being remodeled, said Miinch.

“It was fully involved by the time the fire department got there,” he said.

The 45 residents of the center were evacuated to a safe zone, and so no one was in danger or injured, said Miinch.

Fifteen fire personnel from South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded, said Miinch, bringing with them a total of three engines, one water tender, a fire prevention officer and a battalion chief.

“The fire was essentially contained to the structure with a small amount of vegetation that had burned,” he said.

Miinch credited Hilltop Recovery with putting a “tremendous amount” of work into clearing defensible space around its buildings, cutting and raking back vegetation by at least 100 feet, which helped prevent the fire from spreading.

The building was a complete loss, said Miinch, with damage estimated at $20,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Miinch.

He said the compound was built in the 1940s and used until the 1960s, when it was closed for a long period of time before coming back into use.

It's been a particularly busy fire season for the fire district, said Miinch.

“There has been more fire activity this year, in 2008, than there has ever been in previous years,” he said.

The areas seeing most activity are Cobb and Loch Lomond, he said.

There are many contributing factors, but Miinch said dry conditions don't help.

“We've probably been getting a structure fire every other week in the Cobb area the last month and a half,” he said.

Fires in other parts of the county also have kept firefighters on the run, including a fire along Soda Bay Road Thursday evening and a small fire near Lakeport earlier that afternoon.

Cal Fire also was still on scene at the location of a fire on Highway 20 at Highway 16, where a fire broke out at around 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.

That fire – the cause of which also is still under investigation – burned 50 acres along the north side of Highway 20, said Palleson.

He said two engines and a couple of hand crews were still mopping up on Thursday afternoon.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Sol Rouge Winery recently had a wine release party held at their gorgeous vineyard home in the hills above Kelseyville. It was a lovely personal gathering where Bryan and Jill Kane, hosts/winemakers, made everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

Their estate is in the Red Hills Appellation in Lake County, a rocky, hilly area with red volcanic soil, and Sol Rouge has been producing quality wines for the past three years.

Around the Kanes' patio was a decorative pillar with the Egyptian sun god Ra on it, and there was a small clay sun in another area so I assumed, “Sol Rouge” meant “Red Sun” and these little accents are charming tie-ins.

But no, as I found out with a (very) little research.

Although “Sol” means “sun” in Spanish, in French it means “soil”; therefore the name of their winery means “Red Soil,” which is apropos as the vineyard is in the “Red Hills Appellation.”

Ah, now it’s starting to make sense to me. Luckily, I’m a person who tries to keep my mouth shut until I can’t any longer. This time I kept it shut and did not display my original ignorance to anyone. So don’t tell anyone.

The gathering was small, intimate and casual, more like a cocktail party for friends than a business function. The Kanes themselves are open and welcoming, and with one of their sons enthusiastically acting as bartender/flamboyant host, it added a factor of fun and charm.

But atmosphere aside, we were there to taste their new releases. Sol Rouge is relatively new in Lake County, so I was excited to see what new items they had to offer.

The wines that were being tasted and released were Viognier, Rosé, Grenache, Gypsy, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. About half of the wines are made from grapes grown here in Lake County, and I have to say these were my favorites.

The Sol Rouge ’06 Viognier is made from grapes grown in the Russian River Valley and it was what you expect from a Viognier. It has bright fruity flavors, nice and crisp with a nice citrus/grapefruit nose. The ’07 Rosé was a surprise. I generally don’t buy Rosés because I find their flavors and characteristics to be all over the map; you never know what you’re going to get. But this one was nice. It was tart, and drier than most Rosés.

Next on the tasting menu was the ’06 Grenache. This wine was very smooth, with rich flavors and lots of cherry and blackberry notes. After that came the ’06 Gypsy, which had a rich, velvety feel. Very full-bodied, but not heavily tannic. When my wife asked me which wine I liked the best I had to admit to her, “I snuck a second glass of the Grenache.”

Now, I’m not a big fan of Zinfandels because they sometimes can be so full of tannins that they make your tongue feel furry. It’s become a habit for us when we go wine tasting that my wife will try a Zin first and then tells me if it’s something I would even want to try. Her comment after trying the Sol Rouge ’06 Zinfandel was “You will not be offended.” She was right. The tannins are very well balanced, allowing the full black cherry flavors of the Zinfandel to come through.

The ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon was my least favorite, but only because I’m not that big a fan of red wines. Not that I didn’t like it, but it was like trying to choose the least hot Charlie’s Angel. Someone’s gotta come in last, even though they’re all hot. The Cabernet stopped shy of being too tannic for my palate, and my wife (the red wine drinker in the family) thought it was very good. It had a lot of body and deep notes of cassis and black cherry. Usually in wine tastings you finish with the Zinfandel because it’s got the most tannin, but in this case the Cabernet took the final spot and it was well chosen.

Sol Rouge focuses on grape varietals from the Rhone and Bordeaux regions of southern France. This is information that you can get from their Web site at The site is still being developed, but it is fun to click on the Google earth view of the vineyard and you can learn about ordering their wines and joining their wine club.

I was very impressed by the personal welcome, the relaxed atmosphere and the impressive selection of wine. This is definitely an up-and-coming label to watch.

And just for the record, Cameron Diaz was the least hot of Charlie’s Angels.

Now before we wrap things up, I need to give a little back story to my day at Sol Rouge. The day of the release party we left our house and arrived in Kelseyville having completely forgotten the Sol Rouge address at home. Luckily I remembered that during the Lake County Wine Adventure last summer the wine shop “Focused On Wine” had hosted the winery at their shop, so we made a quick detour to Focused On Wine to ask directions.

Stephanie Cruz-Green, the owner of Focused On Wine, is an enchanting person who seems to have eternal smile affixed to her face. She is a certified sommelier (which is not an easy accomplishment), and so I felt a little guilty reducing her to the level of gas station attendant by asking her for directions, but she gave us the necessary information with friendliness and charm, and we made it right on time.

Speaking of Focused On Wine, some Sol Rouge wines are available there along with an astonishing amount and variety of other wines, including local, regional and imported wines. There’s also a variety of spirits, beer, gifts and cigars.

Focused On Wine is beautifully decorated with a relaxing atmosphere and an attentive friendly staff. There is a wine bar where you can go in and enjoy wine by the glass or enjoy a tasting flight of several wines, so this isn’t only a place where you can buy wines, but a place where you can sit down, relax and enjoy drinking a great wine. Personally, if lived on the west side of the lake I would stop in there daily to relax after work with a glass of wine before heading home for the evening.

When you are finished reading this you should head to downtown Kelseyville and stop by Focused On Wine. Introduce yourself and sit down and have a glass of wine. It’s open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and Monday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The shop, which is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, is located at 3940 Main St.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


CLEARLAKE – A teenage girl facing charges for the fatal stabbing of another girl entered a not guilty plea on Friday.

Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 18, appeared in Lake County Superior Court, according to her attorney, Stephen Carter.

“We entered her plea as not guilty,” Carter said.

Varney is charged with murder and a special allegation of using a deadly weapon – in this case a knife – in the death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez of Clearlake.

Valdez died June 5 after Varney allegedly stabbed her during a confrontation that happened when the teens got off the school bus near their homes, as Lake County News has reported. Both girls were juniors at Carlé Continuation High School.

The incident between the teenagers allegedly was the culmination of a months-long feud, Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police told Lake County News in a previous interview.

Hermann said Varney told police she hadn't intended to stab Valdez. Rather, she told police Valdez had started hitting her.

Varney allegedly had a folding pocket knife with a 4-inch blade that she had been carrying in her hand before the fight started, and which police later recovered at the home of a neighbor where she went to call for help.

An autopsy ruled that Valdez's death resulted from a stab wound to the neck, with the wound appearing consistent with the knife, Hermann said.

Carter said Varney will return to court July 18, at which time the date of her preliminary hearing will be set.

Varney remains in Lake County Jail, with bail set at $500,000, according to jail records.

For Carter, who began representing Varney a week and a half ago and is beginning his own in-depth study of the case, it's too early to know how long the case might take to get to trial.

If Varney is convicted, she'll face 25 years to life for the murder charge, said Carter, plus one year for the special allegation of using a deadly weapon.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The crash near the Rodman Slough Thursday afternoon is believed to have had alcohol as a contributing factor. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – No one was seriously injured in two auto collisions that occurred Thursday afternoon.

The first of the two collisions occurred at about 2:15 p.m. It involved two vehicles on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff about 800 feet south of the Rodman Slough bridge.

A Black 1994 Ford Mustang GT Driven by Dewey Lucas of Laytonville was traveling northbound just five minutes from his destination when he was hit by a white, two-door Chevy Cavalier driven by Teresa Mae Figueras of Nice.

Lucas suffered minor head injuries, complaining only of a headache just minutes after the collision. No one was transported to area hospitals.

According to eyewitness accounts, Figueras came off the bridge at a high rate of speed and was having a difficult time controlling the vehicle, passing into the other lane.

“I could see her expression as she tried to get control but she just kept crossing from one side to the other, 'til she completely lost it around the turn and into the short straightaway,” said Lucas. “For just a flash of a second I thought I just might get past her but at the last possible moment her car turn sharply to the left and slammed in to the left side of my car.”

Lucas' vehicle spun around at least once and traveled approximately 200 feet backwards before slamming into a large tree stump on the side of the road.

Figueras, 51, was given a field sobriety test at the scene. A California Highway Patrol officer arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was booked into the Lake County Jail on $5,000 bond.



No one was hurt in a crash that occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street late Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


A second crash occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street in Lakeport after 4 p.m.

Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman reported that a 19-year-old female from Finley was driving a white 2003 Ford Focus that collided with a Ford Ranger pickup driven by a 30-year-old male Kelseyville resident.

Leishman said there were no injuries, just complaints of pain.

No arrests were made and the investigation is still under way to determine fault, he added.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Upcoming Calendar

06.09.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 8:30 am - 10:30 am
Guided nature walk
06.10.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.10.2023 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
StoryWalk & Crafting Party
06.10.2023 8:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Movies in the Park: ‘Wall-E’
06.12.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
Lakeport Senior Center
Flag Day

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.
Cookies! uses cookies for statistical information and to improve the site.

// Infolinks