Wednesday, 19 June 2024


LOS ANGELES – Last week agents with state Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s office arrested three people involved in a refinancing scam, some of whom also were involved in a property reassessment scam that was sent out to property owners around Lake County and the rest of the state.

Brown's agents arrested Michael McConville, and two of his associates for their roles in an alleged “criminal conspiracy” to steal nearly $1 million from borrowers seeking to refinance their homes.

McConville and his co-conspirators allegedly lured dozens of borrowers into refinancing home loans by falsely promising low interest rates and brokers' fees, and other attractive terms.

They then negotiated different terms with lenders, forged the victims' signatures on the final loan documents and collected hefty brokers fees – ranging from $20,000 to $57,000 – that were never disclosed. Only when the borrowers received true copies of the loan documents after the refinance did they discover that their names had been forged.

In total, defendants are alleged to have stolen more than $950,000 from more than 70 borrowers, leaving victims holding $30 million in loans with terms they did not agree to.

Brown recently sued Michael McConville and his brother Sean for their part in the "Property Tax Reassessment" scam which targeted Californians looking to lower their property taxes, as Lake County News reported earlier this year.

Tens of thousands of mailers were sent out that featured official-looking logos and demanded hundreds of dollars in payments for property tax reassessment and reassessment appeal services. Some of those mailers ended up in the hands of Lake County residents.

The statements warned homeowners that if payments were not received by the "due date" they faced late fees or would have their file marked "non-responsive" or "ineligible for future tax reassessments."

Jim Campbell, Lake County's deputy county assessor, helped get the word out, and said for a time it was the “talk of the assessor world,” but the scam appeared to have died down once the community was notified.

In this most recent action, Brown filed 44 criminal charges against:

  • Michael McConville, 39, of Simi Valley, sales manager of ALG Inc, a Los Angeles based mortgage company. McConville was arrested at his home late Thursday. He is being held in Ventura County Jail on $2 million bail.

  • Garrett Holdridge, 23, of Palmdale, California and Texas, loan officer for ALG Inc. Holdridge is being held at the Los Angeles County Jail (Palmdale Station) on $2 million bail.

  • Alan Ruiz, 28, of Huntington Beach, a loan officer for ALG Inc. Ruiz was arrested at his home late Thursday. He is being held at Orange County Sheriff's Main Jail on $2 million bail.

The charges include 28 counts of grand theft, 14 counts of forgery, one count of elder abuse, one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft; three special allegations of aggravated white-collar crime in excess of $500,000; and taking in excess of $3.2 million.

“After victims signed their closing papers, McConville and his associates doctored the loan documents, forged borrowers' signatures and slipped in hefty fees that were never disclosed,” Brown said. “This was not some clerical error but a criminal conspiracy to steal nearly a million dollars from borrowers.”

From April 2007 to October 2008, McConville and his associates provided homeowners closing documents bearing terms promised, but which the lender never approved. After homeowners signed those documents, key pages were removed and replaced with pages bearing the terms that the lender had actually agreed to. The homeowners' signatures were forged on the replacement pages, and ALG forwarded the forged documents to the escrow company.

Homeowners only discovered they had been defrauded when they received the final loan documents with the true terms and saw their signatures forged on disclosures of closing costs, Truth-in-Lending disclosures, loan applications and other documents. ALG often collected between $20,000 and $30,000 in undisclosed broker fees. In one transaction, they collected over $57,000 in such fees.

As a result of this scheme, homeowners suffered devastating financial losses. Some were forced to sell their homes, come out of retirement, or tap into retirement savings. Others paid significant prepayment penalties – in one case, more than $21,000. Borrowers often never received the significant amounts of cash-out they were promised.

In one case, Michael McConville promised one couple a 5.5 percent fixed interest rate, cash-out of $58,000 and $4,500 in closing costs. Only after they signed the documents, they realized their copy did not include the pages detailing the key terms of the loan.

The couple soon received loan documents from Indymac Bank and discovered their signatures had been forged and they had received a 7 percent interest rate, no cash-out, and over $50,000 in closing costs, including a $42,000 origination fee paid to ALG.

ALG contacted a 65-year-old retired woman in July 2007 and promised her a 30-year fixed rate loan at 5.25 percent. A month later, a notary had arrived at the victim's house with loan documents reflecting the 5.25 percent fixed interest rate.

After closing, the victim discovered she had received an adjustable rate mortgage with an initial rate of 8.65percent, a $22,000 origination fee, and $2,230 in miscellaneous fees. The victim's signature had been forged on most of the documents.

HOPLAND – Mendocino County Sheriff's officials are searching for suspects in the Sept. 11 beating death of a Hopland man.

Raul Delara Ruiz, 52, was found beaten to death at around 2 a.m. Sept. 11, according to a report from Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies were dispatched to a remote property along Highway 175 in Hopland on the report of a beating, and found the severely beaten Ruiz in a marijuana garden, Noe reported.

Noe said Ruiz was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of Ruiz's death was determined as blunt force trauma to the head, according to Noe.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Ruiz was cultivating marijuana with three suspects when they were involved in a dispute over the marijuana garden's water supply, Noe reported. Both Ruiz and his wife were assaulted, and Ruiz died as a result.

Mendocino County Sheriff's Detectives are attempting to identify the suspects and are asking anyone with information call Detective Eric Riboli at 707-463-4111 or the tip line at 707-467-9159.

LAKEPORT – A Laytonville woman died as the result of a crash Friday night outside of Lakeport, and a Kelseyville man was arrested for driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter.

Charlane Hill, 41, died at the scene of the crash, which occurred on Highway 29 just south of the Highway 175 turnoff to Hopland at approximately 9:42 p.m. Friday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Alejandro Aurelios Arias, 28, of Kelseyville was arrested after the crash but was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with major injuries, the CHP said.

The CHP report explained that Arias was driving a 1997 Ford Mustang westbound on Highway 29 at a high rate of speed when he entered the highway's northbound lane.

'Charlane Hill, meanwhile, was driving northbound in a 1994 Buick Regal at an undetermined speed, the CHP said. She had two passengers, Maria Hill, 40, of Clearlake, who was riding as her right front passenger, and a 10-year-old Ukiah girl was in the right rear passenger seat.

When Arias' vehicle entered the northbound lane he hit Hill head-on. The CHP report said Arias' vehicle came to rest on the highway's east dirt shoulder, facing in a northerly direction, while Hill's vehicle stopped facing the opposite direction and partially blocking the northbound and southbound lanes.

Lakeport Fire Protection District was dispatched to the crash, with Lakeport paramedic ambulance 5014 arriving on scene one minute after dispatch, according to a Lakeport Fire report issued Saturday.

Paramedics and CHP officers found one of the vehicles on fire, with all of the crash victims trapped and the roadway completely blocked, the report explained. The fire was quickly suppressed with a fire extinguisher before reaching the patient.

The Lakeport Fire Protection District responded with two engine companies and two ambulances. Fire Captain Bob Ray assumed command and immediately requested additional ambulances and helicopters for one critical patient and three patients with major injuries, Lakeport Fire reported.

Mutual aid assistance was provided by Kelseyville Fire, Cal Fire, the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Lakeport Police, with helicopters for medical transport coming from REACH and Calstar.

Lakeport medic engine 5012 and medic ambulance 5013 arrived five minutes after dispatch and

were directed by Ray to reassess patients after his initial triage, according to the fire district.

All of the parties had to be extricated from their vehicles, and paramedics found Charlane Hill dead deceased. Maria Hill had major facial injuries and altered mental state, and the child had major injuries to her extremities and abdomen.

Arias also suffered major injuries. Firefighters found he was in and out of consciousness with critical injuries to the head, pelvis and legs.

The CHP said Arias was arrested at the scene on suspicion of DUI causing great bodily injury and gross vehicular manslaughter. He'll be booked at a later time, after he is released from medical care.


Helicopters landed on Highway 29 to transport Arias and Maria Hill to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, while REACH took the 10-year-old to Oakland Children's Hospital.

Both of the vehicles had extensive damage, and the CHP said vehicle inspections are pending to determine the use of safety equipment.

Lakeport Fire's report noted that all four crash victims appear to have been restrained and airbags were deployed.

The CHP said the crash closed the highway between Highland Springs Road and Highway 175 for two hours and 10 minutes, with traffic diverted to Soda Bay Road.

CHP Officer Jake Bushey is investigating the crash.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

In Lucerne on Tuesday, September 15, 2009, (from left) firefighter Chrissy Pittman, Battalion Chief Pat Brown and firefighter Odell Landers showed off the new breathing apparatuses and additional air tanks that Northshore Fire Protection District purchased thanks to a $78,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act granted administered through the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency, coupled with an additional $25,000 from the district. Brown said the district has received another grant from the agency for $100,000 which will be used for a new water tender. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LUCERNE – Northshore Fire Protection District has received two significant federal grants that will assist the agency in upgrading equipment to serve one of the state's largest fire districts.

The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants, totaling $178,000, will provide much-needed new equipment for the district – from new air tanks and breathing apparatus to increase firefighter safety to a new water tender.

Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown called the grants a “major coup.”

He said the district applied for the grants in April, and received notice on June 30 that they had received the $100,000 grant for the water tender and on July 6 that they received the $78,000 grant for the breathing apparatus.

The fire districts along the Northshore consolidated into one agency, Northshore Fire Protection District, in a three-year process completed in November of 2006, said Chief Jim Robbins.

The result is a small rural agency with 72 volunteers and 17 paid staff – some of them part-time – that covers 350 square miles or about 228,300 acres, much of it wildland. It's the third largest fire district in California, Robbins said.

Northshore Fire has an annual budget of about $2.3 million, Robbins said. Brown said the district usually receives about two to three grants a year.

“It's incredible the amount of land they cover,” said Sarah Pursley, spokesperson for USDA Rural Development's California office.

Because of the district's size, Brown added, “We're going a lot of places now.”

That, of course, puts wear and tear on the district's equipment, which the grant will help address.

On Tuesday morning, Brown, Robbins, and firefighters Odell Landers and Chrissy Pittman were busy unpacking 20 new air packs and 20 additional new lightweight air tanks for responding to structure fires.

Each tank lasts 30 minutes and weighs about 5 pounds, less than the older aluminum and steel models. Brown said the newer tanks have a lifespan of about 15 years.

The breathing apparatus are funded from a $78,000 grant that came through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), funds which the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development is administering through its current programs, said Pursley.

Brown said the fire district supplemented that amount with about another $25,000 to round out the purchase.

Pursley said ARRA has provided a “significant” amount of additional funds to help rural communities.

“We've really been able to reach out to a lot of communities that have good projects, that have strong needs,” but for one reason or wouldn't have been funded, Pursley said.

The second, grant for $100,000 that will fund the water tender comes through USDA Rural Development's Economic Impact Initiative Grant program, administered through its Community Facilities Program, Pursley said.

She said eligible communities have to have a “not employed” rate of 19.5 percent or higher – a number which she said is larger than the unemployment rate – and no more than 20,000 residents.

The grants cover projects such as first responders – like Northshore Fire – as well as libraries and community facilities, she said.

Those grants are available on an ongoing, year-round basis, Pursley added.

Brown said Northshore Fire is providing an additional $56,000 that, paired with the $100,000 grant, will pay for the new water tender, set to arrive this December.

Fouts Brothers Fire Equipment of Smyrna, Georgia, which has built the agency's attack engines – small engines used for wildland fires – is building the new water tender, said Brown.

The tenders usually last about 20 years, said Brown, but Northshore Fire has water tenders five to 10 years older than that still in use.

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A closeup of the new breathing apparatus that Northshore Fire Protection Districts officials were busy unpacking on Tuesday, September 15, 2009, at the district's Lucerne headquarters. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKE COUNTY – A quake that occurred in Talmage late Sunday was felt around both Mendocino and Lake counties.

The 3.3-magnitude quake was reported at 9:33 p.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

The quake, which occurred at a depth of 2.8 miles, was centered eight miles south southeast of Talmage, 10 miles south southeast of Ukiah and 10 miles west of Lakeport.

Dozens of Lake County residents – most of them from Lakeport – reported to the US Geological Survey that they felt the quake. More than 160 responses came from the Ukiah area.

The survey reported that shake reports even came from the faraway areas of Danville and San Ramon, 170 and 175 miles from the quake's epicenter, respectively.

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CACHE CREEK WILDERNESS AREA – After a five-day effort firefighters fully contained a wildland fire on Saturday.

The Oasis Fire was contained at 1,575 acres, according to Cal Fire's final report on the incident, issued Saturday evening.

Suppression costs are estimated at $3.5 million, Cal Fire reported.

The blaze broke out Monday evening in a wildland area stretching across a portion of Lake and Colusa counties.

It was located on Bureau of Land Management land in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area as well as wildlands in the Northshore Fire Protection District jurisdiction, south of Highway 20 and six miles west of Highway 16.

Cal Fire said the fire's cause remains under investigation.

During the week the number of personnel on scene topped out at more than 1,100, with Cal Fire, Northshore Fire, Williams Fire and Department of Corrections personnel on scene. Additional assistance came from the California Highway Patrol.

Remaining on scene Saturday were 153 personnel, with two engines, seven fire crews and two bulldozers, Cal Fire said.

Cal Fire reported approximately four injuries during the five-day blaze.

Officials said mop up and patrol of the fire area will continue.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

NICE-LUCERNE CUTOFF – An early Tuesday afternoon crash on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff left two people with major injuries.

The head-on collision occurred just minutes before 1 p.m. half a mile east of Highway 29 on the cutoff, according to a Lakeport Fire Protection District report. In all three vehicles were involved but injuries were only reported to two people.

Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta arriving about four minutes after the incident was dispatched and began assessing injuries, said Lakeport Fire paramedic/firefighter Brian Hajik.

Shortly afterward, Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown arrived and assumed incident commander, Hajik noted.

Hajik said Lakeport ambulance 5013 requested one medical helicopter while en route to the crash based on information given by dispatch. When Brown got to the scene, he requested a second helicopter because there were two seriously injured patients.

When Lakeport's medic engine 5012 and ambulance 5013 arrived they were directed to a station wagon with one patient with an altered mental status and possible head injury, Hajik said.

Firefighters had to do extensive extrication with the jaws to life to remove the station wagon driver from the car. Hajik said they initiated aggressive advanced life support as they worked to remove the man, who was transported code three to Sutter Lakeside Hospital's helipad for transport by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Northshore Fire paramedics tended to a patient in the other vehicle involved. Hajik said that individual also was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital's helipad code three for transport to a trauma center.

The California Highway Patrol said major injuries resulted from the crash, but the agency did not respond to a request for further information on the crash victims made Tuesday afternoon.

Officials reported alcohol is a possible contributing factor in the crash.

Hajik said air bags were deployed, and the two crash victims appeared to have been wearing seatbelts.

One minor injury to a firefighter was reported, Hajik said.

Resources on scene, Hajik noted, included one advanced life support engine company and one ambulance from Lakeport Fire, with mutual aid provided by Northshore Fire, REACH and CHP.

Emergency responders had the scene managed and cleared in just under an hour, according to Hajik.

KELSEYVILLE – Thousands of residents of the Kelseyville and Cobb areas were out of power Sunday afternoon and into the evening due to equipment failure.

Brandi Ehlers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said a momentary power interruption just after 4 p.m. affected 8,500 customers.

A sustained outage for several more hours affected about 4,000 customers, said Ehlers.

The reason for the outages was equipment failure, but Ehlers said she was unsure of the origin of the equipment problems.

Power was restored to all of the area's customers by 7:30 p.m., Ehlers said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LAKE COUNTY – After Saturday's unsettled weather, the National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a hazardous weather outlook for Sunday due to the continued chance of thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes.

The National Weather Service (NWS) first issued a red flag warning at 3:11 a.m. Saturday for increased fire danger in Lake County and much of Northern California along the Coastal Range of mountains through Saturday evening.

The low pressure system that moved over Northern California, drawing up tropical moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Linda beginning Saturday, created conditions for the formation of thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes, especially over Mendocino National Forest, according to the NWS.

Lightning strikes and light rain were recorded in Lake County before 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, with the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz Mountains receiving the brunt of early morning lightning strikes, according to the lightning tracker system in San Luis Obispo.

Isolated rain showers were reported throughout the county Saturday.

Because of the threat of fire starts from this weather system, the NWS first issued a red flag warning for Lake County and much of the Coastal Mountain Range, from Central Oregon down to Monterey on Saturday, and issued a hazardous weather outlook on Saturday evening which will be in effect through Monday morning due the chance of thunderstorms, bringing with it dry lightning strikes.

Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny and cooler, with highs only reaching the mid to low 70s, as a stronger weather system moves in, increasing the chance of showers to 30 percent overnight into Monday.

The greatest chances for precipitation are before 11 a.m. Monday, although the NWS predicted that a slight chance of rain will persist throughout the day.

Cooler, fall-like temperatures will remain throughout the week, with a gradual warming trend towards week's end, with highs on Tuesday in the 70s, and Wednesday through Friday warming into the 80s, the NWS said.

Overnight lows are expected to remain in the 60s throughout the week, forecasters said.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LAKEPORT – The investigation into the circumstances that led to a fatal Sept. 11 vehicle crash outside of Lakeport is still under way as the three surviving victims recover, officials said Monday.

The crash occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Friday on Highway 29 south of the Highway 175 turnoff to Hopland.

Alejandro Aurelios Arias, 28, of Kelseyville is alleged to have driven at high speed into the highway's northbound lane.

There, his Ford Mustang collided head-on with a Buick Regal driven by 41-year-old Charlane Hill of Laytonville, as Lake County News has reported.

Hill was pronounced dead at the scene. Arias was arrested at the scene for driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter before he was transported to Santa Rosa for treatment of major injuries to his head, pelvis and legs.

The crash also resulted in major injuries for Hill's friend, 40-year-old Maria Hill of Clearlake – who is more commonly known by the last name Holt, according to family members – and 10-year-old Ukiah resident Elizabeth Hill, Charlane Hill's niece.

Yvette Doering, Elizabeth Hill's mother, said her daughter is at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, where she's being treated for two broken ankles, a broken humerus bone in her her right arm and a separated pelvis. The child also has had surgery to fix the broken bones.

Doering called her daughter “a complete miracle.”

“She should be home in about a week,” said Doering.

Doering said Maria Hill is in stable condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where she was taken after the crash.

She said family members haven't yet told her daughter about her favorite aunt's death, as they want to wait until she is recovered to break the news.

On Monday Arias remained in critical condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, said spokesperson Katy Hillenmeyer.

Officer Steve Tanguay of the California Highway Patrol said the driving under the influence charge against Arias is still under investigation.

A blood draw was taken from him at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and it's currently being processed by the state Department of Justice. Tanguay said it usually takes a few weeks to get the results back.

He said the charge was made against Arias because officers observed him with alleged signs and symptoms of intoxication at the crash scene.

Arias was stopped earlier in the evening near Upper Lake and given a warning for speeding, said Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Because of the ongoing investigation into the crash being led by CHP, Bauman said he couldn't discuss further case details at this point.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome band, from Los Angeles, wows the audience with her unique vocal talent from Grand Ole Opry roots. Photo by Terre Logsdon.


LOWER LAKE – Smiles, toe tapping, applause, and great American roots and bluegrass music filled the air at the fourth annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival held Saturday at the Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake.

Grammy award-winner Laurie Lewis, accompanied by Nina Gerber, headlined the show and brought the estimated 1,200 guests to their feet again and again.

Lewis, best known for her fiddle playing, singing and songwriting, has been called “one of the preeminent bluegrass and Americana artists of our time,” and enchanted the crowd accompanied by Gerber, who performs with many other luminaries of American roots music.

“This is a beautiful place and a wonderful festival,” Lewis told the audience from the stage just before her last song of the evening on Saturday.

The festival was presented by the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association (AMIA), a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote education and interpretive activities at the park, the Children’s Museum of Art & Science (CMAS), and the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, as a benefit to help support education in science, history and performing arts for the children of Lake County.

Bluegrass banjo player and Upper Lake resident Pat Ickes with his band Bound to Ride returned once again to the festival, which was much appreciated by their fans who were treated to original tunes and classics.

A member of Bound to Ride, Larry Chung, reintroduced this reporter to bluegrass about 10 years ago when he played weekly with a band of rotating musicians at Cato’s in Oakland. Growing up in southern Illinois, my grandparents were bluegrass fans, taking my brother and I to shows near and far, including the Grand Ole Opry.




The Clear Lake Clikkers, under the direction of Michelle John-Smith, enjoy clog and buck dancing for the exercise and social aspects



A few weeks ago, I compared Cabernet Sauvignon to the celebrity George Clooney, because both are very popular and highly versatile. When people describe Sauvignon Blanc in broad terms they usually use words like “crisp,” “clean,” “bright” and “elegant.” With those descriptors in mind then the only celebrity that comes to my mind is Nicole Kidman.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is indigenous to southern France, where its name translates to be “Wild White,” but New Zealand has adopted it as its own and its Marlborough region is considered one of the prime Sauvignon Blanc producing regions of the world. Sauvignon Blanc wines grown in Australia, Chile, South Africa and, of course, the U.S. are also very popular.

Nicole Kidman was actually born in Hawaii as an American citizen, but also holds dual citizenship with Australia. If she was a New Zealander by heritage rather than an Aussie this article would have been so much easier to write, but, well, you have to work with what you got.

Although Nicole Kidman has been performing her whole life and starred in several productions as a teenager, she really hit the big time in 1990 with “Days of Thunder.” Sauvignon Blanc skyrocketed into popularity in the U.S. at the same time, as wine drinkers of the 1980s became tired of heavy, oaky Chardonnays and wanted something lighter and brighter.

Flavors of Sauvignon Blanc typically include notes of apricot, asparagus, bell pepper, citrus, figs, floral, geranium, gooseberry, grass, green olives, guava, herbs, honey, honeysuckle, jalapeño or green chiles, gooseberry, green peas, lemongrass, lime, mango, melon, minerals, passion fruit, pear, pineapple, tropical fruit, or weedy. Gooseberry is a predominant flavor in many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and a good way of differentiating them from American or French wines.

While most Americans aren’t very familiar with the flavor, gooseberries do grow wild across the U.S. Cat urine is a flavor that usually occurs if the grapes are underdeveloped or don’t get enough sunlight, and Nicole Kidman does have a cat. OK, I reached a little far for that comparison, I’ll admit.

The aging process can add additional flavors of baked apple, bay leaf, butter, cream, flint, gasoline, licorice, nutmeg, oak, peach, rosemary, sesame seed, smoke, toast, vanilla, white pepper and wood.

Finishes can be described as creamy, crisp, rich, sharp or silky, and colors can range from almost clear, to straw yellow, to light peach or light green.

Nicole Kidman is very heath conscious and eats lots of fruit, stays out of the sun and does yoga. Many Lake County Sauvignon Blancs have heavy notes of grapefruit, honeydew melons and lemongrass flavors; I’m guessing those are the smells you would get the moment you walk into Nicole Kidman’s kitchen.

Nicole Kidman once said, “I love working with people who are inspired and obsessive,” and it shows in the variety of films she has done. She has been in everything from horror, comedy, drama and even musicals, which shows her versatility as a performer.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is the same way. It can produce a wine that can vary greatly depending on whether the juice has a lot of contact with the grape skins, if it is aged in stainless steel or oak, etc. An inspired and obsessive winemaker can create amazing differences in the final wine. There are Sauvignon Blancs out there that can be described as belonging to horror, comedy, dramas and musical genres. Like Nicole Kidman, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is very versatile.

Another aspect of Sauvignon Blanc’s versatility even earned it a distinct name. Fume Blanc is made from the same grape as the Sauvignon Blanc and is an American term invented by Charles Mondavi in 1968.

People didn’t like the sweet and strong characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc so he made a drier version and called it Fume Blanc (fume meaning smoke) in honor of the smoky look that the vineyard gets in the morning fog, and to associate it more with the drier Pouilly Fume’ wines of France.

Although Fume Blanc is not a legal definition it could be safe to say that a Fume Blanc is a dry Sauvignon Blanc. Nicole Kidman, just after marrying musician Keith Urban, was looking for a home in Tennessee and was heard to say that she liked it because she “could just be Mrs. Urban there.” A different aspect of her life gave her a new name too.

Sauvignon Blanc is best served young since it gets no benefit from aging for any period of time. No Nicole Kidman comments here, just move along.

So as you can see, the clean fresh taste yet flexibility of Sauvignon Blanc is very similar to the vibe you get from Nicole Kidman, except Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have to explain the Tom Cruise attraction.

Lake County Sauvignon Blanc producers

Brassfield Estate Winery

Ceago Del Lago

Demeter Vineyards and Winery (limited amounts available at the Lake County Wine Studio)

Dharma Wines (Monte Lago Vineyards)

Langtry Estate and Vineyards

High Valley Vineyards

Moore Family Winery

Noggle Vineyards and Winery

Robledo Family Winery

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery

Shed Horn Cellars

Six Sigma Ranch and Vineyards

Steele Wines (Shooting Star)

Villa La Brenta

Wildhurst Vineyards

Zoom Wines

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. Follow him on Twitter, .

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