Saturday, 13 July 2024


Manzanita Restaurant at Twin Pine Casino, 22223 Highway 29 at Rancheria Road, Middletown, telephone 800-564-4872. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. If the restaurant is full food can be served to you in the Grapevine Bar and Lounge.

When researching the Guenoc American Viticultural Area column I spoke to several people of the Middletown Rancheria and they all seemed to end the conversation with “You should come try our restaurant” I don’t get around Middletown very often but decided to make the trip to see what they were talking about.

The Middletown Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians operates Twin Pine Casino just south of Middletown on Highway 29. I’m not a gambler so I’ve never been inside the old casino but I have to say that the new one is very impressive.

The first surprise I had as I approached the casino was when I noticed there was a whole lot of improvement to it. The old military barracks-like tent is no longer in use, and there is a major hotel and casino standing next to it with a brand new parking lot. Wow, I really haven’t been here for a while!

Walking into the casino was quite the surprise. The décor is amazing! There are giant wooden beams, remarkable rock work and more brick than the Italian catacombs. The Edgar Allen Poe story “The Cask of Amontillado” popped into my recollection as I looked around. The quote, “For the love of god, Montresor!” kept repeating over and over again in my mind. It was all designed to accent the natural surroundings outside and was quite impressive.

The restaurant is located towards the back of the casino. A word of warning to anyone who hasn’t been in a casino before: smoking is permitted in the casino area so if you have sensitive lungs you may need to hold your breath a while to get to the restaurant. I’m personally pretty sensitive to allergens like smoke, and my throat was burning for an hour after leaving the building. Luckily the restaurant is sealed off from the casino with an obviously excellent ventilation system so the smoke won’t affect your meal

I arrived at 4 p.m. and the restaurant didn’t open until 5 p.m., so I went to the Grapevine Bar and Lounge to have a drink until it opened. The bartender Michelle can only be described as gorgeous and as hopefully my next wife. She is charming and attentive without being fawning.

As I sat at the bar I noticed that I could partially see into the kitchen. One kitchen staff member I have met before recognized me and waved, and all I could think was, “Oh no! I’ve been exposed by the very people who I will be reviewing.” Then I see several of the kitchen staff looking out at me, whispering and pointing. I thought then, “I’m definitely outed now,” but I had come all this way and I was still hungry.

When 5 p.m. came around I went into the restaurant and was seated immediately. I looked at the menu and saw that it had a little bit of everything on it, a nice well-rounded selection. Then my waitress Kim asked if I would like to hear the specials.

As she rattled them off they included a soft-shelled crab tempura on an Asian slaw appetizer ... I can’t pass up soft-shelled crab, ever. And for the entrée, they were featuring a seared ahi tuna. That’s another one I can’t pass up. Wine is available by the glass and I let the little sommelier in my head ask for the Langtry Sauvignon Blanc to go with what I ordered.

From the time I entered the restaurant to the time I received my wine and appetizer was 15 minutes, much faster than I was expecting. The plate was full of slaw and a whole soft-shelled crab with a Panko tempura crust, the crab being cut in half to make it a little easier to work with. The sweet sauce that came with the crab complemented it very well and the slaw was mildly dressed.

If you are a small person this could be a full meal all by itself, but luckily for me I’m not a small person, and I wolfed it all down. The crab was so crisp that when I cut off a claw the snap that occurred in the action shot the crab claw across the table and I quietly acted as if nothing happened.

At exactly 30 minutes after entering the restaurant my entrée arrived. I looked at it and immediately thought, “I can’t eat this. This is a work of art. If I eat this I will be destroying a thing of beauty.”

Seriously, this looked like something that you would find in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The ahi tuna was leaning on a tower of rice covered in a light sauce, and I could see nori and at least two different types of tobiko (flying fish eggs) and a couple of types of cabbage. There were colors and flavors everywhere.

I always enjoy dishes that match the protein with the garnish and sides in some karmic way, like rabbit and carrots, duck and rice, venison and everything in my garden, so the fact that the tuna was combined with fish eggs and seaweeds made me love the dish all the more.

“Well,” I thought, “A person's gotta eat,” so after a few moments of admiration I tore into the dish.

The exterior of the tuna was lightly seared and the interior was still rare, just the way it should be. I felt dirty eating it (but dirty in the good way), like I was getting a thrill out of destroying the artistic picture it was and reveling in its obliteration.

After dinner I went back to the bar (I had professional questions to ask; this has nothing to do with going back and staring at Michelle again with big Precious Moments figurine eyes). I asked her to find out the executive chef’s name and she came back with his card.

His name is Jeremy Peckham and he lives here in Lake County part-time and Hawaii part-time. Dinner was well worth the trip and I decided I would definitely return; you don’t get a meal of this caliber at many places around the county.

I think this really proves that Lake County is DEFINITELY becoming a food AND wine destination. I was so impressed with my experience that I returned a couple weeks later with my wife.

We walked through the entire casino and she agreed that the amount and structure of brickwork in the Grapevine Bar was very evocative of Poe. Michelle was there so I introduced my current wife to her eventual successor … no, no, not awkward at all, it’s all just part of my unique charm. Truthfully, my wife is very indulgent of my sense of humor.

After a couple of drinks we went to the restaurant. We each had a great meal. My wife ordered the spinach and artichoke dip for her appetizer, and I had the crab cakes, both of which were quite good.

The smoked rib-eye with peppers and béchamel sauce I ordered was so rich and thick that I couldn’t finish it. My wife had the double jack chicken sandwich with steak fries, and she made several comments about the portions being very generous.

She likes to have dessert when we go out, so she only ate about half her meal and asked for it to be boxed up so she would have enough room. Since rhubarb is in season right now she ordered the strawberry rhubarb crisp a la mode. It was sweet and tart at the same time, and a very comforting way to end her meal.

Prices are more reasonable than you would expect for a meal of this caliber, so I have another good reason to return to Middletown regularly.

In addition to the new casino, hotel, bar and restaurant, I learned that they will also soon have a wine tasting room that will feature Lake County wines, so Twin Pine Casino is becoming a very complete destination to visit.

To the people of the Middletown Rancheria: You have a wholly impressive facility that you can be very proud of, and as Montresor said to Fortunato, “... I drink to your long life.” But I say it to you with much more goodwill than he did.

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.

LAKE COUNTY – Extremely dry conditions have contributed to several fires around the county over the last week.

In the south county, Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta said they've seen just a few small fires in the district during the week, including a 50 by 50 foot area that burned on Thursday, and a few slightly smaller fires on Spruce.

The biggest fire recently occurred on Friday, July 3, and damaged the Kool and Cash building at 40th and Phillips Avenue, resulting in about $100,000 in damage, said Sapeta.

“We've been really fortunate so far,” he said. “We're holding our breath.”

Also on July 3, a fire off of Bridge Arbor North Road in Upper burned 10 acres in an orchard, according to Chief Jim Robbins of the Northshore Fire Protection District.

A fire lookout spotted the fire, said Robbins, noting that Lakeport Fire, Cal Fire and the US Forest Service also responded.

Robbins said he hasn't been able to find a cause for the fire, which occurred during the middle of the day. “Fires just don't start out in the middle of orchards by themselves,” he said.

That same day, Northshore Fire responded to a two-structure fire on E. Highway 20 and Oak Grove in Clearlake Oaks, said Robbins.

A large oak tree came down across power lines, sparking the fire, which scorched a fence and led to damage to the front of one house and to the garage of another. Robbins estimated damage at $80,000 for repairs to both homes.

Another small, two-acre grass fire was reported in Nice off of Spring Street before 5 a.m. Monday, said Robbins.

While neighbors claimed to have heard firecrackers prior to the fire being reported, Robbins said there was no evidence of fireworks, and the fire's cause is unknown.

Also on Monday, a six-acre fire was reported on Bartlett Springs Road. Robbins said the fire appeared to have come from a nearby campground before burning up a hill. That fire was handled by the US Forest Service and Cal Fire.

Kelseyville Fire reported a small, quarter-acre fire on Wednesday off of Clark Drive. The cause of the fire, located near homes, is under investigation.

Firefighters were able to quickly suppress a 22-acre fire in north Lakeport on Wednesday, as Lake County News has reported. Northshore and Lakeport Fire, as well as Cal Fire and the US Forest Service responded. The cause of the fire hasn't yet been reported.

On Thursday, a fire was sparked on Hutchins Road and Burpee Drive in Nice when a squirrel got into high tension lines. “It blew him up and the insulator,” said Robbins.

The explosion caught the ground on fire, burning just under an acre, said Robbins.

Conditions are so dry lately that fires can easily spark, and afternoon winds an add to the problem, he said.

No fires appeared to have resulted from illegal fireworks over the July 4 weekend, according to local fire chiefs.

“We went out and chased a bunch but never caught any,” said Sapeta.

Lakeport Fire Protection Chief Ken Wells noted that the holiday weekend was pretty quiet.

Lakeport Fire teamed up with Lakeport Police to confiscate illegal fireworks and make some arrests, including one felony case in which a man from San Francisco was found with a handheld flare launcher, Wells said.

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

SONOMA COUNTY – A Sonoma County woman alleged to be part of a counterfeiting ring has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Kim Louise Lemoine, 36, who passed counterfeit state government checks totaling $308,000, was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison on charges of identity theft, forgery and grand theft, according to a report from state Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s office.

Two of Lemoine's associates are in custody; two remain at large.

"This band of counterfeiters fabricated 235 state government checks that looked and felt like the real thing," Brown said. "They were able to pass these forgeries and amass more than $300,000."

On March 11, 2009, Brown filed 63 criminal charges of grand theft, possession of counterfeit card making equipment, identity theft, forgery of a California driver's license, forgery of a check and forgery of the California state seal against:

  • Kim Louise Lemoine, 36, arrested on March 13, pled guilty in Sonoma County Superior Court on April 28 and was sentenced today to five years in prison;

  • Hiedi Lynn Roth, 36, arrested on April 22, and is expected to be sentenced to 8 years in prison on July 21;

  • Daria Inessa Sidorkina, 23, who is being held in Solano County jail on unrelated charges;

  • Laura Renee Harkey, 29, who remains at large; and

  • Mary Nicole Holstein, 35, who remains at large.

The defendants cashed 235 counterfeit checks at Bank of America branches located in 20 California counties from October 2007 until September 2008. The counterfeit checks ranged from $777 to $3,000.

Attorney General's Office spokesman Evan Westrup told Lake County News Wednesday that it doesn't appear, from a review of the case, that any of the counterfeit checks were passed in Lake County.

The counterfeit checks looked similar to state-issued checks and included the state seal, bank routing information, and the state Controller's signature. The driver's licenses that the defendants used to verify their identifications also appeared valid. In reality, both the checks and driver's licenses were forgeries, created at Lemoine's home in Sonoma County.

On July 28, 2008, a bank teller in Sebastopol refused to cash one of the checks. After being informed that the check would not be honored, the suspect grew angry and demanded the items back. The bank employee refused, and the bank's staff then contacted the California State Controller's Office.

The Controller's Office launched an investigation in conjunction with Brown's office. Last September, agents discovered counterfeiting equipment capable of producing fraudulent checks and driver's licenses, including laminating machines, printers, check paper and blank driver's license cards at Lemoine's home in Sonoma County.

The agents also discovered personal information for more than 50 individuals and businesses in a duffel bag. The information included credit reports, driver's license numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth.

Sugar Pie DeSanto, one of blues' all-time greats. Courtesy photo.

I’m sitting next to the legendary Sugar Pie DeSanto on a (gulp) US Air flight still on the tarmac at the Oakland Airport.

Obscured in the pages of blues history is the fact that she was the only female artist on the 1964 American Folk Blues tour that featured Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Willie Dixon, among others.

She was one of many artists on the Chess Records roster during its heyday. Her duets with Etta James were certifiable, charting hits. Prior to that, Sugar Pie was the opening act for Soul Brother No. 1, The Godfather of Funk, Mr. James Brown.

Sugar Pie kept James on his toes in more ways than one. She set the performance bar very high for James and anyone else who has drawn top billing behind her since. It can safely be said then and now; you have to be great or foolish to dare to perform after her.

In the summer of 2007, I was able to witness the “kidding on the square” banter between Sugar Pie and rhythm and blues veterans, Ruby Andrews and Cicero Blake. They were debating who was going to open, follow and close their performance at the Chicago Blues Festival. Neither Andrews nor Blake dared to follow the Sugar!

It is just past nine in the morning and we have a long flight day ahead of us. Sugar is booked to close the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival on Friday, July 3, at 9:30 p.m., approximately 36 hours away. Our itinerary calls for us to change plans twice, in Phoenix and Chicago. We are scheduled to layover a total of three plus hours and our travel time to our final destination of Moline, Ill., is close to 10 hours.

The flight leaves the terminal on time and we settle into our seats. As we taxi down the runway at a speed that seems to me to be close to 100 miles per hour, we are suddenly thrown forward with a collective gasp as the pilot slams on the brakes.

“Ladies and gentleman, we have a computer malfunction and will be returning to the terminal to get it repaired before takeoff …”

They couldn’t repair it. Three hours later, we are hustled onto a shuttle to San Francisco. It’s 12:10 p.m. and we are trying to connect with a flight that leaves San Francisco at 1:30 p.m. I express my concern to the driver who seems noncommittal about getting us there on time.

“Oh, I don’t know whether we’ll make it or not. I can’t be speeding. I got two tickets last month and I have to observe the 65 mile per hour speed limit.”

This is not good. If we don’t make the San Francisco connection, the gig is on the line. There are no more connections to Moline that will make it in time.

My distress is soon put to the test as the driver proceeds to do 85 and 90 miles per hour all the way to San Francisco Airport. Shockingly, we arrive in just enough time to go check in, go through security and board. Yes, I did tip the very slick driver!

We have been advised that we will be staying in Chicago overnight after transferring in Las Vegas.

When we get to Las Vegas, Sugar Pie gleefully entertains herself with a couple of rounds with the one-armed jack machines stationed around the Las Vegas airport. She convinces me to drop a dollar in the penny machine. With our carryon luggage under her watch, I slip off to grab an overpriced bite.

We make it out of Las Vegas and land safely in Chicago. Bleary-eyed, we check in to the Hilton about midnight. With a 20-hour day (at least for me) concluded, we check into our rooms to grab four hours sleep for me, five for the Sugar (I have a morning routine that takes me about an hour).

The alarm hits at 4 a.m. I do my thing. I’m supposed to call Sugar Pie at 5 a.m. for her wakeup. My phone rings at 4:55 a.m. It’s the Sugar.

“What time we leavin’? Can we get some coffee?”

“I’ll be there for you at 5:45,” I reply.

We check out of the Hilton in reasonably good shape and head for the airport by foot. It’s only about a five-minute walk. We have to recheck our luggage, get boarding passes and go through security again for the puddle jump to Moline.

We grab coffee and breakfast sandwiches and are headed to sit down at our boarding gate, when we are confronted by a situational orange alert.

“Excuz meh plez. Can you help meh?”

A man with an accent out of somewhere in Africa is panhandling us with a story about having only Chinese money (he shows us a fistful of strange currency) that they won’t take. He claims massive hunger.

Partly because I empathize with his plight, partly because our food is getting cold, I give him a dollar. Three or so minutes later, it occurred to me that all he really had to do was go to the currency exchange. Did I get taken? Maybe. Was it worth the price of admission? I think so.

We finally land in Moline just before 9 am. on July 3. Our Hotel is in Bettendorf, Iowa. The hotel van swoops us up and we are checked in before 10 a.m.

We have time for a quick nap in our respective rooms. The Sugar has a radio interview scheduled for noon. Rehearsal with the band is at 2:30 p.m. The gig is at 9:30 p.m. At 9:15 the mayor of Davenport is presenting her with the key to the city as the Mississippi Valley Blues Society awards her with a Lifetime Achievement Plaque.

End of part I; to be continued next week.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

Upcoming cool events:

Sax-O-Rama, Sunday Brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 12, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake; telephone 707-275-2233.

Tutu Jones, Andrews Jr. Boy Jones, Sherman Robertson, Caravan of Allstars, Russell City Memorial Blues Band, Alvin Draper, Mike Osborne’s tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Consonance, Blues Boy Willie, Preacher Luke Scott , Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 12. 777 “B” St. at City Hall Plaza in Hayward. Telephone 510-836-2227.

Side of Blues, Blue Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 13, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake.

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake.

The Lost Boys, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 17, Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Greg Allman in Concert, 8 p.m. Saturday, July 18. Cache Creek Casino, 14455 Hwy 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77-CACHE, online at .

Smokey Robinson in Concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone 800-660-LAKE, online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Hwy 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77 CACHE, online at .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .

Elderly clients sometimes come to me with their children, or their caregivers, to see me about estate planning. Often they may rely on them to help express their wants and to make sure that I am someone they can trust; all of which is reasonable.

On these occasions, however, I sometimes find it a little awkward to explain to them that I must also meet alone with the clients sufficiently in order to discuss their major decisions.

As explained below, there are very legitimate reasons why I, and any other attorney, must insist on meeting with the elderly clients alone.

First, an attorney is required to faithfully and confidentially serve the interests of his client(s) only. For that reason, the attorney must meet alone when discussing the client’s important estate planning decisions. The attorney can then assure his clients that he works for them only and that he would not divulge any confidences to anyone else (except with the client’s own permission).

With these assurances, the attorney is more likely to get to know his clients, their circumstances and their desires, and so become reasonably certain about his client’s true wishes.

On the other hand, were the client’s children to participate at the meeting the children might take charge of the discussion and might prevent the elderly parent(s) from saying something that they would prefer not to say with the children listening.

A confidential meeting protects both the attorney and the client’s true objectives should someone later-on, in attacking the estate plan, allege that the estate plan is the product not of the client’s wishes but of someone else’s wishes.

Next, the attorney must also be satisfied that the client has the required mental capacity to sign estate planning documents. That is, he must examine the elderly clients’ abilities to communicate and understand what is being discussed; to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of their decisions to themselves and others; and to make reasoned choices.

For example, in order to sign a will, a person must understand that a will takes effect at death and that it directs the distribution of their estate. They must also know the character and extent of their assets (e.g., that they own a home, two cars, a savings and a checking account), and know and recollect their close family members. And, they must be able to devise a way of giving what they have to whom they want.

If the attorney is uncertain about a client’s mental capacity he may wish to see the client again at a time when the client may be more alert. He may also want to seek the opinion of the client’s primary care physician, or if necessary a specialist, regarding the client’s mental capacity. Where possible, these alternatives should be first discussed privately with the clients.

Even with testamentary capacity present, the attorney also needs to know that the client is acting out of free will and is not subjected to “undue influence” of others pressuring the client about their estate planning.

Consider an elderly person who lives with one child, or spends time only with one child, who is isolated and does not communicate much with other friends and family. One can easily foresee in that case how other interested persons could later on allege that undue influence was exerted over the elderly person in order to attack the estate plan as someone else’s wishes.

Lastly, after as a sufficient meeting, the family can return to the room. Then, they may perhaps provide further relevant information and the attorney, with the client’s permission, may answer some questions. The purpose after all, is not to distance anyone but to do right by the client.

Dennis A. Fordham is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his bachelor's degree at Columbia University, his juris doctorate at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his LL.M in taxation at New York University. He concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and aspects of elder law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. He can be reached by e-mail at dennis@dennisfordhamlaw , com or by phone at 707-263-3235.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – Seven tribes in California will have improved access to vital water services through funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Indian Health Service (IHS) on Wednesday announced $90 million nationwide in “shovel ready” infrastructure projects designed to better protect human and environmental health in Indian Country.

“On tribal lands, 10 percent of homes lack access to safe drinking water compared to less than one percent of non-native homes. Together with the Indian Health Service, EPA is using Recovery Act funds to provide much-needed support for water and wastewater systems in Indian Country,” said Laura Yoshii, acting regional administrator for the U.S. EPA in the Pacific Southwest.

Yoshii said the funding creates jobs for tribal members, addresses critical infrastructure needs and will increase access to drinking water and basic sanitation services.

“By 2010, over 4,400 tribal homes in the Pacific Southwest are expected to receive piped drinking water or basic sanitation services for the first time,” she said.

The tribes receiving funds include the following:

  • Tule River Indian Reservation will receive $6,371,470 to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant serving 268 homes;

  • Round Valley Indian Tribes will receive $474,380 to expand its wastewater treatment facility serving 132 homes;

  • Redwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians will receive $316,770 for improvements to its wastewater treatment plant serving 32 homes;

  • Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians of California will receive $205,310 to upgrade sewer connections serving 10 homes;

  • Redding Rancheria will receive $180,070 to expand sewer connections serving 13 homes;

  • Quechan Tribe will receive $340,630 to upgrade sewer lines serving 15 homes;

  • Campo Band of Kumeyaay Indians will receive $753,100 for drinking water treatment serving 29 homes.

Continuing a tradition spanning 20 years, EPA and IHS’s combined effort to improve water services in Indian Country contributed to their identification of 95 wastewater and 64 drinking water priority projects to be completed by IHS’s Sanitation Facilities Construction Program through EPA Recovery Act funds.

The projects exceed the Recovery Act requirement that 20 percent of the funds be used for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements and other environmentally innovative projects.

President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on Feb. 17 and has directed that the recovery act be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability. To see how every dollar is being invested, visit .

The renovation project needs just over $1.3 million in order to be completed. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – After a four-month hiatus from hosting performances in order to allow for the latest phase of its renovation project, the Soper-Reese Community Theatre will once again open its doors to the public beginning this coming week.

A Friday afternoon reception allowed community members to visit the building, located at 275 S. Main St., which has several new features after the latest renovation phase, which is being called “phase 2.1,” according to theater manager John Ross.

Most notably, the size of the stage has expanded, with new wheelchair-accessible walkways added on either side that extend out toward the audience. Those ramps were painted on Friday.

Also on Friday, the concrete for a new loading dock was poured.

Alongside of the building, facing Martin Street, is a new patio and courtyard area.

On Saturday, a new curtain will be hung across the stage, said Bert Hutt, the theater's artistic director.

The recent phase also included laying the foundation and doing the electrical work for the dressing room area that will extend out from behind the theater.

The Soper-Reese Renovation Project needs to raise a total of $1.3 million to complete it work.

The theater's first renovation phase cost $600,000, and phase 2.1 cost $220,000, said Ross.

In the next phase, they'll complete the dressing rooms, which Ross said will require $100,000. That phase also will include updates to the facade and the lobby, which will cost $350,000.

The theater's renovation has received $250,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development funds, $200,000 from the Lakeport Redevelopment Agency and funds from the county, including a recent allocation of $15,000, said Ross.

As the theater's fundraising committee goes about raising the rest of the money needed to finish the project, Ross said they're looking at all potential sources – including the community and grants.

Ross said the theater had stopped hosting events during the past four months to allow construction.

However events are starting up this next week and the theater will once again host a regular schedule of events.

Its first public event will be this Sunday, July 12, when the theater will host the memorial service for the late Joan Holman, an artist, writer, photographer and grand dame of local theater, who died June 5 at age 93.

“She has been a big supporter of the arts in Lake County,” said Hutt.

Later in the week, Lake County Community Radio, KPFZ 88.1 FM, will hold its inaugural Lake County Singer Songwriter Festival on Sundayy, July 19, at the Soper-Reese Theater in Lakeport. The event is a benefit for the nonprofit community radio station.

There are big hopes for the Soper-Reese, which will be one of the county's largest dedicated theater spaces.

In addition to hosting major events and performances, Hutt – who attended a community theater managers conference in Tacoma, Wash., earlier in the week – hopes to have a theater company based at the theater.


Visit the theater online at .

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



The inside of the theater, pictured from the lighting book. New wheelchair accessible ramps line both walls. A new stage curtain will be hung on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




The second phase of construction included laying the foundation and doing wiring for the dressing room area, being built at the back of the theater. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

A Cal Fire investigator looks over the fire scene on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – Officials are still investigating the cause of a fire that burned near homes in north Lakeport on Wednesday.

Two fires merged and created a larger blaze, which Cal Fire investigators on Thursday said burned a total of 22 acres.

The fire threatened several dozen homes in the Lakeside Heights subdivision near Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as well as the subdivision's former clubhouse, now a private residence, and a recent development just east of the fire area.

A single structure, located 600 feet west of the nearest residence, was destroyed in the blaze. The building was used as a storage area as well as housing utility and service equipment specific to the subdivision.

Lakeport Fire Protection District Chief Ken Wells said he had two engines and a water tender on scene from his agency, along with three engines from Northshore Fire, and an engine and a water tender from the US Forest Service.

Cal Fire had four engines, one helicopter, one air attack, three air tankers and a hand crew on scene, said Wells.

Only the helicopter dropped water – mostly on the burning building – while the air tankers and spotter circled overhead. “I held them in orbit for a while,” said Wells, explaining that the planes can help spot additional fires in such situations.

Each successive water drop by the helicopter extinguished the building's fire, with the resulting electrical arcing reigniting the heavy wood framing left smoldering under the buildings collapsed tile roof.

Firefighters eventually extinguished the remnants of the structure but were initially ordered not to attack the building from the ground due to the live heavy voltage electrical connections contained therein.

Wells initially had organized the response, which was then handed over to Cal Fire because the blaze was located in the state responsibility area (SRA).

Later, Wells said he looked toward Nice and saw smoke coming from the Robin Hill area off of Lakeshore. There, they found a third and separate grass fire, measuring about 100 feet by 100 feet, which they extinguished.

Cal Fire Capt. Bob Farias was called to the scene late Wednesday afternoon and began his investigation as soon as the bulk of ground personnel had left the site.

He said he's trying to determine the ignition points of the two separate fires as well as the cause of each.

He returned Thursday and was joined by a Cal Fire command engineer, and they began dissecting the clues left behind in the charred fuel bed.

By the end of the day Thursday, Farias could not offer any solid conclusions as to the cause of the two fires.

Also on scene Thursday were three AT&T trucks working to restore communication lines. Pacific Gas and Electric workers appeared to have their work completed earlier in the day.

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. .



The fire had burned dangerously close to homes in the Lakeside Heights subdivision in north Lakeport. The charred ground is pictured on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Cal Fire Capt. Bob Farias works at the investigation scene on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

A Cal Fire helicopter drops water on a burning outbuilding in north Lakeport on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – About eight acres burned Wednesday afternoon as the result of what appears to be two separate fires that may have merged in the north Lakeport area.

The fires burned near Highway 29 in an area near a housing development not far from Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as Lake County News reported earlier this afternoon. Mop up work continued through the afternoon and early evening in the area.

One outbuilding was destroyed, and firefighters on scene estimated about eight acres were charred.

Nearby, homeowners wetted down their homes as gusts of wind carried the flames close to the houses, according to Lake County News correspondent Harold LaBonte, who was at the scene.

A helicopter made about six water drops on the outbuilding that burned, which appeared to be a major fire hot spot, as other aircraft flew over the scene.

No injuries were reported, and officials at the scene did not identify an ignition source for the fire.

Lakeport, Northshore and Kelseyville Fire Districts were on scene, along with Cal Fire, US Forest Service and Konocti Conservation Camp, according to Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins.

Robbins estimated a total of 40 firefighters from the various agencies were involved in fighting the fire.



The remains of the burned outbuilding destroyed during a fire in the north Lakeport area on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The flames moved close to the Lakeside Heights subdivision in north Lakeport on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The fire surrounded the tennis court and pool for the Lakeside Heights subdivision in north Lakeport on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




A fire truck in the midst of a charred field in north Lakeport on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




A Cal Fire helicopter made several water drops on a burning outbuilding in north Lakeport on Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

Susan Feiler, owner of the Lake County Wine Studio, pour a local wine for a guest. Photo by Emily Silva.



UPPER LAKE – If you are looking for a way to taste a variety of Lake County’s wines but can’t make a trip around the lake, Lake County Wine Studio should be your next wine destination.

Lake County Wine Studio is located across the street from the Blue Wing Saloon at 9505 Main St., Upper Lake.

The business showcases more than 20 wineries from around Clear Lake. Hours are Thursday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.

Susan Feiler, the wine studio's owner, said she sees the business in a marketing role for the county's wines.

She wants to offer a tasting room experience to guests and locals who are seeking out the fine wines of Lake County and feature the boutique wineries and winemakers that do not have their own public tasting venue.

As well, she hopes to eventually represent and promote all Lake County wineries and artisan winemakers with at least one representative wine they produce in order to introduce their wine and present their story to wine aficionados and neophytes.

“I am also realizing my goal of presenting the talented artists of Lake County and their various mediums by showcasing an artist each month,” she said.

Wines are rotated on a regular basis so all wineries get their turn to be tasted. That offers visitors a good sense of the county's wine diversity.

“The list rotates and features five reds and five whites as well as a dessert wine,” said Feiler.

Feiler welcomes guests with her sunny personality and has a true passion for wine, especially the amazing wines Lake County has to offer. As she pours, the excitement shows on her face.

“You are going to love this wine,” she says as she pours a taste of Cabernet Sauvignon. Upon tasting, I agree with her.

When asked her philosophy on wine, Feiler explains, “Wine is a consumable work of art created by the conditions in which the grapes are grown and the talents of the winemakers. Enjoy your wine purchases in your lifetime. Create your special occasions and good memories with friends and family to celebrate your lives, the day, the triumphs and successes – for lesser reasons than scaling Mt. Everest or reaching your 50th wedding anniversary.”

On Fridays, the studio offers a revolving fondue menu. The first Friday of the month, the studio offers tasting of that month’s feature winery and patrons can view the new art to grace the walls. This offers the perfect way to start a weekend.

Monotony is not commonplace for the tasting menu. The revolution of the fondue and wine will leave anyone’s taste buds asking for a return visit. The ambiance, music, artwork as well as Feiler’s conversation will make it a regular stop on your weekend rounds, if not a monthly event to see the new art and taste the new feature winery.

For more information, call Lake County Wine Studio at 707-275-8030.



The Lake County Wine Studio features pairings of great food and wine. Photo by Emily Silva.

LAKE COUNTY – If you need to get some yard work done, this should be a perfect weekend as the closer-to-springtime high temperatures will continue today and Saturday, with highs in the mid- to upper-80s.

The low weather system that has predominated throughout the week pulling cool air from the north will move across Lake County on Saturday, allowing warmer temperatures that are closer to normal July temperatures to move back into the area beginning Saturday afternoon into Sunday.

The Weather Channel predicts that highs Friday and Saturday will reach the mid- to upper-80s, and begin increasing into the 90s on Sunday, which will then usher in a return to normal beginning on Monday, when highs should reach the mid-to upper-90s.

Skies should be sunny to mostly sunny Saturday and Sunday, according to The Weather Channel forecasts, with lows in the mid-5 to upper-50s throughout the weekend.

Tuesday is expected to be the warmest day next week, with a high temp near 100 degrees, but cooling a few degrees each day through mid-week.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento forecasts that Lake County weather will be a few degrees cooler each day than The Weather Channel predicts.

For updated weather, please follow the "Forecast" link on the LakeCoNews homepage.

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

LAKEPORT (4:41 p.m.) – Firefighters are battling a fire in the north Lakeport area that has already burned an outbuilding and is close to homes.

The fire appears to have started at Highway 29 and is being fanned by gusting winds, according to Lake County News correspondent Harold LaBonte, reporting from the scene.

So far the fire has burned several acres and is threatening homes on Lancaster, across from Sutter Lakeside Hospital, according to LaBonte.

People are trying to secure their homes, and in some cases working alongside firefighters to keep homes safe. LaBonte estimated the flames in one area came within 50 feet of the homes.

Lakeport and Northshore Fire Protection Districts, Cal Fire and the US Forest Service are among the agencies on the scene.

The fire is being fought both from the ground and the air, with aircraft dropping water on hot spots in the area, including a burned outbuilding that had large amounts of construction material inside.

Some of the plywood appeared to be exploding, and loud popping noises and black smoke were coming from an area where a transformer may have been located.

Lake County News will post more updates as more information becomes available.

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