Wednesday, 24 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Firefighters quickly contained a small vegetation fire in Lakeport Wednesday evening.

Lakeport Fire Protection District personnel responded to the fire at approximately 6:41 p.m. Wednesday, according to a report from firefighter/paramedic Brian Hajik.

Hajik said the fire was located near the intersection of Larrecou Lane and Konocti Avenue.

Lakeport Fire's engine 5021 arrived in under four minutes and reported the fire as under a quarter acre in light flashy fuels, he said. Lakeport medic engine 5012 arrived 1 minute later and assumed command of the incident.

Under the direction of Captain Rick Bergem, hose lines were quickly extended on both flanks before flames threatened structures, Hajik said.

He said aggressive firefighting operations led to fire containment in five minutes. Mopup lasted just over an hour, and the incident was terminated at 7:47 p.m.

In all, Lakeport Fire Protection District responded with three engines, and Kelseyville Fire provided one ambulance with mutual aid, according to Hajik.

The fire occurred at the future site of the Lakeport Fire Protection District station. Hajik said that construction has not yet begun.

Fire cause is currently under investigation and no injuries were reported, Hajik said.

From left, Shannon Edmonds and Melvin Norton are being held in connection with a fatal stabbing that is alleged to have occurred in Clearlake on Tuesday, September 22, 2009. Lake County Jail photos.





CLEARLAKE – A man who shot and killed two men as they fled from his home following an alleged December 2005 break-in has been charged, along with another Clearlake resident, with homicide in a Tuesday morning stabbing.

Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, of Clearlake was arrested early Tuesday, along with Melvin Dale Norton, 38, also of Clearlake, according to Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain.

Edmonds and Norton weren't booked until shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday as a result of interviews going on throughout the day, McClain told Lake County News.

Bail for each of the men is set at $1 million, according to their booking information. Arraignment is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

McClain said Edmonds and Norton were arrested for the stabbing death of a white male adult in his 30s who has not yet been identified.

Clearlake Police officers were dispatched to an area of Old Highway 53 and Clement Drive at about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday on the report of a possible assault, McClain said.

When the officers arrived at the scene, they found the victim lying on the side of the roadway. McClain said the victim was transported to Saint Helena Hospital Clearlake where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The leads developed by the first officers on scene and by detectives assigned to the case resulted in the arrest of Edmonds and Norton, both of whom are charged with homicide, McClain said.

Officer Michael Ray arrested both men at 5 a.m., according to jail records.

McClain said Clearlake Police detectives, along with Lake County District Attorney's Office investigators, were in the process of serving search warrants and collecting additional evidence.

He said the victim's name will be released by the Lake County Sheriff-Coroner's Office at the appropriate time.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins said late Tuesday that his chief deputy, Richard Hinchcliff, was working on the case with Clearlake Police.

Edmonds was at the center of a December 2005 case in which three Bay Area men allegedly broke into his Clearlake Park home and assaulted him, his then-girlfriend Lori Tyler, her teenage son Dale Lafferty and Lafferty's friend, Justin Sutch.

Christian Foster, 22, along with 21-year-old Rashad Williams and Renato Hughes, then 21, allegedly formed a “crime team” and broke into Edmonds' home in search of marijuana, as Hopkins explained to the jury in the trial in the summer of 2008. During the 2005 incident, Lafferty was beaten nearly to death with a bat and suffered permanent brain damage.

Edmonds fatally shot Williams and Foster as they ran from his home, with the prosecution arguing the men were still in the house when they were shot, and the defense saying that Edmonds shot them after following them outside.

The District Attorney's Office did not charge Edmonds in that case.

Hughes later was charged with his friends' deaths under the provocative act law, which holds anyone alleged to have taken part in a crime that could provoke a lethal act responsible for resulting deaths.

His defense attorney, Stuart Hanlon, on Tuesday called news of Edmonds' arrest on the murder charge “amazing.”

Throughout Hughes' legal proceedings, Hanlon attempted to place blame on Edmonds and demanded his prosecution.

In similar fashion, Hanlon on Tuesday called the Clearlake homicide “a murder waiting to happen,” alleging that Edmonds had essentially been given permission to kill people because he had never been charged for any of the deaths.

Edmonds also wasn't charged for an August 2007 incident in which he allegedly tried to force Tyler to commit suicide with him, making her take about 150 pills and write out a suicide note, as Lake County News has reported. The couple later drove to the hospital, but about two weeks afterward Edmonds again attempted suicide by taking pills.

“He's a troubled man, that's for sure,” said Hanlon.

However, Edmonds has a sparse local criminal record, with no previous charges involving violence.

A check of Lake County court records showed that Edmonds has only one criminal case on file locally – a January conviction on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct while under the influence of drugs and disturbing the peace.

Hanlon said his investigators found that Edmonds was charged in Mendocino County with several low-level drug offenses – but no felonies.

In Hughes' trial – held last summer in Contra Costa County, where it was moved due to pretrial publicity – Hughes was acquitted of the two homicide counts, robbery and attempted murder, with the jury hanging on assault causing great bodily injury. Hughes was convicted of burglary and assault with a firearm.

During the trial's closing arguments, Hanlon had stated Foster was shot four times in the back, one of them while he was on the ground, which Hanlon told Lake County News on Tuesday that Edmonds had testified to while on the stand.

It's a point that both Hanlon and Hopkins continue to argue.

Hopkins told Lake County News in a recent interview that he provided evidence in last year's trial that proved Edmonds couldn't have shot Foster while he was lying prone.

Hanlon on Tuesday responded to that statement with some colorful language, and maintained that the jury didn't buy that explanation.

Last December, a federal lawsuit filed against Edmonds by Williams' and Foster's families was settled. Edmonds' insurance carrier, Allied, paid an undisclosed amount, as Lake County News has reported.

In the suit, the families alleged that Edmonds was a known drug dealer, and claimed that Foster's and Williams' civil rights were violated.

That suit's defendants originally had included the county and the city of Clearlake, but a federal judge dismissed the case against the local jurisdictions.

If anyone has any information regarding this case please contact the Clearlake Police Department at 707-994-8251.

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 .

LAKEPORT – Had your jolt of caffeine this morning?

If you get your coffee on the run, perhaps you have a favorite coffee house or purveyor.

With a new, recently opened shop in Lakeport, residents of the county seat have several choices for satisfying their java cravings.

Harbor House Espresso Bar, Angelina’s Bakery and Kelsey Creek Coffee Co., all on Main Street, and Rico Aroma Coffee House on 11th Street offer a variety of coffee selections and specialty coffee concoctions.

They face corporate competition from Starbucks, a new line of coffee drinks at McDonald’s, and an economy that may have coffee lovers choosing less expensive options from mini-marts or brewing their own pots of caffeinated (or decaf) beverage at home.

How do the smaller, “mom-and-pop”-type coffee businesses attract new customers and attempt to keep a loyal customer base?

Owners of the four establishments surveyed say their success hinges on providing good customer service, excellent products, variety in food and drink, and community involvement.

“It is our philosophy to provide the highest quality products with passion, excellence and innovation,” said Angy DeSimone-Lundeen, who along with her husband Brian Lundeen owns and continues her parent’s family business, Angelina’s Bakery & Espresso.

She said she realizes customers have a choice. “They are in a sense voting with their dollars, promoting a sustainable economy when they choose to support locally-owned businesses.”

Martha and Ron Benway, owners of Harbor House Espresso Bar, agree, noting in their brochure that they have “a strong sense of community.”

Listing a number of local events in which they regularly participate, the Benways said “a community that helps one another and lives strong and independent” is what they strive to help accomplish. “We hope we can help keep Lakeport fun and lively.”

Harbor House is a drive-through espresso bar and offers delivery of their products as well.

“We offer great customer service and a friendly atmosphere,” says Brigette Lefort of Rico Aroma Coffee House.

Her parents, Saul and Debbie Lefort, are owners of the shop, where WiFi (wireless Internet connectivity), an in-house computer, and a 42-inch flat-screen television are available for customer use.

“Quality is No. 1” when it comes to customer satisfaction, said Saul Lefort. It is followed closely by “consistency,” he added, stating that consistency and quality apply to both products served and treatment of customers. The family-run business has to “keep a certain standard,” he said. “Customers are looking for high quality. People appreciate our products. They like our place.”

Saul Lefortt said his family relies on word of mouth and repeat business for attracting customers. However, he recently initiated a new promotional program. He introduced Rico Aroma’s new coffee cup sleeve which contains language inviting customers to return the sleeve for the next cup; purchase six drinks and get one free.

He said he is hoping the idea becomes popular with customers, saving them money and helping the environment at the same time.

At Kelsey Creek Coffee Co., the newest coffee house in Lakeport, owners Amanda and Bruce Beyer hope to entice customers by offering coffees roasted onsite, WiFi availability, live entertainment on a newly-built stage, and plans to offer another choice in beverage: micro-brews. The Beyers recently obtained approval for their liquor license and look forward to having a wide selection of micro-brews available to customers.

For the time being, coffee is the main menu item, and coffee lovers can purchase the organic java by the cup or by the bag for their own brewing.

“We fresh roast all of our own coffee. It is all organic and the freshest coffee you will drink,” said Bruce Beyer.

As the business grows, he said, additional products and services, such as extending the hours of operation, may be considered by the owners.

Like the Beyers, owners of Angelina’s, Harbor House and Rico Aroma stay competitive with drinks other than coffee and various selections of food. Angelina’s offers a full service scratch bakery, deli, artisan breads, and a catering company. Specialty drinks include espresso drinks, smoothies, blended and iced coffee. DeSimone-Lundeen said her business will soon open an ice creamery, a stone slab ice cream shop featuring fresh baked goods to mix into 16 flavors of ice cream.

Rico Aroma’s selections include all natural fruit smoothies, juice, tea and energy drinks. Specialty drinks on the menu include Mexican mocha, java chip, Milky Way, and other flavored coffees. Food choices include breakfast burritos, bagels, pastries and soft-serve ice cream.

At Harbor House, smoothies, frappes, chai and blended chai are among the drink favorites. Specialties include flavored mochas and lattes, cappuccinos, and coffee and espresso blends. Also available are hot and cold tea, Italian sodas, baked goods and fruit.

Angelina’s Bakery & Espresso

365 N. Main

Telephone: 707-263-0391

Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Time in business: Nine years in Lakeport following six years in Kelseyville.

Harbor House Espresso Bar

1151 S. Main

Telephone: 707-263-7004

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Time in business: Nearly 12 years under current owners; originally opened in 1995.


Kelsey Creek Coffee Co.

930 N. Main

Telephone: 707-263-5600

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Time in business: Four months in Lakeport, following 10 years in Kelseyville.


Rico Aroma Coffee House

1025 11th St.

Telephone: 707-262-0285

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Time in business: Five years; also operates a coffee house in Clearlake.

SONOMA COUNTY – A fire burning in a remote part of Sonoma County near The Geysers geothermal complex was fully contained Wednesday evening.

The Pine Fire burned 300 acres near Pine Flat Road, west of The Geysers Complex and east of Geyserville, according to Cal Fire.

The fire began Monday in heavy fuels. The fire's cause remains under investigation, Cal Fire stated.

Approximately 415 firefighting personnel – including 22 fire crews – remained on scene Wednesday, along with six engines and three water tenders, according to Cal Fire. Three injuries were reported during the incident.

Cal Fire's final report on the fire stated that suppression costs reached $1.7 million.

Agencies that worked the fire during its two-day duration included Cal Fire, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Sonoma County Fire, South Lake County Fire, California Highway Patrol, Sonoma County Roads, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sonoma County Sheriff, Geyserville Fire Department and the California Emergency Management Agency.

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 .

UPPER LAKE – A man who was hang gliding in the Upper Lake area Saturday died after crashing his glider.

The man, whose name has not yet been released from the Lake County Sheriff-Coroner's Office, died at the scene.

He had been hang gliding in an area several miles north of Upper Lake in the Middle Creek area off of Elk Mountain Road, officials reported.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said they responded to a medical call at around 1 p.m. Saturday.

They found the man had crashed his glider, but Brown noted that the crash wasn't a hard one.

What appears to have taken the man's life was a heart attack while he was still in the air, said Brown.

Brown said firefighters were unable to revive the victim.

Tamara Schmidt, spokesperson for the Mendocino National Forest, said the incident did not happen on US Forest Service Land.

She said the forest offered to assist Northshore Fire with an engine, but it wasn't needed at the call.

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 .

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



For the first time in 33 years, the Russian River Blues Festival and the Russian River Jazz Festival merged into one event. Prior to this year, the RR Blues Festival was presented for two days in June while the RR Jazz Fest was historically held in September, both in the resort town of Guerneville.

Two years ago the festivals were sold to Omega Events. In a paring down move related to the economy in general, Omega decided to shave a day from each festival and make it a one-weekend affair this year. Jazz on Saturday, Sept. 12; blues on Sunday, Sept. 13.

Appearing at this year's Jazz Fest on Saturday were Jackiem Joyner, East Bay Soul, Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler and Richard Elliot, and Al Jarreau.

Sunday's blues lineup included The Delta Wires, The Legendary Rhythm & Blues review featuring Tommy Castro, Bernard Allison, Rick Estrin and Janiva Maness, Dr. John and The Neville Brothers.

I left Lake County before sunrise on Saturday under a dubious weather forecast for the weekend. Fair and warm with temperatures in the 80s on Saturday with the semi-ominous threat of showers and temps in the 70s on Sunday. As I wound around Highway 20 exiting Lake County I observed lightening strikes in the distance.

After picking up my companion and completing all the gender specific tasks that make a date of this magnitude possible we headed toward Guerneville. We had booked a room at the Sonoma Orchid Inn which we would actually pass en route to Johnson’s Beach where the festival(s) have been held all these years. My fiancée/companion/date wanted to see the joint in the daytime so I begrudgingly (I wanted to get to the festival) swung in to the grounds of the inn to take a peek.

When we finally got settled in on the beach – blanket down, chairs up, etc. – a very talented Jakiem Joyner was on stage. (We missed opening act East Bay Soul.)

Recently tagged the “Debut Artist of the Year” by Smooth Jazz News, the 28-year-old honed his chops on the road with the likes of Marcus Johnson, Bobby Lyle and Keiko Matsui.

A great sax player and showman, the Norfolk, Virginia native tantalized and teased the crowd with a set interspersed with selections from his recent Billboard charting CD, “Lil’ Man Soul.”

The climax of his set was convincing the crowd that he would attempt to reach a high note that he’d never done publicly before. Running up the scale three times then pausing, thus heightening the suspense, when he finally hit the note it was release and pandemonium. Mr. Joyner had convinced the audience that he is the real deal.

I must confess that I never liked the industry catchphrase “smooth jazz.” I preferred the East Coast edge of straight ahead jazz or hard bop. Of course, now some instrumental funk could always jerk my musical chain as well.

Early in his career, I didn’t pay much attention to Rick Braun as he was one of the first artists to be saddled with the smooth jazz description. Consequently, his performance at the RR was really the first time I gave Mr. Braun a serious listen.

Jazz Attack, the group he anchored with Jonathan Butler and Richard Elliot, really blew me away.

First of all, they bounded on stage with the same clothes on they’d worn on their twice-delayed, fogged-in plane. No matter. Later for the visual.

These cats touched my main auditory nerve with a “nothin’ but the funk” set of steamy R&B nuanced selections.

South African Jonathan Butler killed us with “Lies.” Former Tower Of Power saxman Richard Elliot apparently was on a different weather delayed flight. When he hit the stage 20 or so minutes into the set the aggregation launched into the title track from his latest CD, entitled “Rock Steady.” Their rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” became part of a frenzied funky medley that had the crowd howling with delight as Jazz Attack ended their set.

Not only has Al Jarreau won five Grammies, he is the only singer ever to win them in three different categories.

Jarreau hit the stage early at the Russian River and stayed late. He mesmerized the crowd with his vocal effects. Jarreau delivered songs from his four decade repertoire that showcased his voice as a Jazz improvising instrument.

Midway through his set he noticed the kayakers on the opposite shore of Johnson’s Beach and playfully razzed them: “Boat people. Boat people.”

He then nuanced the lyrics to “Wade In The Water” to the folks in the river. “Wade in the waterrr children, cuz Al Jarreau wants his MONEYYY!”

It was hysterical. Jarreau performed over an hour and referenced the nonpaying “boat people” kindly, again in his encore.

The weatherman proved a little to accurate for our tastes on Sunday the 13th at the Russian River Blues Festival.

At showtime, there was a 10-degree drop in the temperature from the previous day and a light rain was falling before noon.

That didn’t stop Delta Wires from playing like men possessed. The band features the original horn section from Cold Blood, augmented by the supernatural harp playing of Ernie Pinata.

I’d heard of the Delta Wires before but had not really investigated how good they are. They played Chicago Blues. They played New Orleans Blues. They definitely played the Oakland Funk which they claim as there turf.

The great Tommy Castro fronted the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue which featured Bernard Allison, Rick Estrin, Kid Anderson and Janiva Magness. Those folks are all regulars on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. They brought the Blues Cruise Party to the Russian River.

They closed with a tribute to the recently deceased Queen Of The Chicago Blues, Koko Taylor – a rollicking version of her signature tune “Wang Dang Doodle.”

The revered, Dr. John, The Night Tripper brought his New Orleans brand of funk to the stage next. His 2008 CD, “The City That Care Forgot” and was awarded a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His playing was superb and his voice in good shape. The rain shortened his set, thought he did an encore, closing with “Right Place, Wrong Time.”

The amount of rain necessitated some stage changes before the Neville Brothers went on. Some of the fainthearted fans couldn’t stand the rain and headed for the exit. They missed a grand performance by the First Family of New Orleans.

Everybody is older now and baby brother Cyril Neville is more out front than ever before. Cyril is sportin’ a new CD, “Brand New Blues” that is not to be missed.

Aaron Neville, he of the angelic tenor, still makes the ladies go crazy. Charles Neville can still channel John Coltrane on sax. Art Neville, the keyboard wizard, the one they call Papa Funk still anchors that Neville sound.

Those tight harmonies rooted in first and second line New Orleans tradition, never fail to remind me that, the Big Easy is a musical nation unto itself. It reaches around the globe though as evidenced by the Neville’s’ closing medley, “One Love” and “People Get Ready.”

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Monday, Sept. 21

Blue Wing Blues Monday. The Levi Lloyd Band, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .

Tuesday, Sept. 22

Soulive w/ The Shady Horns, Nigel Hall and Fred Wesley at Yoshis Oakland. Call 510-238-9200 for showtimes.

Wednesday, Sept. 23

Soulive w/ The Shady Horns, Nigel Hall and Fred Wesley at Yoshis Oakland. Call 510-238-9200 for showtimes.

Thursday, Sept. 24

Open mike night, 6 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .


Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27

Stanley Jordan at Yoshis Oakland. Call 510-238-9200 for showtimes.

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

LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lakeport Police Department and the Clearlake Police Department will conduct a joint sobriety checkpoint on Friday, Sept. 25.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The desired result is to save lives and make everyone’s family summer excursion, for both our community residents and those visiting our beautiful county, a safe and pleasurable memory,” Lt. Mark Loveless, CHP area commander, said Wednesday.

The sobriety checkpoint will be staffed by officers and deputies from each department who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers.

Drug recognition experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use.

The officers and deputies will also be equipped with state of the art handheld breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.

Caltrans employees will be on site providing traffic control in order to ensure the safety of officers and motorists alike.   

Lt. Loveless said that, traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can be expected to be arrested.

“Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist by targeting roads where there is a high frequency of drunk driving,” Loveless said. “DUI enforcement patrols as well as sobriety checkpoints are effective tools for achieving this goal and are designed to augment existing patrol operations.”

He added, “By publicizing our efforts, we believe that we can deter motorists from drinking and driving.”

LAKEPORT – The 10th annual Wine Auction made its way to a new venue this Saturday as it sought to continue its efforts to raise funds for important local causes.

The Lake County Wine Alliance put on the charity gala at the National Guard Armory in Lakeport for the first time. The black-tie event benefits various community, art, and health programs around the county.

The full receipts for this year's event aren't in. However, Wine Alliance member Wilda Shock said the live auction, consisting of 30 items, brought in $40,800.

This year's beneficiaries include the fine arts programs at Clearlake, Kelseyville, Lower Lake, Middletown and Upper Lake High Schools; Lake County Hunger Task Force, St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, and the five senior centers that provide Meals on Wheels or other nutrition programs; Stitch and Give Knitters, Lake County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, Peoples Services and the Senior Law Project.

A special “fund a need” portion of the live auction benefited the Ely Stage Stop & Country Museum project of the Lake County Historical Society. Shock said those pledged totaled $4,100. The Wine Alliance anticipates participating with the society to add to this project, which will include placing a plaque at the museum noting the donors that contributed through the Wine Auction, Shock Said.

The event was very well attended and offered wine tastings from nearly every Lake County winery and hors d'oeuvre from local restaurants and catering businesses. In addition to the main tasting room, there was a Vintage Vault room which hosted reserve wines from a select group of wineries.

There were many generous donations of items made to both the silent auction and the live auction, including wine, trips to exciting vacation spots, deluxe gift baskets, winery tours, and other unique packages. These donations generated a lot of interest and raised significant funds for the event’s beneficiaries.

Shock said Andy Beckstoffer, the event chair, was the winning bidder for the single auction item that brought in the most funds, Mike Thompson's annual “Pig Out at the Pumphouse,” for $3,800.

Upon check-in at the front door, guests were presented with a gift bag, donated by Kelseyville Lumber, which contained a commemorative wine glass, hors d’ouvres plate, pen and auction bidding card. There were costumed actors at the entrance, some in flapper dresses, some in zoot suits and other periods of dress. In the main dining room the LC Diamonds provided music.

Rob Roumiguiere was the evening's master of ceremonies, with Congressman Mike Thompson the special guest. Tom DiNardo acted as Auctioneer for the live auction.

One might assume that a utilitarian building like the National Guard Armory would be hard to decorate, but it was excellently done. In the entryway, the dining room and the Vintage Vault the walls were all hung with fabric, creating a very soft appearance. In the dining room the fabric was also draped across the ceiling and enhanced with light strands. Each table was decorated beautifully as well.

In the tasting room, each vendor was duly designated by a sign placed above their table, with wine and food vendors interspersed. There was an excellent variety of foods offered, showing that Lake County has some wonderful chefs.

All the vendors were set up against the outer wall of the tasting room, and in the middle of the room was a circle of tables that held the silent auction items.

The auction was exciting, and DiNardo did a great job at generating interest and spurring on a little healthy competition over items with good grace and humor. People were very generous in their bidding.

All of the food being served was good if not great, but there were a couple of exceptional items. Lindy’s Quality Catering pulled out all of the stops with grilled prawns, grilled tri-tip, chicken yakitori, and sweet and sour pork. The smoked salmon mousse from Park Place Restaurant was great, as was the Blue Wing’s sesame tuna. There also were raves over Aromas at Yuba College’s figs with blue cheese and bacon.

Ross Christensen writes about food and wine for Lake County News; his wife, Lacy, is his editor and occasional co-author.


LAKEPORT – The 30th-annual Clear Lake Splash-In, the largest gathering of seaplanes west of the Mississippi, will be held in Lakeport Friday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Sept. 27.

The public can get a closeup look at float planes on Saturday, talk with pilots and witness a spectacle of aerial events including water-bombing contests, a parade of seaplanes, fly-bys and more.

Seaplanes and amphibians at the Splash-In will include Grummans, Republics, Lakes, Cessnas, Pipers, deHavillands and a variety of experimental aircraft modified with floats.

For pilots, registration is from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, at the Skylark Shores Resort, 1120 N. Main St.

The Skylark Shores Resort docks will serve fixed-float planes and the ramp at the Natural High School field is available for amphibious seaplanes. Land planes or aircraft unable to land on water more than once will be welcomed at Lampson Field, a few miles away.

Shuttle service will be available Saturday and Sunday from Lampson Field to the seaplane venues.

For more information, visit .

SONOMA COUNTY – A wildland fire sparked Monday afternoon was edging toward full containment on Tuesday.

The Pine Fire, located near Pine Flat Road west of The Geysers Complex and east of Geyserville in Sonoma County, was estimated to be 85-percent contained by the end of Tuesday, according to Cal Fire.

Approximately 630 firefighters were on scene Tuesday, with Cal Fire reporting three injuries.

Burning in heavy brush since noon on Monday, the fire is estimated to be around 300 acres, down from Cal Fire's previous estimate of 350 acres.

Cal Fire said full containment is expected at around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The fire's cause is still under investigation, Cal Fire reported.

Resources Cal Fire reported to have on scene Tuesday included 21 engines, 30 fire crews, seven air tankers, four helicopters, 15 bulldozers and five water tenders.

The six homes previously reported to be in danger are no longer threatened, officials said Tuesday.

Pine Flat Road also has reopened, Cal Fire said.

Firefighting costs by day's end Tuesday were estimated at approximately $922,896, according to Cal Fire.

Cooperating agencies working on the fire include Cal Fire, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Sonoma County Fire, South Lake County Fire, California Highway Patrol, Sonoma County Roads, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sonoma County Sheriff, Geyserville Fire Department and CalEMA.

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 .


THE GEYSERS – A wildland fire burning near The Geysers grew to an estimated 350 acres Monday evening.

The Pine Fire was reported at around noon on Monday, according to Angie Scohy of Cal Fire.

The fire was located in heavy brush off of Pine Flat Road, west of The Geysers complex and east of Geyserville, inside the Sonoma County line, Scohy said.

By the evening it has reached 50-percent containment, with officials estimating it will be fully contained on Tuesday.

Approximately 305 firefighting personnel were on scene at day's end, with one injury reported.

Earlier in the day the fire had grown rapidly in size. In the first hour and a half it had burned 150 acres, said Fire Capt. Paul Duncan of Cal Fire.

Two hours later, Cal Fire reported the fire at 375 acres, with that estimate later rolled back to 350 acres.

Scohy said the fire had a moderate rate of spread with spotting, Scohy said, adding that winds are at five miles per hour from the east.

Six residences were threatened in the fire's area, according to Cal Fire.

Residents from around Lake County reported seeing the smoke column.

Pine Flat Road in Sonoma County was closed at Red Winery Road. High tension wires also are reported in the area.

Seven air tankers and four helicopters, seven Cal Fire engines and five local engines, five local water tenders, 15 bulldozers and 12 hand crews were on scene early Monday afternoon, according to Scohy.

No information was yet available on the cause, Duncan said.

Cooperating agencies working on the fire included Cal Fire, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Sonoma County Fire, South Lake County Fire, California Highway Patrol, Sonoma County Roads, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sonoma County Sheriff, Geyserville Fire Department and Office of Emergency Services.

Suppression costs as of Monday evening were estimated at $186,000.

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 the Bible, Genesis 42 chronicles the tale of Joseph, the famine in Canaan, and his brothers going to Egypt for food. I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil the ending for you.

Rome during the time of Caesar would have been crippled without Egyptian grain. With all of Rome’s men in the military off conquering the world they were lacking farmers and had to import their food.

Now if you are like me, at this point you might start to wonder: how is a country like Egypt, that consists of sand, camels, and pointy brick buildings, so full of food?

Nomadic people settled in ancient Egypt because it had a good climate, grassy fields, and was an excellent place to grow food. They raised livestock and crops, and hunted wildlife in this utopian land. Ancient Egyptians actually called their land “Kemet” which means “black land.” This was referring to the rich black soil that they grew their crops in.

Huh? What? Rich fertile soil? We were talking about Egypt right? I’ve seen the travel posters … lots and lots of sand! But Egypt wasn’t always hot, sandy and dry.

The Nile River flows northward from central Africa. Every year after the rainy season the Nile would overflow its banks and deposits the rich silt that nourished the soil. After the flood waters receded, an elaborate irrigation system kept the farms growing almost continuously under the cloudless skies.

Ancient Egypt was an agricultural economy. They even had the technology to turn unusable property into cultivatable land. Because of this technology they were the world’s bread basket. They had so much agricultural land that they could even grow papyrus to make paper.

I’m sure you are thinking, “So what happened?” The short answer: the Egyptians pushed the land too hard for too long to feed too many. The nutrients that were in the soil went into the grains, and then those grains were sent to other lands, such as to feed Joseph’s family in Canaan and Caesar’s armies all over the known world.

Nutrients to replenish the land weren’t sent back to Egypt. Eventually the land was so weak that it was easily swallowed by the nearby Sahara desert, and without technology from an advanced alien civilization from another galaxy or a touch from the finger of God, it will never be fruitful again.

Scientists have called the process of a rich land turning into desert “desertification.” They are noticing this process start in Central California and can see the conditions being ripe for it to consume the entire Central Valley. They are looking for ways to stop the process but are thwarted by people trying to change the situation by means of stop-gap technological proposals or useless programs. Nobody wants to admit that stopping the desertification is a problem that would need serious social, political and economic changes to occur.

Driving down Highway 5 through the Central Valley you’ll see acres and acres of dead trees. My daughter and I joked at the sad landscape and said, “It’s a firewood farm,” and “You don’t want to over water your firewood orchard!” The sad truth of the situation is that water to the Central Valley farmers is being severely rationed; they get only 10 percent of the water they need to keep their farms fully functioning.

Signs proclaiming the “Congress Created Dust Bowl” are posted along the highway every few miles. This rationing means that not only are we accidentally causing the process of desertification, we are behind it giving it a push.

The reasons for the water rationing have to do with endangered fish and pollution that are affecting the water availability and rights for the Central Valley, but I’m not going to get into all of that with this column.

Desertification has nothing to do with global warming; it has to do with straining the land, so driving a Prius won’t negate the process. Being in the midst of a drought does contribute to the process but it isn’t the only factor.

Just like Egypt shipped away its soil’s nutrients locked in their grain, water in the fruits and vegetables that once stayed in the valley are sent out and not returned. (Actually, we here living around Clear Lake DO return that water to the Central Valley from our lake and reservoir, but the rest of the nation and world does not.) By not remembering the history of Egypt we are repeating it.

Desertification of the Central Valley can only be stopped with water and nutrients being returned and the land replenished. Just like the Middletown Geysers were losing water and needed to be replenished the Central Valley needs replenishing of water and nutrients.

We would need to stop farming the Central Valley, let the water table return to its natural level and allow the soil to lay fallow to replenish, but I’m sure you’ll agree, that ain’t gonna happen. Elected officials will never ask people to sacrifice in order to save the Central Valley, because that won’t get them reelected.

We as a culture are too greedy and will continue to pull everything we can from the valley until it can give no more. We are unable as a species have the patience for a project that could very well take centuries to complete. But short of a desalinization plant in the ocean piping water to the valley and truckloads of compost coming from around the nation around the clock, the Central Valley won’t be able to continue to feed the nation.

I don’t want to sound alarmist but the Central Valley becoming a desert is going to happen; not in my lifetime and not in my daughter’s lifetime, but it IS going to happen. It may even take two or more centuries down the road, but the process has obviously started. Death Valley and the Mojave desert are watching us right now, plotting to join hands and skip merrily northward completely unopposed all the way to Chico.

Lake County will become the dividing line of the dry east and the coastal west of California, our mountains protecting us from becoming desert. Unfortunately, Sacramento will be able to change its name to “New Cairo,” and the Sacramento River can be renamed “Nile West.”

And if you think Yolo County wants Clear Lake water now, wait to see what happens over the next couple of centuries. I can hear the dry raspy voice in my head weakly saying, “Water, please.”

So what, if anything, can we do to at least slow the process of making this “New Egypt” that will run up the middle of the state?

Here are some options:

  • Eat locally grown foods from local growers. The less strain we put on the mass produced vegetable farms, the slower the Central Valley will deplete the soil.

  • Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s harder on a plant to produce out of season so it pulls more nutrients and water from the land to make a crop. For instance, eat tomatoes in the summer but not in the winter.

  • Don’t eat fast food, eat at locally owned restaurants. Major fast food chains rely on massive amounts of produce from large scale farms, while local restaurants generally use smaller amounts from more local sources.

  • Use less water. The more water you use, the less is available to return to the water table. With a low water table the plant roots can’t find water on their own so they must be irrigated, sending the water table lower. It’s a perpetual and disastrous circle.

For those of you who don’t understand the term “water table,” let me try to illustrate. Imagine you live on the shore of the lake. You could plant a tomato vine in the ground and never have to water it, because the tomato’s roots would grow down and find the water from the lake very easily.

However, if you were to plant that same tomato vine up in the Red Hills that tomato couldn’t find water because the lake level is 100 and more down. You would then have to water that plant on a regular basis to keep it alive.

The water table of the Central Valley was once right at the surface of the soil. Things grew well there and that’s how the Central Valley became the food basket it is. But after growing so much for so many people for the past hundred years, the water table is now over a hundred feet down in places.

Mark Twain once said, “Buy land, they aren’t making it anymore” but don’t worry if you don’t own a piece of the desert, we’re making it hand over fist.

If you would like to buy locally grown produce, visit this Web site for information on the local food movement in Lake County and various farmer’s markets and stands: .

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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