From “on the air” to “in the vineyard”: the story of Bangor Ranch Vineyard & Winery

If you’ve ever traveled Highway 70 north out of Sacramento and Marysville in the Spring, chances are you’ve seen carpets of wildflowers serenading you as you drive past the Sutter Buttes and into the hills east of Oroville. But did you know that the area is home to one of California’s newest wine regions?  Formed in just the last year, the North Sierra Wine Trail association spans Butte and Yuba counties in the northern Sierra Foothills, and the nine area wineries that are tucked into the rolling hillsides here are getting ready to serenade you this month with a variety of locally-produced wines and olive oils.

Bangor Ranch Vineyard & Winery, Bangor, California. Gary Paul Fox, proprietor.Among these nine wineries is Bangor Ranch Vineyard & Winery, an 11-acre hillside parcel of Mourvèdre and Nebbiolo grapevines and century-old Mission olive trees. Situated on decomposed granite soils and set amidst bucolic Appaloosa ranches and Mennonite farms lies the little hamlet of Bangor, California, where Gary Fox, owner and winemaker, specializes in small lots of hand-crafted wines. I’ve known Gary for eight years or so, having eaten, hiked, and camped with him. We’ve also drunk many a good wine together – most of these wines made by Gary himself.

Gary’s story is nothing if not an interesting one. For over 20 years, he’s been making his own vins de garage, but not without completing a certificate program in Viticulture and Winery Technology at Napa Valley College and a 2011 stint as a harvest intern at Oakland’s Dashe Cellars. Though he spent 25 years as a writer and creative director in advertising, folks who have lived in and around Oakland for a few years know Gary from his days at Zza’s Trattoria near the eastern tip of Lake Merritt, where he was owner and manager from May 1998 through December 2005. However, long before the winemaking, the advertising and the pizza-slinging, Gary attended UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, a heyday of activity that spawned People’s Park and landed Gary on the radio at KALX-FM, where he came to serve as program director and “on-air talent”.

John and Yoko's second "Bed-In for Peace", pictured here with Dr. Timothy Leary.As Gary recalls, he was working at the radio station late one evening when Berkeley protesters were restive. A man got shot on the roof of one of the stores on nearby Telegraph Avenue, and the phone at the station soon rang. When Gary answered, he found himself speaking with John and Yoko Lennon, calling from their famous “bed-in” at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The live, on-air call lasted half an hour.

Gary later lost his house in the great fire that swept through the Oakland hills in the fall of 1991. He’s long since rebuilt on the same property, where he enjoys dramatic sunset views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge from his porch – when he’s not working the vineyard 2½ hours away at Bangor Ranch.

A young Mourvèdre vine greets the sun in Block 3.And it’s at Bangor Ranch where Gary is looking forward to pouring his latest releases, which include a 2012 Bianco, a blend of Chenin Blanc, Symphony and Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Marchini Vineyard in the San Francisco Bay delta. Also on the bill are two Bangor Ranch Selections, a 2010 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2005 Reserve Syrah from Santa Barbara. Gary will also be offering samples of his Bangor Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made exclusively from the century-old Mission olives grown on the property.

Where the @#$%! is Bangor, California anyway?Bangor Ranch is open for tasting each 1st and 3rd  Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. beginning April 27th. All nine wineries that comprise the North Sierra Wine Trail will be pouring during the association’s Springtime in the Vineyards weekend, April 27-28.

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If you’d like to assist Gary in his tasting room during the Springtime in the Vineyards event, give him a shout,
and let him know that the winehiker sent you.

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Bangor Ranch Vineyard & Winery
5768 La Porte Road
Bangor, CA 95914
(510) 658-2056


Also see these related posts:
When in Chalone…
Morning pain, afternoon comfort
North Sierra Wine Trail Day 2 – Lucero, Grant Eddie, Renaissance, Clos Saron, and Bangor Ranch


Will winehikers walk in well-nigh wintry weather? Yup.

The Fall weather here in Northern California is beginning to get cool, almost wintry. I know that’s a mild statement when compared to the weather in much of the rest of the country. And yes, I’ve heard all the usual stories about how we here in California don’t know real weather. But here in my vegetable garden, I’m still harvesting basil, tomatoes, and chili peppers.

It’s still good hiking weather, too. I’ll be rendezvousing with friends this morning for about 9+ miles of hilly trail at Nisene Marks State Park above the seaside town of Aptos. We’re managing, somehow, to sandwich a sunny clear day in between two rainy ones. That’ll make the ocean air pretty fresh for our walk in the redwoods – great for filling our lungs as we gasp uphill.

We’ll follow our traipse with a stop at Burrell School Vineyards, where we “promise to sip” some good Syrahs and at least one good Cab Franc. Fellow hiker/blogger Tom Mangan will be along for this one, ostensibly to further his winehikerness. I think he’s got what it takes.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

******* UPDATE: I’ve now posted my Nisene Marks State Park trip report.


Trip Report: China Hole Loop Hike, Henry Coe State Park

At long last: the following photoessay has been over a week in arriving, but I blame nobody for my tardiness in posting it but the Hades Inc. Department of Pinched Nerves and Spinal Subluxation, Special Expensive Downtime Division. Thank you, dear reader, for your patient tolerance while I’ve been recuperating from this @#$*! neck thing – I quite frankly couldn’t work the keyboard for more than about 15 minutes for about 9 days. Could it have been the rigors of this hike that sent me spiraling into the Nether Depths of Neckdom? Well, highly doubtful. But dang it all anyway.

And so, onto the show: to see larger versions of each photo, the content of heart need only click once.

Sunday, October 15th, 2006
I got together with a few of my pals for a double-digit romp through one of my favorite backyards, Henry Coe State Park, which waits for the adventurous soul on a high ridge about 30 minutes’ drive along a twisty, tortuous mountain road east of the South Santa Clara County hamlet of Morgan Hill, California.

Henry Coe State Park waits for the adventurous soul on a high ridge.

Coe Park is Northern California’s largest state park – even larger than Big Basin – at over 87,000 acres of former farm and ranchland.

Coe Park is Northern California’s largest state park – even larger than Big Basin – at over 87,000 acres of former farm and ranchland.

Henry Coe kept a few horses in his stable, which still stands…

Henry Coe kept a few horses in his stable, which still stands.

…along with his family’s former homestead, which is now the Henry Coe Park Headquarters and Visitor Center.

The Coe family’s former homestead is today the Henry Coe Park Headquarters and Visitor Center.

Much of the splendor that Coe Park offers awaits the ready hiker just across the road from the Visitor Center. I say “ready” for a reason: most of the hiking here requires stamina and a few good base miles. Our group, I’ll admit, was more than ready to tackle just a little more than ten miles’ hilly hiking along the Corral, Springs, and Manzanita Point trails to a keyhole loop of the Madrone Soda Springs, Mile, and China Hole trails.

Our group was ready to tackle more than ten miles’ hilly hiking along the Corral, Springs, and Manzanita Point trails to a keyhole loop of the Madrone Soda Springs, Mile, and China Hole trails.

Though the heat of Summer in the Diablo Range was over…

The heat of Summer in the Diablo Range has given way to cool fog.

…we’d be hard-pressed to find any compulsion not to catapult ourselves off the trail. Yet somehow we escaped that fate.

The sign indicates "NO DIVING". Somehow we escaped the fate of catapulting ourselves off the trail.

At the junction of Manzanita Point, Corral, and Springs trails, we stop for a confab. It’s always good to meet halfway on stuff such as stopping at all hilltops and trail junctions. But it’s the spooky month of October, and who knew what critters lurked just off-trail, waiting to pounce on the unwitting, chatty hiker? I decided we’d better review our worse-, worst-, and worster-case scenarios before plunging down Springs trail.

At the junction of Manzanita Point, Corral, and Springs trails, we stop for a confab.

After all, it may be Fall, but there may just be big hairy spiders springing upon us.

A signpost directs us south toward Manzanita Point.

Meanwhile, the day was still ripe for some fine late-season ambling among the oak- and brush-dotted grasslands.

The day was ripe for some fine late-season ambling among the oak- and brush-dotted grasslands.

Hark! A stag a-leap!! And a fine piece of sharp-eyed camerawork, too. Photo credits – and there are many – go to Mr. Mark Shepley of Walnut Creek, California.

A black-tailed deer leaps just off-trail.

We continue, crediting Nature with this tranquil scene of pines and hardwood hillsides. And then…

Tranquil scene of pines and hardwood hillsides.

…out leapt wave upon wave of big and scary demented hairy beasts!!

Big and scary demented hairy beasts!

And so my prediction comes true: MJ, ever stout of spirit and brave of heart, models the latest line of furs from Halloween, Incorporated…

MJ models the latest line of furs from Halloween, Incorporated.

…yet there is much more trail to discover. Happy in our arachnid discovery, we continue, spirits aloft, to tramp down the trail. Andy and Annie, to my left, are almost bigger hikin’ fools than I am: we’ve pounded a lot of trail together these last coupla years, both locally and otherwise.

Happy in our arachnid discovery, we continue, spirits aloft, to tramp down the trail.

While it’s only been about 2 miles or so to this point on the trail, and while we haven’t yet enjoyed any strenuous hillclimbing, the endorphins are coursing, and it shows easily and often in the smiles of ardent hikers Caroline and MJ.

The endorphins are coursing, and it shows easily and often in our smiles.

Though they say that a picture paints a thousand words, Mr. Shepley’s sense of composition has certainly added a broad palate of fine brushstrokes, as depicted in this still of a tough old ridgetop oak.

Juxtaposition: a tough old ridgetop oak and a foreground stump.

Into the canyon
The remains of the old Madrone Soda Springs resort, built in the late 19th century and destroyed by abandonment and neglect, but mostly by a much more recent Soda Springs Canyon flood: this former two-story building used to stand about a half-mile upstream.

The remains of the old Madrone Soda Springs resort, destroyed by a Soda Springs Canyon flood.

The descent from Coe Park’s Pine Ridge down Soda Canyon spills, finally, onto Coyote Creek.

The descent from Coe Park’s Pine Ridge down Soda Canyon spills onto Coyote Creek.

With 13 creek crossings and some truly fantastic wildlife sightings – the latter being nearly always true for Henry Coe Park – the hike thus far has been an exciting one…

With 13 creek crossings and wildlife sightings, the hike thus far has been an exciting one.

…but that’s because it’s all been downhill to China Hole, a perfect place to swim in Summer if you don’t mind the long, hot, steep, and sweaty hillclimb out from here. Alas, even though the air temperature is rather warm, the water is already too cold for frolicking and wet-play, and all we’re doing is stripping down to our lunchbags.

China Hole is a perfect place for a Summer swim if you don’t mind the long, hot, steep and sweaty hillclimb out from here.

“I smile unto you, my Children.”
Thus uttereth a satiated Winehiker from a well-placed post-lunch promontory. And yet somehow, wine was not involved.

The winehiker surveys the scene from on high.

Mark’s sharp eye once again captures a fine moment in wildlife poseurship: this time it’s a male Dark-Eyed Junco, a common sighting all over coastal California.

A dark-eyed junco whistles overhead.

The old rancher’s grasslands spawn many oaks and many pines. This Monterey pine is more picturesque than most.

A picturesque Monterey pine.

Our Coe Park sortie dissolves, as it nearly always does, into a fine mix of food, laughter, beer, endorphins, and hilarity. Such are the wily plans of a crafty winehiker. If I recall correctly, we also shared a bottle of 2001 Lindeman’s Pyrus from Coonawarra, Australia that afternoon, and I might just have to blog about that wine. [Editor’s note: I’ve now done so.]

Our Coe Park sortie dissolves into a fine mix of food, laughter, beer, endorphins, and hilarity.

The hike was officially over, but not so the day: Mark sighted this coyote through his viewfinder…

A coyote jaywalks along the mountain road.

…and the coyote sighted Mark. Good thing Mark didn’t think this critter was a wolf!

The jaywalking coyote turns to sullenly mock us.

Glad he’s on the other side of that really stout fence
No photoessay of the hills east, north, and south of the San Francisco Bay would be complete, of course, without including its most conspicuous citizen (besides us two-legged varmints). This steer appears well-practiced at posing for photographers exiting Coe Park.

This young steer seems well-practiced at posing for the camera.

On the drive home, we cross a bridge above the junction of Coyote Creek and Anderson Reservoir above Morgan Hill. Pine Ridge is witness to our departure in the mid-afternoon distance.

A bridge above the junction of Coyote Creek and Anderson Reservoir above Morgan Hill.

A view to the west out over Anderson Reservoir is quite enchanting. In late season, this pond is more full than usual.

A view to the west over Anderson Reservoir.

Yes, it’s been a good year.

It’s been a good year of winehiking.

And thus concludes our broadcast day from Henry Coe State Park.

Thus concludes our broadcast day from Henry Coe State Park.


October’s Mt. Shasta Ho-Down: Distilled Spirits

Hiking, mountaineering, fishing, camping, food, wine, and blogspeak. Not to mention miles and miles of driving and flying – for all of us except Tom C., who lives (no, exults!) upon the proud flanks of Northern California’s premier volcano, Mt. Shasta. That’s what’s in store for us outdoor scribes one juicy weekend next month.

Wait a minute – blogspeak?

Well sure! After all, we outdoor bloggers have to have something in common to talk about.

The 1st (Known) Outdoor Bloggers Conference, October 2006 (where @winehiker elects himself camp cook because, presumably, he doesn't want to eat Moose Turd Pie).

The 1st (Known) Outdoor Bloggers Conference
♦ October 2006 ♦

(where @winehiker elects himself camp cook because, presumably,
he doesn’t want to eat Moose Turd Pie.)

We’ve been lurking on each other’s blog sites. Heaven knows why. But now we’re enjoying a rather spirited excitement about our pending rendezvous.

Why are we planning a rendezvous? We don’t really know that, either. But I’m sure we’ll figure it out, and have a lot of good outdoorsy fun doing it.

What follows is a boiled-down slumgullion from our recent correspondence. Call it “collected threads from us bloggerheads.”

Tom M. of Two-Heeled Drive: Hey Tom, we need some advice on the environs around Shasta. What can you tell us about fishing/hiking/camping locales around the mountain, and are any of these close enough to nearby trailheads that the mountaineers in our midst could still get in some time on the slopes? For now Horse Camp is OK, but we’re not averse to car camping.

Tom C. of Trout Underground: Horse Camp isn’t a wholly bad choice; no fishing up that way, but the hike in from the Bunny Flats trailhead is relatively easy, so people can come and go. And obviously, access to the mountain is pretty good. Downside is that leaving and going does require a hike in/out and a 20 minute drive to town.

There are many other choices. One good choice is Gumboot Lake, which offers campsites (car camping), good hiking opportunities, and (not surprisingly) a lake. Very pretty setting. I wouldn’t suggest this during the summer due to crowding, but think it might be vacant in October. It’s at the far end of a pretty little river canyon and is a bit farther from town than the 20-minute drive to the Horse Camp trailhead. Surrounded by ridges with nice views, lots of trees.

Hiking-type activities could include a hike up Castle Crags and even some climbing (5.6 or so) at the top. Obviously, there are a few bazillion other hikes available, but I lack the finger power to list them all here.

A couple other thoughts…

First, my house is on the road headed up Mt. Shasta, and – provided that eBomb guy stays away from the cats – bloggers are welcome to stop by and access the wi-fi broadband that permeates the place. (Naturally, all outgoing posts will be edited for [Tom] Chandler-friendly content.)

Second, I’m willing to host a barbecue here at home if it works out. Have Weber, will eat.

Third, I’m not sure if I’ll be camping with the group or out doing other things, but it sure would be nice to have a chance to talk blogging. You know, an opportunity for me to steal everyone else’s blogging secrets.

Finally, Chris Carr (co-owner of Mount Shasta Guides and monster telemark skier, mountaineer, etc.) will just be returning from a conference in Boulder, and has offered to help out or even meet up and answer questions about the mountain, and what to do in the area. That’s gold, baby.

Russ B. of Winehiker Witiculture: I’m with you, Tom Chandler. Winehiker does BBQ and talks blogging! “Gumboot Lake” sounds more quintessentially attractive to me, too, than “Horse Camp” which, to my mind’s eye, smacks of equine ploppage…

…well, I probably wouldn’t mind either place, just as long as there’s no turds in the middle of my Sa-turd-ay….

I’m also hoping to get an early start on the road Friday myself, since I prefer to have camp set up and dinner inside me before dark. I have room for one passenger plus gear; I have most camping equipment, including a 3-person tent, a brand new 1-gallon propane tank/2-burner stove combo. John [Fedak of], since it would appear Tom Mangan is driving his own car, perhaps you and I can pal up together.

Tom M.: I like the idea of Gumboot lake, too. Any dissenters?

Tom C.: Are the mountaineering types on board with this? As much as I’m into comfort, I’d hate to unnecessarily deprive anyone of their chance to get mangled by falling rock while freezing to death.

Panther Meadows (campground high on Mt. Shasta) also offers the potential for car camping while still preserving the chance to freeze to death. (I’d have to check with the Forest Service to make sure it’s open.) Not quite the all-around site that Gumboot is, but better if you harbor a desire for hardship.

Finally, I understand someone offered to cook for us on Saturday night. Do we want to do that at Casa Chandler?

Adam M. of GoBlog: I take it you mean us [mountaineer types]. No problem. If we end up going, it will be a quick run up and down. Gumdrop sounds fine. Especially if I bring my boy.

Tom C.: OK. Gumboot it is. To create a little drama for your blogs, we can always photoshop a bear attack picture or something.

Russ: Tom C., how many driving miles is it from Casa Chandler to Gumboot Lake? I propose that it may be better, logistically, to assemble for BBQ at your place on Friday night and enjoy dinner in camp on Saturday.

For Saturday dinner (and after I get a hike in), I’m tentatively thinking of a Thai-style menu, complete with Dutch oven and garden-grown produce:

  • Baked Chili Fish with Fiery Thai Salsa (hint: this dish may contain freshly-caught trout)
  • Carrot Soup
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Ginger-Pineapple Noodles
  • Vino rosso (definitely NOT Thai-style)

Gosh, I hope that’ll do y’all. Comments? Questions? Aversions to food that isn’t brown or white? :)

Tom C.: Probably 20-25 minute drive. The Friday at Casa Chandler schedule works for me, though let’s see if there’s even support for the Friday barbecue. Could be the majority won’t make it.

The menu is OK, though you’ve made no mention of the pine needle garnish, dirt sauce, or mosquito sprinkles that accompany every outdoor meal.

I plan on liberating several float tubes (those inflatable armchairs used by fly fishers to nap in on warm days when they’re supposed to be fishing a lake). A hike on Saturday sounds like the group choice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sneak in a little fishing around the edges.

Still, keep in mind you’ll need a California fishing license if you want to fish, and they’re definitely NOT available up at Gumboot Lake.

Rick McC. of Best Hikes: Where do I sign up to become a “wine hiker”? (I was thinking bland dehydrated mashed potatoes.)

Just in case you one day want to take the meetup to Canada, certainly I would first suggest Mt. Assiniboine. You must hike or helicopter in to one of the finest vistas in the world. No road access. Accommodation is a choice of inexpensive rustic cabins, a lovely campground or expensive mountain lodge. Fine dining is available at the restaurant there. You would fly in and out of Calgary. Logistics are a breeze as this is such a popular tourist area.

Something to chat about over the Baked Chili Fish.

[Editor’s conclusion: apparently we’ll all find it convenient to forsake the hiking boots in favor of debauched and reprehensible float-tube stupefaction. Some may not agree with me, but it sounds better than Vegas.]


California Wilderness Bill may affect cyclists’ trail use

Back on July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a proposal to extend permanent protection to a portion of Northern California. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act (HR 233), would protect 289,000 acres of wilderness and 21 miles of the Black Butte River as wild and scenic. All of the lands in the bill are in the northwest corner of California, stretching from the Oregon border to Napa County.

The bill is championed in the U.S. House by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), who represents all of the areas included. “This bill will protect some of the finest remaining wild places in all of California. We hope the Senate will act quickly to pass this proposal and send it to the President,” said Sara Barth, California / Nevada Regional Director of The Wilderness Society.

Also in July, the Senate passed a companion bill, S. 128, with the backing of Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Changes were made to this proposal as it headed to the House floor so the bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration, since the House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill. As of August 2, S. 128 was referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is concerned that Representative Thompson’s proposal would close more than 200 miles of trails to mountain bikers. While I’m all for safety on the trail and prefer to hike trails that don’t get a lot of mountain bike activity, I’ve always believed in sharing and in multi-use; when I expect mountain bike activity, I tend to make sure my hikers are mentally prepared ahead of time. In fact, I share IMBA’s position on wilderness. It doesn’t matter that I used to ride the local Northern California trails for years before I began to lead hikes on them.

IMBA is working with Rep. Thompson to designate alternative trails and boundary adjustments, and the House Resources Committee maintains that it is “very interested in IMBA’s proposals for using more diverse designations to protect public lands”.

I hope IMBA is successful. We’ll see if they are should the bill pass.