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

~winehiker

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

The Three E’s of the California Wine Hikes Active Travel Philosophy

[Over the past weekend, the following press release found its way to the World Wide Web.]

Capitalizing on the wellness trend, San Francisco Bay Area tour company launches e-commerce website dedicated to active wine country travel.

Sunnyvale, CA (PRWEB) March 4, 2006 — Many travelers to the wine country are finding that the typical group tour falls short when it comes to offering health and wellness. With today’s travelers trending toward more active, wellness-inspired pursuits, the prospect of multiple winery visits without acknowledging the local surroundings is quickly losing its appeal. Fortunately, there is a California-based tour company, California Wine Hikes, that expects to capitalize on the wellness trend.

Company owner Russ Beebe says his tours are unlike those of the typical wine touring company. “It’s all about the three E’s,” says Russ, “and the first E stands for Education. You’re actually going to learn something on our tours – about wine, about local culture, and about our connection with Nature. Like other wine tours, we visit local wineries, but that’s not our focal point. We encourage our guests to develop an understanding of why they like a wine, not just the idea that they like it and want to buy a case of it. So, we taste wine in a more formal setting. Our guests find these tastings fun, intimate, and educational. It’s an experience they can take with them.”

The second E denotes Exercise. Russ feels there’s more to the wine country than being whisked around in a limousine to 4 or 5 wineries every day, only to return home with an oversaturated cerebellum. “You’re going to get a workout,” says Russ. “Rather than encourage a quantity of alcohol intake during a wine country tour, why not embrace quality, and earn a fabulous reward for your outdoor effort? The moments on the hiking trails, after all, are stimulating and invigorating, and build an appetite for good food, good sleep, and a sense of well-being.”

The publicity these days does suggest a greater need for better diet and exercise. With a desire to live longer, more fulfilling lives, the demand is growing for healthier activities when traveling on business or vacation.

Rather than remain confined to a local wine region, the company offers hiking and wine-tasting tours that span the state from Santa Barbara to Mendocino and from Silicon Valley to Amador County. “That’s a lot of territory,” admits Russ, referring to his third E, which stands for Enormous. “Simply put, California offers so much. There are impressive hiking trails to be found all over the state’s major wine regions, and I guide my guests on the best ones. We then reward ourselves by tasting the local fruit of the vine.”

ABOUT CALIFORNIA WINE HIKES
California Wine Hikes offers guided hikes and small-group experiences that combine the best of Nature, wine, fine food & accommodations in the California wine country.

Special “winehiking” packages are available. Many tours sell out and guests should book early. For information and easy online booking, visit http://www.californiawinehikes.com.

Contact:
Russ Beebe
California Wine Hikes
www.californiawinehikes.com

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