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Valley People (June 13, 2018)

THE ANDERSON VALLEY awoke Thursday morning to the unhappy news that Ruben Thomasson Jr., owner of the Anderson Valley Market in central Boonville, and a long-time resident of the Anderson Valley, had suffered an emotional breakdown, during which he alarmed neighbors by firing several gunshots from the deck his Ornbaun Road, Boonville, residence. Police and emergency services personnel responded in large numbers, along with a mental health negotiator who, along with an unidentified relative of Thomasson’s, convinced Thomasson to be taken peacefully into custody by 8:30am.  Police said Thomasson had fired shots at them and charged Thomasson with attempted murder. Classes at nearby Anderson Valley High School were cancelled for the day, as rumors inflated the incident out of all proportion to the reality of its danger to the general public. Thomasson is still grieving the recent loss of his wife of many years, Beryl Thomasson. He has not been well for some time, and it is clear to everyone who knows him that he is unable to form intent, and that charges of attempted murder are baseless. Ruben and Beryl Thomasson were the second generation of Thomassons to own the pivotal Anderson Valley Market, and both served the Valley community as ambulance and fire volunteers and in many other volunteer capacities, including Ruben Thomasson’s years as a reserve deputy Sheriff. As one old friend of the Thomassons put it, "Give Ruben an ankle bracelet, take his guns away and send him home. He's a great guy, and he's one of us."


RUBEN THOMASSON does not belong in jail and the charges against him are preposterous. “Shots fired in the direction of….” Please. That’s not “attempted murder.” He clearly wasn’t aiming at anyone, clearly didn’t intend harm to anyone. The poor guy is unable to form intent. Ruben appeared in court this morning (Monday) where he was unable to recognize family members. He is not well. It is encouraging, however, that the DA’s office recognizes the realities here and is unlikely to pursue felony charges. And Ruben is receiving medical care in the County Jail as his family arranges appropriate long-term care for him.  As an Air Force veteran Ruben should also be eligible for VA assistance. He appears in court again on Wednesday.

BLACKBIRD FARM – YET AGAIN. Responding to a tip, the Mendocino Planning and Building Department’s Code Enforcement Division visited Blackbird Farm near Philo on Friday, June 8th. On arrival, it discovered Blackbird Farm using an excavator and bulldozer to build a road on a steep, heavily forested slope without a permit. Code Enforcement immediately issued Blackbird Farm a “Stop Work” order. A Notice of Violation will be issued soon. Cal Fire and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also will be notified.  We expect to run a longer article detailing Blackbird Farm’s history of disregard for county regulations, and the local community, in the coming days.  

THE GOOD NEWS. Dave Evans at the Navarro Store is celebrating a birthday. Which one is top secret, but the guy doesn’t look a day older than that.

THEY'VE GOT IT ALL at Bates Apple Farm, Philo. Look at these beauty queens! They come in a rainbow of colors, smell otherworldly and will make you happy for up to a week. Just swing by the apple farm stand and get them and more well they are fresh this weekend. Keep an eye out for our flower sign in the driveway during the upcoming months for more local organic flowers grown by yours truly in Philo!

ALWAYS get a laugh from the clean and sober people’s reassurance that you don’t have to be loaded to have a good time. Verily, verily, but the message is tiresome, especially in the concert context. The clean and sober concert was last weekend, which may account for all the sad faces around town Saturday.

DAD’S DAY. Take Dad out to dinner Father’s Day! Comptche Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Father’s Day Chicken BBQ is Sunday June 17. Chicken and all the fixin’s and hundreds of homemade pies, live music, raffle for a quilt and lots of goodies, country store, libations and a kids zone. Noon to four at Firehouse Park on Flynn Creek Road next to the station. (Katy Tahja)

A LOCAL KID of no advantages is graduating from Boonville High School and going straight into the Navy. Good for him. For years lib members of the high school staff talked down the military option for young men and women with no prospects, doing it from their tenured perches and the comfortable perspectives of their no-risk lives. Like it or not, the military gives the disadvantaged young the direction and discipline they will need to make any kind of life for themselves, especially in this imploding society. Yes, you can get killed in the military. Yes, the military is imperialism's muscle, but your chances of getting killed right here at home are pretty good, too, and where better to get a clearer understanding of the big picture than from the enlisted man's barracks? The pay and perks are good and you really do get to see the world.

THE EDITOR of Boonville's beloved weekly himself went directly from the gentle irrelevances of high school to 15 weeks of beatings and general humiliation as only the Marine Corps can dish it out, emerging from the experience with a clear understanding of how this society works and his place in it. Not recommended for everyone but worth at least four years of sitting in a college classroom listening to the soft theoretical versions of harsh reality.

TIE THE KNOT IN THE ANDERSON VALLEY. Here come the brides, and grooms, Anderson Valley receives mention as a wine country wedding site:

MICHELLE HUTCHINS has not only survived a torrent of unearned local abuse, she defeated it to win last week’s election. I hope Mrs. Hutchins is enjoying her hard earned schadenfreude. There are votes still to count — Mendocino County is the slowest in the state to certify its elections — but Mrs. H., on the basis of the preliminary count, enjoys an insurmountable lead over her opponent.

JUST SAYIN', but we've got the Russians allegedly tampering with our national elections, but aren't the French tampering with the 5th District local election right here in Anderson Valley with political signs for candidate Roderick affixed to French-owned  Roederer vineyards?

KATHY SHEARN, INDEFATIGABLE advocate for the Mendocino County Animal Shelter reports: "I know the country is spinning apart, but there's good news from our little shelter. Since March, here are the dogs you advertised in the blog who have gotten adopted: Baby Cakes, Buzz, Jetson, Ziggy, Puppies, Pete, Connor and Rocky. Also lots of the cats went to new homes. So, thank you for the help getting our guests adopted."

HAPPY TO HELP, MA'AM. Even in its most troubled state, we've thought our "no kill" Shelter did a good and necessary job in getting dogs and cats adopted out. Ms. Shearn deserves multiple woofs and as many meows for her untiring animal advocacy. Under the able direction of Richard Molinari, the Shelter's new director, Pit Bulls continue to be predominate among the hard to place animals because… Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but Mendo's abundant two-footed psychos are partial to the breed, often abandoning their Pits when they become inconvenient. Too bad the Shelter couldn't administer a simple pet ownership suitability test: "Sir, do you enjoy watching Grand Theft Auto or Texas Chainsaw Massacre?" If the answer is Yes, that person could not, by law, own a Pit Bull.

LIKE MANY PEOPLE, I'm wary of Pits. I owned a half-Pit I became very fond of, but he was unpredictable, too frequently even taking cheap shots at me, the best friend he ever had! And he was a terrible racist, growling at every dark-skinned person we passed which, in San Francisco, and me a life-long lib-lab, embarrassed heck outta me every time I took him out in public.

CALTRANS PLUS THE CITY OF UKIAH can only equal confusion and, in the case of Big Box row on Ukiah's east border, vehicular chaos. I took a close look at the site prep underway to supposedly accommodate the new CostCo. Widening and re-paving access roads is nice but isn't going to make it easier to get in and out of the vast parking lots of the big stores. The area is already overcrowded, its access roads backed up at ill-timed lights. When CostCo gets going next month expect all day traffic jams.

A READER ASKS, "What's the deal with all these different wine labels from the same winery?"

MARK SCARAMELLA RESPONDS: Wine insiders call it “brand protection.” I call it bullshit. Wine marketing people tell you that label proliferation has to do with marketing and distributors who buy generic wine from larger bottlers and have the bottler put their own retail label on it, such as Costco’s discount Kirkland wine or Target’s Wine Club brand. Nobody knows where any of that comes from. And the buyers probably don’t care.

YEARS AGO when I worked as a lab tech at Roma Winery in Fresno I noticed that the large facility’s plumbing and valves allowed the Master Wine Blender to mix our basic wine groups in a variety of ways and call it anything it needed to be called. Sometimes vineyards that asked for their grapes to be fermented, aged and bottled as a batch simply were not handled any differently — for a variety of reasons: Leakage, spillage, bad fermentation, not as much grape juice as was expected from a vineyard, wild cultures entering the grape juice, mistakes, poor taste or color, poor filtration, expediency, volume shortages, etc. Nobody ever complained. The same bottling set up could be used to produce 15 or 20 runs with different labels on them. The same wine could be sold for various prices under various labels, or there might be some slight blending variations. As a lab tech, I was in no position to know what went into the bottling machine’s intake or what came out of the fill tube. Sometimes, the wine was aged after it was bottled for an unknown period, by unknown middle-men with storage capabilities, which might also have accounted for some of the retail price variations. Needless to say, the opportunities for misrepresentation were endless.

THE MAIN REASON for second-label wines is that it is a good way to move wine if you have an excess of a certain vintage or type. It could be a blend of different vineyards, appellations or vintages rather than a single vineyard designation, or maybe a lesser known varietal that’s made more affordable for sale in certain markets. Or, second-label wines may be aged for less time or in concrete or steel tanks instead of wood, another way to keep costs low.

A HOST OF WINE MIDDLEMEN, marketers, store chains, and distributors can and do buy excess wine on the cheap on the promise to the original vineyard or bottler that it not be sold under original label.

ANONYMITY is the key. Many higher-end wineries don't want to “cheapen their brand” by lowering the price of their premium label wine. They also don't want to cannibalize sales of that premium label by selling the top brand at discount prices. Or it could be a bad year and the wine just doesn’t taste the way they want it to taste for the reputation they may have behind their premium label.

A FEW YEARS AGO a Bay Area wine scammer tried to rip off a few small Anderson Valley grape growers by writing bad checks for wine they’d delivered to the scammer in good faith. That wine was later discovered to have been seized by the scammer’s other creditors in partial payment of what he owed them. That seized wine found its way onto store shelves in the Bay Area at a very cheap price, but with the original labels still on it. The local vintner who produced it complained that he suffered “brand devaluation” and almost lost one of his premium distributors who mistakenly thought the vintner had something to do with dumping the wine and undermining the distributor's high retail price.

IN GENERAL, THOUGH, the label is more of an indication of price and reputation than it is of contents — as any connoisseur of Gallo Burgundy jug wine will tell you.

PARK DAY at the AV Community Park is this Saturday, June 16 from 9am to 1pm. Litter pick-up, landscaping, picnic & play area restoration are on the agenda. Work gloves and gardening tools helpful. For more info call Elizabeth at 415/713-3833 or email The park is next to the AV Health Center off Airport Road in Boonville. The Community Park has become very popular and this Park Day will get it ready for summer. And check out the new Porta-Potty co-operated by the Health Center and the AV CSD Recreation Committee. 

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