Tuesday, June 28, 2016


     Spotted at twilight a young red shouldered hawk. As Dave our bird expert neighbor tells me, the species is not dimorphic so the sex can not be determined. It is an impressive raptor. 

      This is the tale of two Billionaires, both of them doing business in our beloved Paso Robles wine region and what a difference there is.
      You've read recently of Stewart and Lynda Resnick admitting they "were asleep at the wheel" when their Wonderful Corporation cut thousands of California live oak trees, denuded a hill side and without permission began building a reservoir that would suck millions of gallons frightening neighbors their wells would dry up. The Resnicks, who purchased the once prestigious Justin Winery, said they were "ashamed and embarrassed" as San Luis Obispo County continues an investigation.
      Then there is a billionaire you may never of heard of but who has done much to make this a better planet. He also owns a winery.

       Hansjorg Wyss was educated in Switzerland as an engineer and earned an MBA from Harvard. He sold his medical equipment manufacturing firm for $21.3 billion. Since then he has become "one of the most philanthropic people in the world" according to Forbes Magazine. 
      In one instance Wyss gave $250 million to Harvard to establish a cross discipline institute for biologically inspired engineering. Read here about its extraordinary work.
          Around the world his philanthropic giving is making a huge mark in science, conservation, the environment and more. He's leaving an indelible mark on wine making as well.
     He purchased the Halter Ranch Winery and added another 900 acres on which he created a preserve for the California oaks, the kind the Resnicks were decimating. He also added a wildlife corridor and began diligent water reclamation and protection, the opposite of the Resnick ethos. 
     Before he created the modern Halter Ranch Winery he had a team look at the best practices of grape growing, harvest, wine making, resource use and all aspects of the industry all over the planet. He then began to establish and improve on those best practices in what could well be the most efficient winery in the world.
    His manager, Skylar Stuck is exemplary of the class of the operation.  Stuck is a Johns Hopkins economist. It is my guess an objective of the Halter Ranch operation is to create a model of the absolute best way to operate a vineyard and winery with regards to resource use and protection, sustainability, efficiency, viticulture, wine making, customer relations, marketing and good citizenship.
     Halter Ranch has some 20 thousand feet of storage caves. They have a water conservation and gray water reclamation process that would be the envy of municipalities. 
      The Resnick operation, which also sells Fiji Water and Pom Wonderful, has been to dilute the quality of a once great winery by seeking more volume and sales which led to the trouble they are in.
       Wyss and Halter Ranch are continuing to fine tune sustainability, responsible agriculture and sound practices. In the long run, and the short as well, the model for the rest of the world is the intelligence, care, quality, precision and ethic of Wyss and Halter Ranch. There is more to life than the chasing of commoditization. 
       Wyss and Halter demonstrate one can be corporate and large but maintain a conscience. And they make an excellent wine!

can you see it?
     The frame below is a kind of eye test. Can you spot the "walking stick?"  The insect hides well. Identifying it is made a bit tougher by the somewhat out of focus head. It was a challenge to shoot and the thing was terribly uncooperative with the photographer.

local culture
   a wonderful brunch in Diane's garden
very provencale'
Zongo time in Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo
concert season is underway

the extraordinary Symphony Jeunesse
middle and high school students from San Bernardino
directed by Miche'le Brosseau-Tacchia
performing in Cambria
    See you down the trail.


  1. Great picture of the hawk. And congratz on even seeing that Walking Stick, hiding in the weeds.

    1. Saw that Hawk on the line and at first thought it was an owl, till I put the lens up.
      And I had help, from Lana, in seeing the insect.

  2. I'd have walked right by that walking stick without noticing it.

    1. I would have too, but Lana saw it from the kitchen window. I had to get right on top to see it. She has great eyes, always is the first to spot things in nature.

  3. this is the same dichotomy,if that's the word, Seattle is experiencing. Cambria, a far smaller city, is experiencing, and hopefully doing well, at the issue Seattle has seen for decacde. On one hand you have Bill and Steve, then Paul, etc. Billionaires abound.
    And odd social structure, and really not unlike the Romans of the 200-400 CE had. I wonder if in scores of decades later, archaeologists will be discovering the same artifacts that we are now in Toloun, Barcelona and Valencia. And wondering how to interpret it....what were they doing what were they experiencing.
    As a species, we've got a lot of time to have improved our method of showing our past, accurately. Although, 'accurate' depends on many things, right?
    I concur with Bruce, nice pic of the raptor.
    And no, on 20 seconds exam, did not see the insect. Perhaps why I didn't become a radiologist.

  4. You pose an interesting question. How will future generations take measure of our degrees of social separation?
    As I noted to Steve above, were it not for my wife, I would have entirely missed the walking stick.