Artistry and the Clos des Amis Field Blend Bottling: Ventura County Vineyards November 2021

FOTM Donna Granata, Gretel Compton, Bruce Freeman

“Artists teach us to see the world with refreshed vision, they force us to ask questions about society, they console us and even enrage us. But, above all, they engage us and remind us of our own role in the world,” says Donna Granata, founder and leader of Focus on the Masters (FOTM), a non-profit, 501(c)(3), art appreciation program that documents, preserves, and presents the lives and works of accomplished contemporary artists, with most of them from here in Ventura County, California.


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All Hail Zinfandel!

What wine do I recommend for holiday meals? All hail the mighty California ZINFANDEL! That’s right, zinfandel is my go to Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter Wine because it works with turkey, ham, and prime rib as well as all those rich crazy side dishes. 

“No better story is told than by a Zinfandel at the table,” says David Lucas of Lucas Vineyards in Lodi.

I’ve long loved zinfandel, and I even worked for the King of Zin– Ridge Vineyards. Continue reading

Because You Might Be Dead Next Year: Drinking A 1995 Clos des Amis Cabernet for Cabernet Day 2021

“Because I was dead last year.”  That’s what Bruce Freeman said when he brought out and opened a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon from the cold room at his winery, Clos des Amis, located on South Mountain in Santa Paula, Ventura County, California, on Cabernet Day 2021.

Bruce Freeman

What he said is true: during the 2019 harvest, two years ago, Bruce was very sick. Near the end of harvest, he was Continue reading

MusiKaravan’s Videos Feature Wine, Music, Food, Adventure: Vote NOW!

MusiKaravan in the Malbec September 2020: now on video! photo by Gwendolyn Alley

“Hello Gwendolyn! This is Etienne. We are two violinists traveling and performing for employees of organic farm and wineries,” read the text. Friends of mine told Etienne I helped harvest grapes at Clos des Amis Winery on South Mountain above Santa Paula in Ventura County’s Heritage Valley. “Maybe we could join too, play, capture some images? We make videos of our encounters and about the craft and life of the artisans we meet.”

What would you do as a violinist if a pandemic cancels your concerts? Buy and renovate a 1971 VW bus, take your show on the road, of course, and make videos!

At least that’s what Los Angeles based violinists Etienne Gara and YuEun Gemma Kim decided to do. And now their 14 episode series  Delirium Musicum’s MusiKaravan is nominated in the category “Best Streaming Series 2020-2021” in this year’s Audience Choice Awards of the San Francisco Classical Voice! And I’d like to encourage you to CAST YOUR VOTE HERE so Delirium Musicum’s MusiKaravan will win! 

“Delirium Musicum won this award in 2019-2020 for “Best Early Music/Baroque Performance”, and to be nominated again, this time with such an important project as MusiKaravan is a beautiful sign of recognition for something that took our hearts and lives for 1 year, more so, a very special and unique year that changed our lives,” said Etienne Gara in a recent email. “To be nominated with MusiKaravan is particularly beautiful because it was such a bet for Delirium Musicum to start this project against all odds, but its humanness and artistic meaningfulness was specially important during these times of hardship, where music can make a difference in accompanying, bringing comfort to people, and bring them together in unprecedented times.”

The MusiKaravan project, continued Etienne, “turned a challenging moment into beautiful human connections and discoveries beyond all possible boundaries like social, cultural, religious, ethnic, and beyond. Music was the element to made this experience possible, and that brought so much preciousness to each interaction that was made possible through this journey.”

Here’s an early teaser (much of it produced in my driveway!) featuring video from that fateful day when we met in September 2020:


It’s important to violinists Etienne Gara and YuEun Gemma Kim that they share their journey with as many people as possible, because they want to inspire people beyond the limits of geography.

“This is how we got into filming our adventures,” reported Etienne. It took them five months to edit the fourteen videos that make up the first season and which have been presented by The Soraya, where Etienne has been named Artist in Residence. “We hope our story can inspire others to reach out to the people that populate the world with us. There are so many beautiful things to share, and it’s amazing to learn about other customs and traditions.”

MusiKaravan’s story has been picked up by many NPR stations and media outlets, and this is hopefully just the beginning of a long and inspiring journey. 

Here’s the finished episode from the day we met:


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Blending + Veraison July 2021: Ventura County Vineyards + Beyond

Blending trials at Clos des Amis: Bruce Freeman, Chris Dunn, Jade Dunn (Bruce’s daughter)

While harvest is crazy busy for farmers, so are the days and weeks leading up to harvest.

The more preparation that can be done NOW means less to deal with THEN.

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Pick Up Parties and Pruning: Ventura County’s Lester and Clos des Amis

Steve suckering

“Instead of pruning, how about a pick up party?” I asked Steve Zambrano as we climbed into my car with my dog Cisco.

Steve is always interested in having new experiences and learning more about just about everything under the sun– and the moon and the stars! I’ve known Steve for at least 25 years as we both moved around the Ventura art scene, especially around Art City. He’d helped me with broadsides at Kinkos, he was a regular at poetry and other events I put on, and more. Last month he joined in the rose bottling party at Clos des Amis— where he helped bottle under the tutelage of one of his former Ventura College art instructors, Bruce Freeman.

Give it to Steve, asking him to a pick up party didn’t phase him one bit. In fact Steve is the kind of guy who hangs out in Hollywood with a porn star with a huge handmade sign hawking fake “Maps to the Homes of (Porn) Stars” just to get a response. 

But this wasn’t THAT kind of pick up party. Continue reading