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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Election day is here, at last

Uploaded: May 19, 2015
Hurray. Election Day is finally here for the 7th Senate District and our mail boxes and telephones can use a break when those who choose to vote will decide which Democrat, the more moderate Steve Glazer or the union-banked Susan Bonilla, will serve the final two years of Mark DeSaulnier's term. Mark is in Congress.

This special election has been characterized by huge spending by outside groups to support their choice and bash the opposition. It is a stunningly expensive election, but it will also be telling to see if a Democrat shunned by unions can win in a district with a registration that is 51 percent Republican and independent.

Glazer has been courting Republicans throughout this campaign and has little support among the doctrinaire Democrats who have backed Bonilla. Glazer consulted for the state chamber of commerce in 2012 to support more moderate Democrats in Democrat-dominated districts that pitted two Democrats in the general election.

The drought and the warm spring are combining to change the normal calendar for agriculture as we learned last week on a trip to the Alexander Valley wine country.

Winemaker Parke Hafner of Hafner Vineyard remarked that their grapes are about four weeks ahead of normal. And, despite the four-year drought, their rainfall total was about three-quarters of normal.

Checking with Livermore Valley vintners, John Concannon of Concannon Vineyards agreed, writing in an email "We are in the same boat as the North Coast--about 3 to 4 weeks ahead of normal schedule but believe the weather will start a cooling trend that might slow the growth process a bit. This year's yields are projected slightly lower than last year but the intensity of the fruit flavors will be wonderful."

Phil Wente of Wente Vineyards, the Livermore Valley's other historic winery at more than 130 years of family ownership, had a slightly different take

"I would say we started out maybe one week early on bud break, but normal is a range from mid- February to mid-March, so nothing extraordinary at this point. We have had a couple of doses of rain in May, .47 inches, with a May average of .46 inches, so right on.
"Season (rainfall) for us at the Tesla Road facility is 14.3 inches, we have had 12.5 this year, just odd timing with several big storms delivering most of the quantity in short periods. The Livermore Valley has a range of rainfall from the mid 20 inches on the Pleasanton ridge to less than 9 inches on the Altamont.

Incidentally, Hafner has one of the more unusual marketing approaches. It sells direct to patrons through wine clubs as many small wineries do (Hafner makes 12,000 to 15,000 cases a year of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and a red blend). The different spin is no distribution to retailers—instead they focus on placing their wines into upscale restaurants.

The family owns and farms 240 acres of vineyards, but uses only about 40 percent of the crop for their own brand. The rest is sold to a major winery. That winemaker wants grapes riper and higher in sugar than Hafner, which makes for smooth harvest seasons.

What is it worth to you?


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