Taste the Willow Creek Flavor

Fresh vegetables were on display along with hand-sewn quilts by Alice Ammon at Trinity Valley Farm on Highway 96 during the annual Taste of Willow Creek event./ Photo by Kristan Korns, Two Rivers Tribune.

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

People from all over Humboldt County and visitors from as far away as Oregon and Hawaii came to experience the eighth annual Taste of Willow Creek event on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Studio 299 Center for the Arts sponsored the event, spread across eight locations in and around Willow Creek, to promote local artists, winemakers, farmers, and craftspeople from the area.

Guests paid $30 each, and were given ‘passports’ and maps to the event’s eight venues. Shuttle busses brought the participants to whichever locations they wanted to visit.

Fred Jamison and Mary Alward from Arcata found out about the event from friends last year, and they were eager to come back again this year.

“We didn’t have any idea how much is here and how extensive it is,” Jamison said. “It’s fascinating to learn the other aspects of this area.”

Brenda Simmons from Burnt Ranch brought her daughter Jennifer Reed from Redding this year, and said she came to the event every year to support the community.

“I love going to all the properties and trying all the new wines,” Simmons said.

Reed said, “A lot of the local wine is better than anything in Redding.”

The Willow Creek appellation for wines was established in 1983, and the small American Viticulture Area (AVA) covers about 6,000 acres along the Trinity River and on the nearby hillsides.

Maureen Murphy from Eureka and her daughter Amelia Murphy, who is visiting from Kaneohe on Oahu in Hawaii, heard about the event by chance at the last minute.

“It was on the Eureka Co-Op’s newsletter about things that were going on,” Amelia Murphy said.

Maureen Murphy said, “We’re tourists at heart. We love adventure.”

The first stop for the Murphys after picking up their event ‘passports’, was the Sentinel Winery.

Musicians Rex Richardson and Petey Brucker from Forks of Salmon played eclectic folk on the guitar and mandolin while guests looked at local arts and crafts or sat beside the small fountain sampling roast lamb and wine.

“We both like the Bigfoot Red blend,” Maureen Murphy said.

Bruce Nelson, who runs the winery along with his wife Janet, said, “We really like the idea of people coming from all around to see what Willow Creek has to offer.”

Jeannie Buerer from the Redwood Empire Quilters Guild was also there showing off, and selling, beautiful locally-made hand-crafted quilts.

The next stop was just down the road at the home of Doug and Cindy Boileau and the site of Cindy’s Craft Camp. The band ‘Strings Attached’ played a mix of 90s covers while guests tried Chad Hardesty’s wines.

“I buy grapes locally out of Willow Creek,” Hardesty said. “I actually live out on the coast in Arcata, but you can’t grow grapes out there. Well – you could, but they wouldn’t ripen.”

Hardesty’s first commercial vintage was in 2008, and he produces Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. For the event, he brought the Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Just down the road, at the Sun Valley Flower Farm, Will Franklin was filling quests’ glasses with wines from Fieldbrook Winery.

“There are some 30-year-old vines on this property here in Willow Creek,” Franklin said. “Foggy Bay is the label that Fieldbrook Winery uses for these grapes.”

Maureen and Amelia Murphy sampled the wine before heading over to look at Nicole Backes’ soaps, lotions, and honey, and at Rotem Shellef’s crystals and jewelry. Both craftswomen are from Hawkins Bar.

“The honey is from Willow Creek all the way to Burnt Ranch,” Backes said. “I have over 30 hives.”

Ron James, a local artist and woodworker, said that the event has been getting bigger each year.

“We have friends who came down from Oregon just for this,” James said. “They’re really excited about it.”

The last stop for the Murphys was Trinity Valley Farm on Highway 96, which sells fresh fruits and vegetables from April through October at their roadside store.

Farmer Tom O’Gorman said he really enjoyed hosting the Taste of Willow Creek event.

“I like the way that a large spectrum of people gather to mingle,” O’Gorman said. “It’s just food, music, wine, and art.”

Doug Oliveira served wine from his family winery, while Arcata musician and College of the Redwoods English Professor Josephine Johnson belted out a mix of original folk music and cover songs for the smiling crowd.

As the day came to a close, Maureen Murphy said, “Everything has been wonderful. We definitely got our money’s worth.”

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