Monthly Archives: October 2013

Steppin’ Out – Palissandro Vineyard and Winery “La Dolce Vita”

PalissandroA couple of weeks ago I received a call inviting me to a “Release Party and Grape Stomp” and Palissandro Winery in Fair Play. Although I have been following and writing about the wine industry in El Dorado County since the early 1970s, I had never heard of this winery, so I did a bit of research on their very professional webpage.

Palissandro Vineyards and Winery is the dream of Shaun and Jeannine Blaylock. When Jeannine was a little girl, her Grandfather, who had come to the United States from Catania, Sicily when he was 17 years old, made wine for the family.

He purchased zinfandel grapes from the hills of Milpitas and did a custom crush each year at a local winery. Two to three barrels were made annually for personal consumption and to share with family and friends.

He taught Jeannine’s father how to make wine and Jeannine has fond memories of the family working together during the fall crush.

Jumping forward a few decades, after years in the corporate world the Blaylocks decided they wanted a simpler lifestyle, so in January of 2009 they flew to Idaho to explore cattle ranches. But, Jeannine found Idaho too void for a native California girl.

In the spring of that same year, after helping Robert Van der Vijver prune his Barbara grapes, Van der Vijver informed the Blaylocks that the acreage adjacent to his vineyard and winery was available and they bought it.

The Blaylocks, with the help of Van de Vijver, spent many days deciding what style of wine they wanted to produce. After many samples, they picked the wine style of Northern Italy. These wines lend themselves to being fruit forward, having a full mouth feel and minimal tannins so they would finish softly.

Again with the help of Van der Vijver they purchased local grapes and made their first wines in the fall of 2009, literally by hand.

Since both the Blaylocks loved roses and planted many rose bushes on the property, they thought “Rosewood” might be a nice name for the winery. Their friends thought it sounded too commercial and that they should look for a more Italian name to match their wines. After going through name after name, Jeannine put rosewood into their English to Italian translator and up popped “Palissandro.” They had found the name.

Although they are presently relying on grapes from local growers, they have planted a number of varietals in their own vineyard. These include nebbiolo, a red grape that is used to produce Barolo and Barbaresco from Italy’s Piedmont region; montipulciano, another red grape and the primary grape of the world famous wines known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; pinot grigo, a grape used to make Italy’s most popular white wine that hails from the northeast region of Veneto and Friuli in Northern Italy; barbera, a red grape that grows fantastically well in the higher part of the Sierra Foothills and the most famous Italian wine grape of all, sangiovese.

“I make my wines the old fashioned way,” said Shaun Blaylock when I asked him about the numerous containers of fermenting wine around the winery building. “Except for the pinot grigio, none of my wines is touched by stainless steel and everything is done by hand.

“I have 130 barrels arriving shortly, some new, some that have been used for one year and some that are neutral. There is a lot of wine ready to go into them.”

“We don’t just buy grapes from other growers,” added son Brandon Blaylock, “we are very involved in how they are grown and handled before they are picked.”

The “Release Party and Grape Stomp” took place next to their winery, outside in our wonderful October weather. The food, which was “Oktoberfest” in character, was prepared by them, delicious and paired nicely with their wines. Although open to the public for a nominal cost, it was just one of the many spectacular events they hold for their wine club membership.

Presently their wines that are available in the tasting room, all of which I found are very nice, include 2012 Pinot Grigio, 2011 Rosa, non-vintage Vino Da Tavola (Wine of the Table), 2010 Barbera, 2010 Felice (a Super-Tuscan blend), the newly released 2010 Sangiovese and their non-vintage Vino Dolce (a port style wine). It is a small winery, so the amount of wine is limited.

Palissandro is real family winery with both Shaun and Jeannine, along with son Brandon and daughter Lauren, very involved in the business. It is located at 7449 Fairplay Road (between Van der Vijver and Granite Springs wineries). Their very friendly tasting room is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call (530) 620-2063 or visit their webpage at

Steppin’ Out – Subway

subway-logoOf all the deli sandwich shops in the Placerville area (and beyond), Subway is probably the one I stop at the most. Their bread is good, their sandwiches are good, they are predictable no matter where you are, and they have a number of sandwiches that are low in fat (but all of them, like the other sandwich shops, are a bit high in sodium).

To give you a little background on Subway, in 1965, 17 year old Fred DeLuca set out to fulfill his dream of becoming a medical doctor. Searching for a way to help pay for his education, a family friend suggested he open a submarine sandwich shop.

DeLuca received a loan from a friend named Dr. Peter Buck and the two became partners, opening their first store, “Pete’s Super Submarines,” in Bridgeport, Connecticut in August, 1965.

It was very successful and they set a goal of having 32 stores opened in 10 years. By 1974, the duo owned and operated 16 submarine sandwich shops throughout Connecticut, and realizing they would not reach their 32 store goal in one more year, they began franchising.

Today, the Subway brand is the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain with more than 40,000 locations in 103 countries around the world.

I have tried at least a couple of dozen of different Subway sandwiches over the years, but usually order an oven roasted chicken breast or other chicken sandwich, because they have the least fat and I like the taste. However, one day my friend Russ Salazar asked me if I had ever tried the pastrami, and I had to admit that I hadn’t.

Just because it was convenient, he and I met at the Subway located at 1329 Broadway where, after a bit of discussion, we ordered a Pastrami and Swiss and their October $6 Special, the Tuscan Chicken Melt, both foot-longs, toasted and on Italian bread.

There are way too many choices of what to put on a Subway sandwich, so as I often do, I told the nice lady making us the Tuscan Chicken Melt, to make it the way she would for herself. She looked up at us and with a smile said, “I’m a vegetarian.” So, I asked if she could recommend what should be put on it and she said, “Yes, I can do that.”

Using her recommendations we added Pepper-Jack cheese, balsamic vinegarette and a light amount of lettuce and spinach, olives, green bell peppers and pickles to the sandwich.

The Pastrami and Swiss was easy: mustard and pickles, jalapenos on the side. No, this is neither a low fat or low sodium sandwich, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself.

We split the sandwiches and I planned on each eating half of my share and taking the rest home, which I do if I order a foot-long sandwich for myself. But once I started, they were so good I ate both of them. Salazar, who planned on eating both, did so and, as we ate, commented that both of them were very good, especially the Pastrami and Swiss. I had to agree and really liked the pastrami they used. It had just the right amount of fat.

Subway has a couple of dozen different kinds of sandwiches to choose from. They include Black Forest Ham, their BLT, Cold Cut Combo, Italian B.M.T., Meatball marinara, Oven Roasted Chicken, Roast Beef, Spicy Italian, Turkey Breast, Veggie Delight and more. They also have breakfast sandwiches, most of which are available only in the morning, and a nice kids meal.

The menu at your local Subway often changes, and they have recently introduced a $4 Lunch Special, featuring a selection of six-inch sandwiches and a 21 oz. drink, along with the month’s featured $5 and $6 special foot-longs.

Subway can also cater your party or event by providing a six foot long sandwich or any number of sandwich trays.

Take a break from your normal routine and stop by your local Subway for something delicious and full of vegetables

Locally there are Subway locations in Placerville, Cameron Park, Shingle Springs, El Dorado Hills, South Lake Tahoe and more.

Criminal Annals, Part 7 – Haskins and Corle Versions of the Hangings

argonauts of california haskinsFinishing up with stories about the famous hanging that changed the name of Placerville, then Old Dry Diggings, to Hangtown, we look at two books, a history book entitled “The Argonauts of California,” by C. W. Haskins, published in 1890, and “John Studebaker – An American Dream,” a biography written by Edwin Corle, published in 1948. Each of these books gives their own peculiar version of the first hanging and then introduces later hangings from the same tree.

Haskins writes, “The first persons hung in California subsequent to the gold discovery, were two Mexicans and an American. They were hung for horse stealing and robbery during the fall of ‘48, in Hangtown, and it was from this fact that the mining camp derived its name, and although the camp has enjoyed the unenviable reputation of being the place where many murderers and horse-thieves have been kindly laid to rest by the citizens, in committees of the whole, yet only one other individual was ever hung by the citizens of the place, and that was Irish Dick, a young gambler, who was executed in the fall of ‘50 for murder. A jury, composed of miners, was chosen; he was granted a fair trial, found guilty and sentenced to be hung from the old oak tree which stood upon the side of the hill across the creek, at 2 p.m. of the same day. He requested permission to leap from the limb of the tree, head foremost; but this favor, of course, could not be granted since it did not conform to the law, and would be a very barbarous proceeding, as well as a bad precedent to establish, for in some parts of the country the trees were very small.”

Corle John StudebakerCorle, in his biography of the early Placerville resident and businessman John Studebaker, gives an even different version of the first hanging and then adds more to the Irish Dick story. “The first execution in Old Dry Diggings occurred in 1849. A miner living in a cabin near his claim was held up at the point of a gun one night by two Mexicans and one American who ransacked his house, stole his gold dust and left, warning him that if he did anything about it, they would return and kill him. The victim’s name was Prosper Cailloux.

“The next day the three robbers were still in town, and Cailloux called upon his friends to help him get his gold back. The three criminals were ‘arrested’ by a crowd of men. While a method of punishment was being debated another group of men rode into town and at once identified the three as horse thieves whom they were pursuing. That settled it. The three criminals were shortly swinging at rope’s end from the nearest tree. It happened to be a large oak that stood on the corner of Coloma and Main Streets.

“About a year later five men were charged with robbing a Mexican gambler named Lopez. A hundred or more miners listened to the evidence and decided that the criminals should get 39 lashes each. After that, three of them, who had been guilty of earlier crimes, ere summarily hanged from the same oak tree that had taken the lives of the Cailloux robbers.

“That made a total of six men whoa had ‘danced’ their lat at Old Dry Diggings, and that was enough to have the community referred to as ‘the place where they hang ‘em first and question ‘em later.’ So when Postmaster Nugent wanted a new name. it was inevitable that current events offered the answer and the community became Hangtown.

“That didn’t satisfy the official dignity of Postmaster Nugent. He suggested yet another name. Placer mining was the chief method of extracting gold, so why not call the town Placerville?

“The idea was logical, but hangings continued and hangings were more vivid.

“Irish Dick became number seven. He was a brutal criminal who stabbed a man to death over a dispute at a monte game. The results have a special interest, since Irish Dick (sometimes know as Bloody Dick and New Orleans Dick – his real name was Richard Crone) was a gambler, and he believed the gambling element was so strong in Hangtown that law-abiding men could not defy it. He openly boasted that he had killed two men previously and would kill others in the future if he felt like it. Two thousand miners thought otherwise, and Irish Dick was dragged to the famous tree and hanged to the cheers of the populace. But at least the unpleasant incident indicated that the gamblers could not control the community.”


Criminal annals, Part 6 – Hittell’s Version of the Hangings

 Theodore H. Hittell

Theodore H. Hittell

Continuing with stories about the famous hanging that changed the name of Placerville, then Old Dry Diggings, to Hangtown, we now look at the version provided by the well-respected Theodore H. Hittell in his “History of California,” Volume I, printed in San Francisco in 1885. Like most later histories it draws on earlier publications for information.

“The names adopted by the miners for their camps and mining locations were usually taken from the names of the first settlers or from the names of the places from which they came or were of those slang names, already mentioned, which seem to have been chosen on the part of the unbridled adventurers as a sort of protest against the restraints of respectability. In some cases, however, the name of a place was taken from some circumstance connected with it foundation or growth; and unfrequently a name, and sometimes a change of name, of itself indicated more or less of the history of the settlement.

“After Coloma and Mormon Island, one of the next most important and earliest settled mining localities was a spot on the ridge south of the South Fork of the American river and about eight miles in a straight line southeast of Coloma. It was located on or near the head of a branch of Weber’s creek and appears to have been discovered as a rich field for mining operations comparatively early in 1848 by William Daylor, one of Sutter’s associates. It, or the creek on which it was situated, though substantially dry in the summer, was noted, even as early as the time of Governor Mason’s visit, for its great richness; and it very soon became a populous camp, generally know, on account of its distance from the river or constant water, by the name Dry Diggings. Much gold was taken out of the locality even in 1848. One night, about the middle of January, 1849, a Mexican gambler of the place, named Lopez, who had in his possession a large amount of money, was attacked in his own room by five men, overpowered and robbed. While the robbery was going on and before it was entirely consummated, an alarm was raised and a number of the miners of the neighborhood rushed into the house and seized the robbers. It is not likely that what may be called the public opinion of the camp cared very much about Lopez or his losses; but it plainly recognized the fact that such an offense as had in this case been committed or attempted to be committed could not under any circumstances be suffered to pass without notice. The next day, accordingly, as there was practically no such thing as a court in the mining regions and hardly and such thing in the whole country as could be called a judicial tribunal, the miners organized into a sort of committee of vigilance, tried their prisoners, convicted them and sentenced each of the five to receive thirty-nine lashes. The next day, which proved to be Sunday, was fixed upon as the time of punishment; and as Sunday in the mines was by a general consensus set aside as a day of idleness and recreation, there was a very large concourse from all directions to witness the widely-talked-about flogging of the fiver robbers that was to take place at Dry Diggings.

“An eye-witness of the scene relates that on his arrival at the place he found a large crowd collected around an oak tree, to which was lashed a man with a bared back, upon which though already cut and into bleeding stripes another man was applying with all his might a long rawhide whip. A guard of a dozen men, with loaded rifles pointed at the prisoner, stood ready to fire in case of an attempt being made to escape. After all had been duly flogged for their attempt to rob Lopez, fresh charges of robbery and attempted murder, committed the previous autumn on the Stanislaus river, were made against three of the men, two being Frenchmen and the third a Chileno. The prisoners, so accused, on account of the severity of their punishment, were unable to stand and had to be removed to a place where they could lie stretched out; but this did not prevent their further trial from going forward; and it was conducted by the assembled crowd, consisting of some two hundred men, in their absence. The charges appear to have been substantiated, though they amounted to nothing more than attempted robbery and murder. But it seemed plain that the accused were bad men, whose presence was a continual menace to the community; and there was a general sentiment in the crowd that law or no law, as there was apparently no other protection against them, they ought to be got rid of. At the close of the trial, therefore, which lasted only about a half hour and resulted in a unanimous verdict that they were guilty, when it came to the question as to the punishment to be inflicted, one of the crowd moved to hang them; and upon the proposition being put to vote it met with almost universal approbation.

“Upon this E. Gould Buffum, the eye-witness referred to, who had previously been a lieutenant in Stevenson’s regiment of New York volunteers and was afterwards editor of the Alta California newspaper, mounted a stump and with all the force and vigor of which he was capable and in the name, as he says, of God, humanity and law, protested against such an extreme measure. But the crowd, having made up its mind as to what was necessary and some being excited by strong drink, not only refused to listen to any criticism on their actions but even threatened to include the bold orator in the execution if he did not immediately desist from arraigning their conduct. It was very apparent that there was no use, under the circumstances, in attempting to say anything; and the speaker, coming down from his improvised tribune, prepared to witness the tragedy that he found himself powerless to prevent. Only thirty minutes’ notice of the condemnation and sentence was given to the prisoners. They were then brought forward, bleeding from their flogging; placed upon a wagon, and held up while the ends of three ropes, which had been thrown over the limb of a tree, were fastened around their necks. No time or opportunity was given for explanation. They tried to speak; but as none of them spoke English, the words they employed were understood by very few. They called for an interpreter; but in vain. Amid their own cries and the yells of the more brutal portion of the mob, their arms were pinioned; a black handkerchief was bound about the eyes of each; a signal was given; the wagon was drawn from under them, and they were launched into eternity. Graves had in the meanwhile had been dug; and the bodies, when life was entirely extinct, were cut down and buried – and affairs at the camp resumed their ordinary course. But from that time forward, and until it became exclusively known as Placerville, the place, on account of the circumstances just related, went by the significant though by no means elegant name of ‘Hangtown.’”