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October 18, 2011 | By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times
Francisco J. Ayala was looking for a weekend family retreat 30 years ago when a real estate agent showed him 400 acres of rolling vineyards near Lodi in the Central Valley. They had not produced much for the previous owners but Ayala, then a research biologist at UC Davis, saw promise. He used his scientific training, sought advice from experts and was soon producing well-regarded crops of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and other varietals. Ayala joined the faculty at UC Irvine in 1989 and his reputation as one of the world's top molecular biologists has grown — as have the earnings from his vineyards, which total more than 2,000 acres in northern San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.
August 28, 2011 | By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times
On Friday morning, as President Obama juggled conference calls and drafted a statement on the approaching hurricane from his retreat at Blue Heron Farm, the hub of activity in this onetime sheepherding town was five miles west at the Chilmark General Store. Beginning at 7 a.m., casually dressed locals and vacationers in flip-flops made their way across the creaky pine floorboards of the store's porch and through the swinging doors for breakfast. Preparations for Hurricane Irene had added a few provisions to the morning's grocery list — ice, bottled water and batteries — but, as usual, hardly anyone was in a hurry.
August 25, 2011 | By Maeve RestonLos Angeles Times
As the president tried to concentrate on his golf swing Wednesday, fierce fighting continued in Libya, officials surveyed damage from a magnitude 5.8 earthquake and Hurricane Irene hurtled toward the East Coast. The vacationing leader of the free world just can't catch a break. After a tumultuous year with a whipsawing stock market and U.S. unemployment hovering above 9%, President Obama and his family had tried to slip away for a 10-day retreat to Martha's Vineyard, returning to Blue Heron Farm, their secluded hideaway in Chilmark.
August 25, 2011 | Louis Sahagun and P.J. Huffstutter
Two plants have long been iconic to Northern California: the soaring redwood tree and the lush wine grapevine. But should one be sacrificed for the other? That question is being raised in Sonoma County a few miles from the Pacific and above the fog line, where two large wineries are petitioning the state to allow them to clear 2,000 acres of redwoods and Douglas firs to make room for new Pinot Noir vineyards. Sonoma County planners say it would be the largest woodland-to-vineyard conversion in California's history and, not surprisingly, it's touched off a debate between fans of the majestic trees and aficionados of the grapes.
August 21, 2011 | By Maeve Reston
With the conflict in Libya at a breaking point, President Obama told reporters Sunday night that he was going to wait until the situation in Tripoli was clear before commenting. As Libyan rebels moved deeper into Tripoli and their leaders reported they had captured Moammar Kadafi's son, Seif Islam Kadafi, White House aides said the president was closely monitoring developments. "We're going to wait until we have full confirmation of what has happened,” Obama told reporters Sunday evening on his way into Nancy's, a seafood restaurant in Oak Bluffs.
August 19, 2011 | By Maeve Reston
President Obama made his first foray out of his vacation compound Friday with a trip to the legendary Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven. Bystanders who had been browsing upstairs at the two-story bookstore rushed to the windows as crowds gathered on the street. Obama, in a blue polo shirt, jeans and sneakers, wandered in with his daughters. After telling some customers that Sasha was going to browse, he wandered the store with a staff member while discussing his choices with one of the employees.
August 7, 2011 | By Jeremy Kohler, Special to the Los Angeles Times
I am standing atop Clay Head, a 70-foot-high bluff, looking over miles and miles of open ocean on a clear summer morning. It is an ideal way to greet a day that will include hiking, biking, birding, skimming stones and eating my weight in fried clams. And I have to smile. Back home in St. Louis, my wife, Nancy, and I had told a friend that we were heading for three days on this glorious island. Blank stare. "Block Island. Where is that?" Exactly. And fine with me if Block keeps a low pro. For all its craggy grandeur, Block Island has never been etched into the nation's consciousness quite like its big sisters Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts.
July 6, 2011 | By Ashlie Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
In the next 30 years, high-value vineyards in California could shrink by 50% because of global warming, according to a Stanford University study released last week. Scientists applied scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a computer model and found that Napa and Santa Barbara counties could experience 10 more very hot days — 95 degrees or higher — during the growing season. As a result, the amount of grape-growing land is projected to decline over the next three decades, the authors wrote.
June 30, 2011 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay is consistently one of the finest from California. But this one from the winery's Saratoga line — designed to showcase the Santa Cruz Mountain terroir — is a real find at this price. The fruit is right there in the first sip. Light on the oak, the 2007 Saratoga Chardonnay carries a gentle lilt of citrus and a touch of anise. Like its big brother, it is Burgundian in style, grace in a glass. Bring it to a dinner party as a ringer: It could be mistaken for a very expensive bottle.
June 24, 2011 | By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times
It's not quite up there with former Countrywide boss Angelo Mozilo's $67.5-million settlement, but regulators have fined another former Southland banker for alleged misconduct during the housing boom. Norman A. Morales, the former president and chief executive of Vineyard National Bank, has agreed to fork over a $25,000 money penalty to bank regulators who accused him of having the Corona-based lender pay personal expenses. He didn't admit or deny wrongdoing in signing the settlement last month, according to the consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
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