Santa Cruz Mountain wineries and Live Earth Farm welcome summer
The longest day of the year—or the shortest, depending upon which hemisphere you're currently occupying—June 20 (or 21 or 22) brings its own peculiar charms. And festival traditions. In the far northern European climes, such as Sweden, Norway and Finland, Midsummer has been celebrated since the dawn of, well, that's actually a misplaced metaphor since there is no dawn on the solstice up there. And that's because there is no night. Trust me. It's geographical. The "lands of the midnight sun" definitely like to whoop it up on the endless day when the party essentially never ends. Maypoles, bonfires and pickled herring are only some of the delightfully pagan ways to acknowledge the roundness of our planet, and its tilting trajectory around that fiery ball in the sky.
This might be the year that you begin your own solstice tradition, keeping in mind that the actual solstice begins on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 6:51 a.m. EDT. A bonfire on the beach seems like a good place to start. And it's probably cheaper than flying to Stonehenge where festive crowds await the sunrise with anticipation and plenty of ale. The Druids liked to use the summer solstice as an excuse to indulge in the "wedding of Heaven and Earth," using themselves as surrogates, and I think you can figure that one out on your own.
You might want to join the folks at Live Earth Farm for their annual Summer Solstice Celebration, starting at 2 p.m. on June 21. Cob oven pizzettes, fresh-picked strawberries, a community potluck dinner with a strawberry ice cream dessert and that traditional bonfire starting at sunset. It happens at the Upper Farm, located at 172 Litchfield Lane in Watsonville, see website for details.
Think of it as a no-brainer way to travel through some spectacular parts of our sprawling wine-growing region, a mere 20 minutes from Santa Cruz, and discover some peak wine tasting in the process. I refer to the festivities of the annual Solstice on the Summit Festival, June 21-22 from noon to 5 p.m. All participating wineries will be hosting sun-soaked events and we're all invited to visit every single one of them. That includes Burrell School, MJA, Silver Mountain, Villa del Monte, the new Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery and the Summit Store. The $25 ticket gets you that ever-popular commemorative wineglass—which is your physical ticket to all wine tasting and events at participation spots. You can expect garden tours, winery tours, guest chefs catering small plates, live jazz at Silver Mountain, live Hawaiian slack key music at MJA (Hawaiian solstice?) and lots of other atmospheric touches. Check the website for details or simply visit one of the wineries and get your ticket there.
Pork bellies for right-minded carnivores
Love Apple Farm's longtime associate Mountain Whale Ranch now has humanely raised pastured pork available, whole and half carcasses—for restaurants and serious home butchers. You've probably tasted the luscious pork raised at Mountain Whale if you've eaten at Haven in Oakland, Main Street Garden Cafe in Soquel, or La Balena in Carmel (among many top Bay Area dining spots). Farm tours and custom classes are available if you're interested in their ranching practices, hog raising, butchering and sausage making. Right in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Come see what they're doing and ask about their "small meat CSA."
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