Thursday, July 30, 2020

Revealing Las Vegas

Las Vegas has sparked the imagination of the world, expressed through numerous works of literature, film and art. The city's past is as fascinating as any work of fiction. Sparked by a walk through the restored East Fremont historic district, one wants to know more about the rich, layered history to the city. Yesteryear does not pale in comparison to the glitz and bright neon lights of the famous Strip.

Capturing Las Vegas' diverse oral history adds an important understanding of the cultural yesteryear.

The Historic Preservation Commission's [Link] objective for the City of Las Vegas is to advocate, preserve and educate. The primary goal of the commission is to preserve and revitalize historic buildings, communities and places in Las Vegas and around the state of Nevada. A variety of stakeholders help accomplish this mission, including property owners, residents, neighborhoods, developers, cultural heritage organizations, educational institutions and public officials. Retention and restoration of the built environment fosters not only a sense of place but also helps to grow an engaged community.

Participants in this podcast include Claytee D. White [Link], Chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Commission for the City of Las Vegas. She is the inaugural director of the Oral History Research Center for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries. Claytee collects the history of Las Vegas and its surrounding area by gathering memories of events and experiences from longtime residents. Her projects include early healthcare in the city, history of the John S. Park Neighborhood, The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project, and a study of musicians who played with some of the greats in the entertainment field.

Bob Stoldal [Link], a long time resident and Vice Chairman of preservation committee describes himself as a “history patient”. The broadcast journalist emphasizes the preservation of Las Vegas’ “boom town” history. For the record, Bob wants you to know that Bugsy Siegel did not invent Las Vegas! He does, however, suggest a visit to the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement aka “The Mob Museum”.

Dr. Diane Siebrandt, PhD, [Link] is the Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Las Vegas. Her mission is ensure that historic property located throughout the community is maintained and preserved. Diane has extensive experience in historic preservation including many years working in Iraq.

Las Vegas was a railroad town marketed as an old west town. This identity skirted limitations on gambling promotion outside the city. The chamber of commerce at the time knew an Old West cowboy theme would imply gambling was part of the scene. Hotels echoed this theme, choosing names such as The Bonanza, Last Frontier and El Rancho.

The branding later evolved to project an exotic Middle East desert destination. The Dunes, Sahara, The Sands and the Street Flamingo Road reflected that evolution.

An example of the depth of the city’s historic preservation efforts include the removal of palm trees because they were not historically accurate.

Private/public partnerships are essential to support and maintain historical renovation.

Las Vegas is much more than gambling. This podcast includes insightful insider perspectives on where to go and what to see.

Listening to this trio [amuz podcast link] discuss the history of the “Divorce ranches”, rich museum offerings and nature preserves is illuminating.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Destination Blueberries

Unplanned stops are sometimes the most interesting part of a journey. And, so it was while driving south on Wisconsin's I-39 recently.

A sign offered fresh blueberries. I took the exit and followed a few more signs.

Flyte family farms offers pick your own or buy a box. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are available, as well.

[The melons are delicious]

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The Flight (not) Taken

Recent news that Google Flights does not always display the cheapest fares, nor all available flights, is a timely reminder to "trust but verify". [1] In other words, keep looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

New airline routes occasionally appear in my news flow.

While pondering a road trip west, I recalled that Madison's convenient airport announced some interesting nonstops for summer 2020, including Portland. [2]

A quick early July, 2020 check confirmed that Sun Country's MSN - PDX - MSN twice weekly nonstop (!) was indeed operating and available for purchase.

I've long been reticent to fly airlines with infrequent service, but thought it time to test the waters, so to speak. The route was affordable and the PDX morning departure timely.

I counted 30 passengers on the 737-800, plus crew.

It may be some time before we Madisonians enjoy the luxury of coastal nonstop flights, again - avoiding the time sink of ORD, DEN, MSP, DFW transfers....

The Sun Country flight offered beautiful views, professional service and a timely departure/arrival. Well done.

1. Google's top search result? Surprise, it's Google.

2. Sun Country Airlines adds 5 direct routes from Madison.

Friday, July 24, 2020

French Ambition Comes to Fruition on Oregon's 45th

The Beginning

Left Coast Estate is a family owned vineyard, winery and working farm located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

37 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the flower filled Estate sits in the Van Duzer Corridor with gorgeous coastal range views. The location is an enticing combination of mineral rich soil, sunshine, rain and cool breezes.

Founded on 30 acres by the Larson Pfaff family in 2003, the farm has grown to 500 acres, with 142 planted. Initially a grape growing operation, Left Coast today supports a wide selection of award winning wines.

The family aims to create diversity in everything they do. The farm evolved from childhood life experiences: Suzanne Larson in Southern California and Robert Pfaff on a Wisconsin farm. Left Coast reflects their voracious love of learning, world travel and sparkling personalities.

Suzanne enjoyed a transformative college year abroad in Italy, describing the discovery of local Italian wine as a near “religious experience”. After marriage, Suzanne and Bob began their careers in France. They worked hard, learning from exposure to diverse people, wine and cuisine. A few years later, they returned to the States and settled in Colorado where they put down roots and started a family.

The vineyard dream incubated for years. Snowboarding and family ties lead them to Oregon. The name Left Coast is a homage to the geographic location, but also to a majority of the family who are left handed.

The property is a dream located in an agricultural district protected from commercial zoning. The farm’s water and soil had the potential to create great wine. Left Coast abides by the tenet that there cannot be good wine without good grapes - guided by the French idea of “cepage and terroir” or variety and soil. The climate informs the wines you make, so they play to their strengths. Suzanne notes they are on the 45th parallel, corresponding to France’s northern Rhône region.

The Left Coast team has thoughtfully restored native old growth oak forest and grassland. They have turned turnip and clover fields into vineyards with hazelnut trees and truffles dotting the hillsides. A working estate, the “farm to fork” concept is realized in the food paired with their wines.


Great wine is Left Coast’s finest expression. The team, geography and day to day work controls the process from vineyard to bottle. Iterative changes are a substantial advantage when the aim is to create desirable wines - the best of a vintage.

A sentimental French restaurant expressed in Bob’s herb garden is just one of many European vignettes scattered around the estate.


The Pfaffs aim to create a family legacy and appreciate being a part of the Willamette wine community. Attracting talented people has been essential to creating excellent wines.

A long term crew knows the vineyards so intimately that they take responsibility for guiding the contract labor required at harvest. Winemaker Joe Wright has grown and diversified the Estate. Taylor Pfaff, their son and CEO, leads the team. His sister Cali Pfaff, an accomplished landscape architect, recently joined Left Coast as the Creative Director. These moves have positioned the estate for the future.

Amuz strongly encourages you to visit magical Left Coast Estate [link] where the wine is delicious, the people are infectiously gracious and the vistas welcoming!

- Nancy Zellmer

Listen to a conversation with Suzanne and Bob.

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