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Business Beat: 05/15/2018

Business Beat May 15, 2018

Back to business as usual for pot farm

Timing is everything. It was the worst kind of timing on Oct. 8 when the Nuns Fire raged through the Gordenker Ranch property where SPARC, a San Francisco-based marijuana collective, leases growing acreage. In October, a good percentage of the crop had been picked and stored on site, awaiting transport to East Bay processing facilities before it would be redistributed to SPARC’s four Bay Area and Sonoma County marijuana dispensaries.

“The Nuns Fire damaged 90 percent of everything we grew last year,” said Erich Pearson, owner and CEO of SPARC. Pearson was on the property that night, and remembers waking to the smell of smoke and the orange glow of flames.

The fire burned the entire Gordenker Ranch, over 400 acres, in a matter of six hours – from Nuns Canyon Road to Trinity Road. Over 30 structures burned, including two barns on the SPARC-leased property.

Pearson rushed to warn friends in the area about the fire. When he returned to the property later that morning, he tried to save what he could, firing up generators, watering, and salvaging what was left of the plants growing under the open air trellises, called cold frames. Unfortunately, the heat and smoke damage had been done.

The Gordenker family has insurance to replace the structures burned in the fire, but Pearson and his team have no insurance to replace tools and equipment or the income from plants lost.

He said they were able to recoup some loss by sending the damaged buds off to a lab to be turned into oil. The extraction process filters out undesirable compounds and plant material, resulting in a concentrated oil that can be used for a variety of applications.

And so, charging ahead with the changing seasons, Pearson and his team are picking up just where they left off. They started with brand new seeds in November, since all the seeds saved for replanting were lost in the fire. In May, they had 4,000 plants in various stages of growth, some about waist high and six weeks from flowering. Pearson plans to get two harvests this year.

With tight finances and little work to do over the winter, Pearson regrettably had to lay off most of his employees, but now with new crop underway, they are back up to their regular 20 employees.

From the most mature plants, the female flowers are being picked and sent to the lab for analysis. When a preferred cannabinoid profile (the balance of different chemical compounds for a desired effect) is found, SPARC employees make cuttings from that plant and store the genetic material for the future.

Part of the land SPARC leases used to be an active quarry and Pearson said there is still a lot of work to be done transitioning the parcel from a mining site to an agricultural farm. This includes some removal of invasive species and replanting based on Sonoma County and state quarry reclamation guidelines, as well as a geotechnical analysis, and turning the old quarry hole, which has filled up with water and become a sort of marsh, into a managed water storage pond. As part of the County’s cannabis use permit regulations, they will also have to complete a groundwater use study. Cannabis is under much stricter rules than other ag crops, with deeper setbacks from water sources, etc., said Pearson.

SPARC has resubmitted their use permit application for 43,560 square feet of outdoor cultivation space after withdrawing their application permit post-fire last year to make some corrections. Pearson said he has plans to build greenhouses to replace the cold frames at a later date.

“Erich is a wonderful lessor and great steward of the land and we look forward to years of working with him and slowly rebuilding our ranch,” said Sylvia Gordenker Bernard.

Local writers in the spotlight

Two local writers will lead workshops this month. Kenwoodian Rebecca Rosenberg will present “The Devil is in the Details,” at the Writer’s Forum on May 17, 6:30-8 p.m., at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. How do props and surroundings make characters “real” for the reader? Explore how to make details speak for your characters and plot. Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Novel Writing Certificate program. The Secret Life of Mrs. London (released this year) is Rebecca’s debut novel, after her non-fiction book, Lavender Fields of America. Free. Details available at

Then, on May 26, another Kenwoodian, Jean Wong, will be leading a workshop, “Reminiscence: The Art of Memoir,” at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Her memoir Hurtling Jade and Other Tales of Personal Folly was released in 2017. More information available at

Last chance for savings at Sculpturesite

Sculpturesite Gallery, which began in 1990 in Berkeley, will close its Jack London Village location at the end of May.

After 28 years as one of Northern California’s premier sculpture galleries, husband and wife team Brigitte Micmacker and John Denning will focus entirely on their busy website, In order to make the transition to online-only, the gallery in Jack London Village has been having a huge sale, and there are still a few works remaining. Almost everything still at the gallery is now 20 to 40 percent off. From wall pieces to suspended works, pedestal to free-standing, indoor and outdoor, for your home or office, wind-activated kinetics, and a wide range of materials, there is something for everyone.

For more information and to get pricing of works included in the sale, call the gallery at 933-1300, email, or stop by the gallery at 14301 Arnold Dr., Ste. 8, in Glen Ellen. After May 15, Denning and Micmacker will be focusing on packing and moving so the gallery will not be keeping any set business hours.

Glen Ellen Inn now open six days a week

Glen Ellen Inn Grill & Martini Bar has expanded its hours and is ready for the summer season with farmhouse fresh cuisine, newly remodeled restaurant, and patio dining. The restaurant is now open six days a week, Thursday through Tuesday, 5-9 p.m. It’s still closed Wednesdays.

Pair the Dungeness crab potstickers, the mini Ahi tostadas, or the dry-aged filet and prawns with over 400 different wines, or one of the Inn’s famous martinis.

Find out more at, or call 996-6409. The Glen Ellen Inn is located at 13670 Arnold Dr.

Kid’s golf academy in Oakmont

Registration is now open for the Junior Golf Academy’s Junior Summer Camp at the Oakmont Golf Club. Instructors Jessica Reese Quayle and Rebecka Heinmert, both former competitors in the LPGA, are focused on helping kids learn and enjoy golf, with an emphasis on coordination and skill development. Practice will focus on various aspects of golf: chipping, putting, swinging, rules and etiquette.

There will be three camp sessions running June 11-15, July 9-13, and Aug. 6-10. There is a half-day option, 9-12 p.m., designed for kids age 7 through 13 and a full-day option, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., for ages 7 through 17. All abilities welcome. Cost for the half-day option is $225; full-day is $400. Register at

Rebuilding incentives for wildfire victims

In an unprecedented show of collaboration among agencies, Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is partnering with PG&E and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to offer up to $17,500 in incentives for property owners in Sonoma and Mendocino counties who are rebuilding homes lost in the October 2017 wildfires.

The new Advanced Energy Rebuild Program is an enhancement to PG&E’s long-standing California Advanced Homes Program and offers two incentive packages specially tailored to Sonoma and Mendocino county homes. Both packages offer incentives for rebuilding with energy efficient features and equipment, renewable energy systems, electric vehicle charging stations, and water-efficient landscaping. The program is expected to run through the end of 2019 or until funding is exhausted.

Incentives are only available to SCP and PG&E customers for homes in Sonoma and Mendocino counties that were destroyed in the October 2017 wildfires. For more information, requirements or to apply, go to or email

Summer nights, wine and music…

It’s still spring, but local wineries are getting in the summer mood with a series of music and entertainment options. Throw your picnic blanket in the car and check out these venues. Muscardini’s Simmer Down Saturday features Aidan & the Singed Whiskers on May 19, 5:30-8 p.m., led by local musician Aidan Eljumaily. Enjoy a glass of your favorite Muscardini Cellars wine on the patio. Cost is $3 cover and $10 wine purchase per person required for admission (includes stemless logo glass to take home). Find out more at

At Chateau St. Jean Winery, Skits Under the Stars open mic night is a chance for local talent to perform alongside actors and actresses from Transcendence Theater Company. On May 23, starting at 6 p.m., sit on the lawn and enjoy Chateau St. Jean wine and food from TIPS Tri-Tip Trolley. More information at

The Russian River Ramblers play St. Anne’s Crossing on Friday, June 8, 6-8 p.m. Food will be offered by Gerard’s Paella, along with St. Anne’s Crossing and Wilson wines to purchase. Complimentary lawn seating is open to all, ticketed seating available for wine club members. Find out more at

Cavedale road winery seeks expansion

An application is underway to modify the existing use permit for Petroni Vineyards to expand the number of events that can be hosted at the 35-acre property. The application is a “request to modify existing winery to allow for tours, tastings by appointment only, special events, and food pairings.” The application was made in Dec. 2016, by Rick Swinth of Santa Rosa-based Entera Associates on behalf of the owner, Cavedale LLC of Boyes Hot Springs. It was deemed incomplete at the time and is now back in revised form.

Details include participating in six industry-wide event days, and hosting (by invitation only) 18 agricultural promotional events. The agricultural promotional events would include 12 events at 48 guests, four events at 100 guests, and two events at 200 guests, for a total of 1,376 people over the year.

The winery is located at 990 Cavedale Road, at the portion closest to Sonoma, about 1.1 miles from Highway 12. The project planner is Brian Keefer (, 565-1908). The application has not been scheduled for any hearings yet, according to Permit Sonoma.

SSU opens new wine learning center

Sonoma State University hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Wine Spectator Learning Center, the new headquarters of the Wine Business Institute (WBI), on May 29, 6-8 p.m., at SSU’s Rohnert Park campus.

The evening will begin with a reception on the main quad, featuring wine from WBI program alumni and board members. Local dignitaries will speak, including SSU President Judy Sakaki, Marvin Shanken, chairman of M. Shanken Communications, Inc., publisher of Wine Spectator magazine, U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson of California’s Fifth District and founder of the Congressional Wine Caucus, and California State Senator Bill Dodd, representing the Third District.

The year-long construction and expansion project transformed the existing University Commons building into a state-of-the-art learning center that includes three advanced-technology classrooms, student commons, café and garden areas, and collaborative spaces for faculty and business leaders. A generous combination of private and naming gifts totaling $11 million were secured for the project.

Members of the public interested in attending the event may RSVP at

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