Moving forward from one year ago today, many highlights come to mind. The first being the overwhelming response to the comment period that commenced after the EPA opened it’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment to public review. I had the privilege of witnessing two of the meetings that took place within the Bristol Bay region and hear the responses that overwhelmingly supported the findings that were published in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. I wish that I had a picture that exemplified the tenor of the meetings.
Following the EPA meetings was the commercial fishing season in Bristol Bay and I fished the season with my Mother with whom I have fished over 30 seasons prior. Below is a picture that includes my daughter who is gradually becoming a part of our set-netting operation.
Following the fishing season I joined my sister in Oregon at a wine festival called the International Pinot Noir Celebration. We sampled too many wines to count and enjoyed amazing food from the area, including King Salmon that was roasted over open flame on alder stakes. After the hard work of fishing season, it was a pleasurable escape, but the salmon cook-out made it seem like a sensical segway. Before heading home my sister put together some meetings with winemakers who are legendary to me. We had a tasting followed by a lunch with Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards. Jason’s father, David Lett, was the first to dream of planting Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley and Eyrie is preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Jason generously shared his special break spot and his very special tamale stash prepared by Enrique the Wonderful. We topped all of that with the blackberries that spill over the wall into the break area and a secret bottling that is yet, if ever, to be released.
My sister also arranged an interview with Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra Winery and I was able to tag along. Maggie began her winemaking career with Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non and claims that she would have been happy remaining his assistant the rest of her life. She reluctantly travelled north to Oregon to check out an opportunity that was being handed to her and, against all of her expectations, took the job when she recognized the potential of the parcel that she would be making wine with. To meet her was amazing and her wines always surprise me in the best possible ways. Both meetings made me feel a bit star struck.
I returned to Alaska to attend and work at Salmonstock, a music festival that takes place annually at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in the Ninilchik. Alaskans take a lot of pride in our most renewable resource and the event is a great way to celebrate and promote protecting salmon. Headliner acts included, appropriately, Leftover Salmon and Ozomatli.
Soonafter my family re-settled into our life in Juneau to prepare for the oncoming school year. My son entered Kindergarten, a momentous stage in a child and mother’s life. He then contracted pneumonia and suffered from a collapsed lung which provided another momentous time in our lives that included a medevac flight to Anchorage and some time in the hospital. Fortunately he bounced back quickly and we were able to have some fun fall adventures while waiting for the snow to fly.
We headed out of state for sun and came back to snow, which was fine by me. This year has been a big year for both of my kids on skis and I have enjoyed witnessing their growth. My daughter is an adept skate skier and she is confident on her downhill skis. My son’s classical skiing skills really came along this year and, after a slow start, took to downhill skiing and was able to ski from the highest lift access point of Eaglecrest.
We made it to Anchorage to see family and both of my sisters were there with their kids. We ate lots of good food that we had foraged, hunted or fished from around the state, mostly from Bristol Bay, and paired the foods with some great wines.
Between work and work related travel I was able to go see my sister in Sonoma. She brought me to some great wineries to taste and we incorporated some memorable food experiences as well. Connecting with friends from Alaska was a huge bonus. On my way home I met my friend Jill in Portland. The hedonism continued as we ate and drank our way through town and into the Willamette Valley. Le Pigeon provided a very memorable food experience and we finished with a dessert that literally moved me to tears. Chris Williams, the winemaker at Brooks Winery, graciously gave us his time when we visited the tasting room. Later we were able to visit Jason at Eyrie and he took the time to taste us on a number of wines and share with us a very special bottling of un-sulfured Pinot Gris from Eyrie’s original vines. Enrique prepared a special batch of tamales and tacos for lunch and I was able to take some back to Alaska to enjoy. Awestruck and starstruck I was.
Work took me to Kodiak and I was able to visit Ronald at Slim Jones Ink. I put together my first blog post because his photography and art inspired me so and I told myself that if I ever made it to Kodiak I would have him tattoo a symbol of what I am working for.
My work has also taken me to Bristol Bay this spring and during a layover I had time to see the swans that flock there every year. I don’t know enough to recognize whether they were tundra swans or trumpeter swans, but seeing them gather as the Naknek River opens up and frees itself of ice is a sight I will never tire of.
Sun and fresh snow was awaiting when I got home and my friends enticed me to get out in it instead of crawling my tired body into bed. Having time with good friends on the snow, in the sun, with snow chilled wine and smoked fish was probably the best birthday anniversary gift I could have gotten. These are the kind of experiences that make me look forward to growing older.
Thank you everybody for another great year!