Last weekend was a trip to Lake County to have lunch at Shannon Ridge with Clay and Margarita Shannon, while they entertained Gene Burns and his KGO “Dining Around” crew (Joel Reidel and Robert). Gene’s an iconoclast in radio broadcasting. Jose and I both had earlier careers in radio, so we’ve connected with Gene on a very deep level. (When Jose was growing up in New York City, he used to listen to Gene on the radio.)
Clay & Gene
Any opportunity to reconnect with the man… the legend… is always delightful, as we’ve dined around before, but it’s been a while. We were all having lunch around Clay and Margarita’s large dining room table (that hosted a dozen of us), Gene sat at the head of the table on one end, and the rest of us surrounded him, listening… It was like we were his “callers,” and he was in the middle of a radio program. His opinions are deeply rooted in experiential learnings from a life of astute observations, and he’s adored by so many, because he only speaks the truth as he knows it.
Ada & Shannon
This was all heading into Girl Friends Week, and we were also celebrating this with a wonderful girl friend, Ada Allan. A recent widow, Ada, Jose, and I became friends through her husband Bob. I met Bob on “alt.food.wine.” (Yes, you can make new friends through the Internet that become life-long). Bob and Ada and Jose and I would get together to enjoy wine country. We’d choose a winery, do a tasting, and then enjoy a picnic lunch that Ada had prepared.
This Sunday lunch was our way of continuing the tradition, but it’s at a whole new level, as we were part of a much larger gathering, and it was filled with bright and talented people. Besides our hosts and the Gene Burns crew, we were also joined by Reed Renaudin of X Winery. Interested in Clay’s grapes, he became part of our lunch bunch.
Final guests were Shannon and Rick Gunier: Shannon is the executive director of Lake County Winegrape Commission, and Rick’s the marketing director. All deeply connected to the wine industry, Ada said more than once she that felt like a fly on the wall… This seems to be the direction this blog is taking, giving you an insider’s view… journaling….
Clay and Margarita Shannon, our hosts, are land owners in Lake County in the High Valley AVA. Their property is awe inspiring. It’s at elevations that take you up above the southern regions of Clear Lake, and the vistas can almost take your breath away. Clay’s got a happy cowboy deep inside of him. He’s growing grapes as a way of caring for his family. He’s the first one to say so. His brand “Shannon Ridge” was created because he wanted to be able to show grape buyers what the potential of his fruit can do in the right hands. Meanwhile, he works his way through his vineyards, marveling on a bear or elk sighting. This is all so out of the realm of the well-heeled Napa Valley, where he got his start. (I just read “well-heeled Napa,” and thought, “What a great visual and perfect description of what that valley’s become.” I, too, worked in Napa and know this to be “the” perfect observation. I’m only sorry I can’t tell you who said it… I was running too fast, when I read it… And, I must admit that I, too, love Napa… Glitz and glamour et al.)
If you haven’t heard Gene Burns lately, tune in to KGO, 810 on your AM dial. Here’s a short description of his life’s doings that I found on KGO’s Website. I can’t write this better or more succinctly, so here you go… the legend…
Gene’s worked at many of the country’s top radio stations including WRKO in Boston, WCAU in Philadelphia and WOR in New York City. From 1991 to 1994, Burns hosted a nationally syndicated talk program on the WOR Radio Network. The program was heard on 162 radio stations around the country. Gene has traveled extensively and broadcast programs from such foreign countries as the Soviet Union, Japan, Israel, Jordan and Canada. In 1968 Burns accepted a special assignment in Vietnam at the height of the war in Southeast Asia. A similar assignment in the Middle East in 1969 began a career-long fascination with that complex region. He joined the KGO staff in 1995 and calls the Bay Area’s Number One rated radio station a “performer’s paradise”! He hosts the Gene Burns Program each weeknight from 7 – 10 PM and indulges his passion for food and wine Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM as host of the popular Dining Around with Gene Burns. He lives in San Francisco’s Richmond District.
If you have any Gene Burns stories, I’d love to hear them. He’s one of a kind!