Organic props, Cream’s debut

Local winemaker Phil LaRocca wins leadership award, Oroville Denny’s goes local, and ice cream shop opens (finally)

Wine. The fruit of the vine. What a wonderful, divine thing it is. We are lucky to live in a region with so many options when it comes to imbibing. Of course, we are just a few short hours from the country’s premiere winery destinations—Napa and Sonoma valleys. But take a minute to peruse the list of Butte County’s offerings and you might be surprised to see how many there are—15 by my last count.

One in particular, LaRocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, is in the spotlight this week after owner Phil LaRocca was awarded the Organic Farmer of the Year Leadership Award by the national Organic Trade Association. He’ll receive his honor next month at a ceremony in Baltimore.

I’ve long known that LaRocca was a pioneer in the organic wine industry—the family-owned operation produced its first organic vintages in 1991 and is known for being the oldest and largest producer of 100 percent, USDA-certified organic wine in the North State. But I didn’t know the extent to which he is dedicated to the organic movement.

According to an Organic Trade Association release, LaRocca is chair of the California Certified Organic Farmers board of directors, has been appointed to the California Organic Products Advisory Committee, and has long been a member of the Organic Trade Association, where he currently serves on the Farmers Advisory Council. He also helped create the California Organic Food Production Act and the national organic rule on organic wine.

Check out LaRocca wines at the winery’s downtown Chico tasting room (222 W. Second St.).

Restaurant makeover Denny’s fans in Oroville are in for a treat this Saturday (Sept. 2), when the Oro Dam Boulevard location reopens with some perks. For starters, the restaurant is one of many—half the Denny’s in the country, in fact—to get a makeover, with a local twist. The Oroville Denny’s, owned by franchisee Anil Yadav, now boasts a large mural of the city, complete with local landmarks. The relaunch also means local diners can order via the online app Denny’s on Demand. If you stop in Saturday, you’ll also be treated to some cheap eats—an Original Grand Slam for $2.99 or a burger and fries for $4.99, to name a few.

Sammich time Cream is finally open in north Chico (yes, it’s true!) and I stopped in (at 2471 Cohassett Road, Ste. 120) on Monday to check it out. The line was long, which was no surprise for 1) a new establishment and 2) an ice cream shop on a 108 degree day. I’ll say I was a bit overwhelmed with options and the young man who took my order (after skipping me the first time) seemed more interested in speeding me through than explaining it all to me. I ended up with a mini butter sugar cookie sandwich with mint chip ice cream and mini Reese’s pieces for $2.99. Decent, but I’ll make another trip before I determine if it was worth the wait.