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inside

napa valley Winter/Spring 2019

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healthier and happier

you

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napa valley

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Napa fit Finding your Zen Take it outside East meets West Winter in the vineyards Public art, public inspiration A resort with a twist Great Estates 100 years as Napa’s cleaners Getting to know you: Rosanna Mucetti Living the life Skateboarders rule Valentine’s love A classical blacksmith Neighborhoods: Cedar Street Wolly weeders take the field Honey: Nature’s food Food Trucks of the Napa Valley Urban farming in Yountville Where in the Valley Crossword Old world Mozzarella

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A happy, healthy New Year NORMA KOSTECKA Advertising Director

W

ine country is noted for its pleasant and healthy living – good food, great scenery, and so many opportunities to get active and enjoy the good life. For this edition of Inside Napa Valley, we’re going to focus on health and wellness in the New Year. We’ll visit with instructors for yoga, Pilates and Reiki (and ask if NORMA you like it hot or KOSTECKA cold). We’ll get advice about taking your yoga outside. We’ll find your Zen in the North Bay, and we’ll look at the healing properties of

artisanal honey. We’ll learn about a Napa-based acupuncturist, and we’ll tell you about a quirky resort where you can swim, well, in a state of nature. But that’s not all for this edition. Writer Tim Carl will take you on a wide-ranging tour of artisans in wine country, including a traditional blacksmith in Calistoga, an urban farmer in Yountville, a shepherd who doubles as an all-natural landscaper, and a Sonoma-based cheese maker that’s firing the imagination of Napa chefs. For our Neighborhoods feature, we’ll travel Upvalley to meet the residents of Cedar Street, perhaps the finest and friendliest street in Calistoga. Back down in Napa,

we’ll launch our new Food Trucks of Napa Valley series with a look at a chef doing Salvadorian delicacies in a town best known for its Mexican cuisine. From the historic files, we’ll catch up with a bunch of guys who ruled the streets of Napa on skateboards back in the 1960s, and we’ll meet the family behind Greene’s Cleaners, celebrating a century in business. Since it is wintertime, we’ll let you in on what’s really going on in the vineyards (hint: it’s not as quiet as it looks – spring is on the way). And let’s not forget Valentine’s Day; we’ll meet two couples who describe their love from opposite ends of the journey that is

marriage. We’ll continue our Great Estates series, looking at the grandest houses on the market, and test your geographic knowledge with the Where in the Valley photo quiz. All of that, and we’ll also bring you a digest of some of the best of our wine and food coverage from the Napa Valley Publishing family of newspapers. So please join us in celebrating winter and spring in the Napa Valley, with the latest edition of the award-winning Inside Napa Valley magazine. On the cover: Women exercise at the Meritage Resort and Spa. Photo by Bob McClenahan. Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 3


Bikram yoga teacher Mara Lewis, third from right, leads a class at Napa Hot Yoga. Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt and husband Bruce Ahnfeldt are co-owners of Napa Hot Yoga, which they opened in 2017. The studio teaches five different styles of yoga and Pilates. J.L. Sousa, Register

Napa fit MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT M A RT Y O RG E L

From serious to sacred, healthy choices abound

T

he lighting in Pilates Napa Valley is subdued. Outside sunshine blends with the overhead lights, creating a gentle ambiance. And it’s quiet; there is no bass-laden music blasting. Almost empty this mid-morning, just two people are inside.

4 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Instructor Nancy Good is teaching newcomer Wendy Biale yoga to relieve chronic back pain. This is Biale’s second class. “I definitely felt better after my first class,” said Biale, as Good leads her through a series of low-impact stretching exercises. “It’s all a matter of stretching, learning how to control your body and improve muscle control,” Good added. From yoga to Pilates to spiritual healing, Pilates Napa Valley offers up a wealth of ways for everyone to take better care of

their minds, bodies, and spirits. The scene is 180 degrees opposite and many degrees hotter in an Intense Hot Pilates class at Napa Hot Yoga. The lights are dimmed and the air is sticky because the temperature in the room is 95 degrees. Dance music blares and a digital strobe light splashes spots of color around the room, just like disco balls back in the 1970s. Participants are working up a sweat. This is hot yoga at full throttle. Classic yoga is a low-intensity workout with mild stretching at

room temperature. Hot yoga and hot Pilates are conducted at temperatures ranging from 92 degrees to 105 degrees, hence the title “Hot.” Both are adored by some and controversial to others. The controversy revolves around questions that ask just what, and what types of extra health benefits are generated in a hot environment? Numerous studies show the health benefits of yoga at normal room temperature. Hot yoga proponents say Please see Fit, Page 6


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FIT From page 4

a high-intensity workout at hot temperatures forces your heart to beat faster so you burn more calories and get a better cardiovascular workout. Zachary McCloskey sees and feels the merits in hot yoga. He has practiced hot yoga for years and said the heat makes all the difference. “It helps with balance and stability,” he said. And it contributes to a positive atmosphere. “There is a great sense of community here.” “You end up spending a very spiritual moment in there for an hour and a half,” said Jonny Karpuk, who is also fan. He enjoys yoga’s philosophical teachings. The moral, ethical and societal guidelines entwined in yoga. “It’s very meditative.” Once you start practicing hot yoga, said Napa Hot Yoga owner and instructor Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt, “it all adds up. The benefits include flexibility, moving, and meditation. Once you start practicing you see body tone and mind and body come into sync.” For a gentler, no-impact approach to healing and restoring physical and mental health, there is Reiki (pronounced: RAY’ kee). It is an ancient Japanese method of holistic healing that uses touch to channel energy to balance the body and mind. Advocates say it activates the body’s own natural healing process. Napa Reiki Master and Sound Healing therapist Darleen Gardner is a certified practitioner and owner of Sound Healing Therapy. “This is all about balancing your body. It is very, very gentle,” said Gardner as she worked on her patient, Allesandra Tolomei, in her small Napa studio. Gardner also uses pitchforks in her practice, for their precise sounds. She said vibrations at specific wavelengths increase nitric oxide in areas of the body where there is pain. This is beneficial. Nitric oxide expands blood 6 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Marty Orgel

Janet Berardino, Susan Deike, Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt, Amanda Myers, Zachary McCloskey work out at Napa Hot Yoga.

Marty Orgel

Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt (Front), Amanda Myers and Zachary McCloskey work out at Napa Hot Yoga.

vessels and increases blood flow. It decreases plaque growth and blood clotting. Gardner said circulation increases in the areas where the pitchforks are placed, and radiates outward, which helps ease pain.

“Reiki is not a laser beam; it will go where it is needed,” Gardner said. Reiki, Gardner said, also helps balance your body. “Some people have sudden releases where they start to cry or have uncontrollable

laughter. But mostly people go into a deep sleep.” “It’s good for emotional well-being,” added Tolomei during her treatment. “It’s very relaxing, restorative. It helps emotionally. It helps center me.”


Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller.

A touch W OF

Zen Many ways to chill in the North Bay

Courtesy Rob Keller

M A RT Y O RG E L

e all know living or visiting the North Bay is a ticket to paradise. But even in paradise life can get hectic. So with the idea of starting the New Year on a relaxed note, here are some ways to chill out, decompress, and perhaps even find your Zen. THE ZEN OF BEES Walking briskly along Sonoma Plaza, Randy Coffman is overheard on his phone. “The bees are all over the place. I’m going to try to get them into a box.” On this bright summer day, Coffman, president of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wine Country Group with offices in Napa and Sonoma, was hurrying over to the State Park Visitor Center Barracks Gift Shop to corral

a swarm of honey bees. They had taken up residence on the barracks wall. And they were considered a possible threat to the many visitors streaming by. Absorbed as he worked to contain the swarm, a woman walked by and called out, “You have certainly found your Zen.” He looked up and responded, “I sure have.” Coffman explained that while he feels like he has been tending bees for a couple of minutes, when he’s done “I realize I’ve spent hours, even whole afternoons, tending hives. This truly is a Zen moment for me.” Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller laughed when told about the encounter. “The Zen of beekeeping. That’s rich and really goes to the heart of Please see Zen, Page 9

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 7


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ZEN From page 7

beekeeping.” While we all can’t keep our own bee hives, you can have your own personal beekeeping experience with the Napa Valley Bee Company. Keller leads private tours of some of the 25 bee apiaries he maintains across Napa Valley. Many are located at Napa’s most storied restaurants and locations like The French Laundry in Yountville and Long Meadow Ranch in Rutherford. Keller customizes half-day long tours to visitors’ beekeeping experience levels. A “Beekeeping 101” tour will be much different than a tour for experienced beekeepers. “We’ll usually meet at a local café for a cup of coffee and plan out the day that is custom tailored to the client’s desires,” he said. Tours cost about $300 per person. GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH LABYRINTH, SAINT HELENA If you want to literally walk along a path to Zen, visit the outside labyrinth at Grace Lutheran Church in St. Helena. “Walking the labyrinth without speaking offers a contemplative, meditative way to gather your thoughts,” said Deb Covington of Napa, before she began her morning walk. “This is a place for people to come together and newcomers are always welcome,” she said. Grace Lutheran Church’s maze is an exact copy of the one in Chartres, France, about 60 miles southeast of Paris, which was built in 1201. It is considered the gold standard in labyrinth layout. The retired Reverend William “Mac” McIlmoy came up with the idea for a maze at Grace Lutheran Church and it was completed in late 2017. It is outside, free to the public, and open 24/7 all year. BOTHE-NAPA VALLEY STATE PARK, CALISTOGA “It’s never crowded here. I can

take a nice, long walk and not run into crowds of other people,” said Jen Bennett of Calistoga, enjoying the peaceful ambiance of BotheNapa Valley State Park. An outdoor excursion along hiking trails, creeks and open land is a great way to let the burdens of everyday life melt away. And along with Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Napa boasts dozens of local, city, county and state parks.

Marty Orgel

Deb Covington, left, and Diane LeBlanc, right, walk Grace Episcopal Church labyrinth, St Helena.

Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller, center.

Within minutes of starting down a path in a park, hikers no longer hear street noise or other rumblings of city life. A local park is a great way to let the stress of a hectic day slip away. Bennett co-owns Lovina Restaurant in Calistoga. She called this is an easy escape, especially after someone gave her a parks parking pass as a gift. “It’s easy. I don’t have to pay an entrance fee when I drive in. I can park and start walking.” Jen Freeman is visiting Bennett from Los Angeles. Freeman said after a rough day, “it’s nice to get out and move. Bothe has great trails to walk.” Please see Zen, Page 10

Courtesy Rob Keller

Marty Orgel

Jen Bennett, left, and Jen Freeman, right, at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 9


Courtesy The Meritage Resort and Spa

ZEN From page 9

“And the paths are flip-flop friendly,” Bennett added, “meaning you can walk in flip-flops or other comfortable shoes, because the paths are even, gentle and inviting. Being outside, in this natural wonder, helps me feel connected to the season.” Annual parking passes cost $70. The one-time daily parking fee is $8. THE MERITAGE RESORT & SPA DAY PASS, NAPA If your state of Zen is more physical relaxation than meditative, locals and visitors can indulge in a Spa Day at many of the Valley’s world-class hotels. “It invigorates me. It gets the stress out,” said Alex James of Sonoma, who was visiting the Meritage Resort spa with his husband, Chad. The Meritage Resort & Spa is one of many Napa hotels offering Spa Days. You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy their spa. You can book a day pass at the spa and not have to stay overnight. Alex and Chad have been married for four years and decided to treat themselves to a spa treatment. Chad said they chose the Meritage because, “it was close enough to us for a quick, simple, really nice escape. An escape from the world.” Spa treatments are $165 and up. 10 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Marty Orgel

Retired Rev. William “Father Mac” McIlmoy at Grace Lutheran Church labyrinth in St. Helena. Randy Coffman corralling bees at Sonoma Plaza

Marty Orgel

Zen contacts Napa Valley Bee Company napavalleybeeco.com (707) 486-5039 Grace Lutheran Church Labyrinth 1314 Spring St., St. Helena (707) 963-4157 grace-Lutheran.org Bothe-Napa Valley State Park 3801 St. Helena Highway, Calistoga info@napavalleystateparks.org The Meritage Resort & Spa Day Pass

Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller, center

Courtesy Rob Keller

875 Bordeaux Way, Napa (855) 318-1768 meritagecollection.com/meritage-resort


Discover a fine dining experience, complemented by an ever-changing landscape of lush Napa Valley.

W I N E T R A I N . CO M | 1.800.427.4124 Winter/Spring 2019 ÂŹ 11


Take it

outside

A guide to getting out of the yoga studio in Napa Valley JESSICA ZIMMER

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apa Valley has many park and city locations where yoga practitioners can move beyond the studio. From Westwood Hills Park to Oxbow Commons, come prepared with your yoga mat, water bottle, and a relaxed mindset. Courtney Willis, who teaches yoga at Napa Valley Yoga Alliance, a Napabased studio, recommends taking a few yoga classes to learn basics like the sun salutation first. “Other fun poses include tree pose, eagle pose, and dancer pose. These are really easy to do in sneakers, which provide you with extra balance on an uneven surface,” said Willis. Willis recommends practicing in a mellow setting where you can find your own flow. “I like Fuller Park in downtown Napa. The overgrown trees provide a lot of shade. There, you won’t need to bring music. There are so many beautiful sounds with the wind moving through the trees,” said Willis. For a more lively practice, Willis enjoys meeting with friends in Oxbow Commons. “It has nice green grass and it’s a fun place to get together with multiple people for partner or acro yoga (a discipline that combines acrobatics, yoga, creative movement, and Thai massage). There’s often live music and an opportunity to grab a juice afterwards,” said Please see Outside, Page 14

12 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Michelle Erbs

Submitted photo


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OUTSIDE From page 12

Willis. Michelle Erbs, who teaches yoga at Yoga Passion and InShape, both based in Napa, also partners with Farella Winery in Napa to conduct yoga hikes in the winery’s “back country.” “We do yoga on their granite patio area. When we are hiking, we stop at points along trails to do yoga,” said Erbs. Erbs said practicing outside involves more literal instructions. “Outside, when we say, ‘Reach your hands up to the sky,’ you can really see and feel it,” said Erbs. Erbs said practitioners should search out flat, open areas. Level ground makes it easier to find steady footing. Most yoga poses require good balance. “Spots with awesome views are great. Canyons, vineyards, and hillsides all work. You want to find a more secluded area where you aren’t distracted by the sounds of cars and machinery,” said Erbs. Erbs enjoys standing poses like the warrior pose and triangle pose, as well as poses that involve using a resistance band. “If you bring a strap and put it around your foot, you can do the dancing shiva pose. One thing you want to be careful of if you do not bring a mat is poses that involve the wrists. There are bees, ants, and loose soil outside where you may want to put your hands,” said Erbs. Erbs recommends the Lake Marie Loop in Skyline Wilderness Park as well as rises in Westwood Hills Park. “I would hike the area first and look for the flat spots. That park has a lot of them,” said Erbs. Jen Jaia, who teaches yoga at Calistoga Fit & Studio in Calistoga, favors Robert Louis Stevenson Park, just outside of town. “A mile to the outlook, there are some rocks where you can oversee the whole valley. This spot has beautiful views. When you get up over the fog, you feel like you’re on top of the world,” said Jaia. Jaia also enjoys practicing next to the Napa River in downtown Napa and behind the library in St. Helena. “I recommend those who want to practice yoga outside first work with a trainer to identify their goals. They should assess their mobility. There are many different types of yoga that they can practice. A few good ones to practice outside are yin yoga, (which) focuses on mobility of connective tissues, 14 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Jen Jaia at Robert Louis Stevenson Park.

Lisa Ackerman

Submitted photo

restorative yoga, a restful, meditative practice, and Hatha yoga, (which) promotes strength and mobility,” said Jaia. Jaia said practitioners can practice outside for 10 minutes to an hour, “however long you have.” “If you have a yoga swing or other equipment to practice in one spot, you can also include inversions and poses where you hang upside down in your practice,” said Jaia. Outside practice awakens the senses, she said. “You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and hear the birds as you stretch or relax,” said Jaia. Lisa Ackerman, who also teaches yoga at Yoga Passion, said one of her favorite places to practice is Alston Park in Napa. “You can use the picnic benches for resistance. I usually start in a seated position in a forward fold to get the breath moving. Then I (alternate) a cat pose and a cow pose to stretch out the spine and shoulders,” said Ackerman. Ackerman then uses standing poses and lunges, leading up to a cooldown on her back. She brings twists, bridge poses, and “a few meditations” to the end of practice.

Submitted photo

Szefei, Dreamstime.com

“You may want to bring two foam or cork blocks with you. Although you don’t want to bring a lot of props outside, the blocks will boost your seat up. They also allow you to put a support under your head,” said Ackerman. Practitioners should wear layers because morning and evening fog, plus shade, can be colder than expected, Ackerman said. “You also want to wear flexible, comfortable clothing that can accommodate a lot of movement,” said Willis. Erbs said if you plan to hike and then practice yoga, you should take the hike without engaging in practice first. “See where the flat spots you would practice yoga are located. This helps you see how far into the hike you will do yoga. Your energy level determines how long you will spend practicing. You need enough energy to get back to your starting point,” said Erbs. Willis said an unplanned hike, plus invigorating practice, can be exhausting. “There is no opportunity for a wind-down afterwards,” said Willis. Erbs said although outdoor yoga can be strenuous, it does not have to involve complicated routines or plans.


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The Eastern

side of

healing Napa Acupuncturist Faune Towery said modern and traditional medicine can coexist VA L E R I E OW E N S Most of us have sought healing in a modern doctor’s office, but what we think of as modern, Western medicine has roots that are only decades or a century old. There are those that look to an older tradition for wellness and relief—traditional Chinese medicine (known as TCM), the prominent healing system of Eastern Medicine, has been practiced in the Orient for over 2,000 years. For one local acupuncturist, the difference between Western and Eastern medicine does not define her practice nor limit her viewpoints. With a desire to heal, Faune Towery of Napa Acupuncture

Practice, is working to improve the health and vitality of the Napa Valley community. “I knew I wanted to do a community clinic in Napa,” Towery said. “There was a need. Treating patients in a community setting has so many benefits. Our patients find the setting comforting. It offers a collective energetic field which makes individual treatments more powerful.” Located south on Trancas Street in the 5 Financial Plaza, Napa Acupuncture Practice offers a community approach to Chinese healing. Providing patients with individualized treatment plans through pulse diagnosis, Towery’s education and experience in TCM has enabled her to administer quality care to a diverse body

of patients. Treating complex and metabolic diseases, chronic and degenerative conditions, fertility, mental health and addiction, TCM provides relief and pain management, practitioners say. According to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, “Practitioners use herbal medicines and various mind and body practices, such as acupuncture and tai chi, to treat or prevent health problems.”

Napa Acupuncture Practice owner Faune Towery, right, begins a treament with patient SuzAnne Regalia of Sonoma.

16 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

J.L. Sousa, Register


J.L. Sousa, Register

Gretchen Knight of Napa receives battlefield acupuncture which helps turn off chronic pain sensors in the brain during treatment at Napa Acupuncture Practice.

Conceptually, they say, “Harmony between two opposing, yet complementary, forces, called yin and yang , supports health, and disease results from an imbalance between these forces.” The practice also focuses on the flow of qi (pronounced chee) or sometimes referred to as, “life energy” through the body. By using traditional acupuncture techniques and TCM methodology, Towery is able to alleviate pain and disease by inserting fine needles into points along the energy pathways, knows as meridians. Her practice uses the body’s own healing process, and her results are measurable. In an effort to enhance the lives of the community she lives and works in, Towery said she believes in providing affordable health care. Established as a non-profit in 2016, Napa Acupuncture Practice offers $10 treatments to patients suffering from PTSD and addiction as well as general treatments for $40 for the initial visit and $30 for returning visits. “I grew up in a working class family and I knew I did not want to work in a practice that did not allow my family to get acupuncture,” said Towery. “I wanted to be able to make it so everyone could benefit from it. We have evening hours and mornings hours to help those who work. It’s important to me that people do not have to take off time to receive treatment.” Looking to the future, Towery said there is and always will be a place for both Western and Eastern medicine to have a collaborative

J.L. Sousa, Register

A model with more than 300 acupuncture points used by Faune Towery at Napa Acupuncture Practice.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Napa Acupuncture Practice owner Faune Towery applies needles during a treatment for shoulder and rotator cuff pain.

relationship. “Because of the opiate crisis in America, Western Medicine has really embraced yoga, meditation and acupuncture since there is so little they can do other than prescribing drugs, surgery and physical therapy,” said Towery. “So, the number of referrals that I get from physicians has increased significantly. They are looking for options that help people manage pain and fight addiction. Treatment centers now have acupuncturists on staff because it has been proven that it helps curb the symptoms and withdrawal of different substances.” Saying that acupuncture is a complement to Western medicine, Towery embraces both healing philosophies. Her charismatic and jovial attributes give way to a relaxed familial

J.L. Sousa/Register

Faune Towery is the owner of Napa Acupuncture Practice. She is a licensed acupuncturist who provides low-cost services for the community.

ambiance dedicated to wellness. “My greatest reward is being able to help people,” Towery said. “I use to work in hospice and only saw the healing at the end of life. Through what I do, I get to help create life. I get to help people have babies, I get to help people in the prime of their lives. I have a balance of being able to help people all the way through their lives.” Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 17


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WINTER IN THE

VINEYARDS L AY N E R A N D O L P H It’s wintertime in Napa Valley. The vineyards are still, peaceful, and eerily beautiful at this time of year. Dormant is the unpoetic word most often used for these months, a time of hibernation, sleeping, and rest. But that’s not an entirely accurate description of what’s happening. With the exception of harvest, winter is the busiest time of year in the vineyard. Once the leaves have turned and fallen, vineyard workers begin the arduous task of cleaning, protecting, and preparing for the next year. This strenuous work will last months, often in very cold temperatures and rain. Even if winter is uncharacteristically mild, vines still go through a dormant period, and must be pruned and watched closely during this time. Cleaning involves cutting away last year’s branches so that the plants can concentrate energy on producing the coming year’s harvest. As well as prepping the vines for the next growing season, workers need to protect them to withstand the winter weather. Soil is piled around the trunks to shield them from frost, and crop cover is often used between the rows to prevent erosion. Dormant vines are now covered with a wood-like layer (“canes”) that needs to be pruned. Pruning is the most critical task in winter as it determines how the vines will develop. Many of the potential problems — disease, lack of flavor concentration, weather-impacted fruit — can be prevented with good pruning. If the vines are too healthy — if they have too many easily accessible nutrients — and they begin to bud, the growing season could begin too early, 20 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

risking damage to the crop should spring frost occur. During this stage, the focus is on directing plant energy to force the roots to reach deeper, to search for nutrients and water. This struggle is purposely imposed to make the vines and roots strong. Most viticulturists agree that the most complex, concentrated fruit comes from less than ideal conditions that require great effort. Just as humans succeed under difficult circumstances by building character, so do grapes. The most complex, intense wines came from vines that have been forced to develop deep-seated roots to survive. It makes sense – if the vines are allowed to flourish naturally, they will grow wild with lush leaves and tendrils reaching in every direction, which makes for a beautiful estate — but often makes for disappointing, lackluster berries. Wine grapegrowers and winemakers don’t care how beautiful the vineyards look, they care about the fruit. Allowing the vines to expend energy on leaf and tendril production means that less energy (i.e. flavor concentration) is going to the only thing that matters: the grape. Its proper development in the coming months determines the flavor and quality of the wine we drink. The serene period of winter ends with an explosion of life and color in the vineyards, when the first buds appear on the plants — it’s bud break, ushering in the new growing season. If everything has gone well through the dormant period, and if Mother Nature complies, the berries will soon appear and then thrive in the seasons to come.

Layne Randolph photos


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Tom Thorton

Tom Thornton worked with Kendra Kelperis, art teacher at St. Helena’s RLS Middle School, to have her students paint the individual two-foot-square portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson in color variations as inspired by Stevenson’s writings. Located at the corner of Library Lane and Adams Street the public art was intended to draw a fresh look at the RLS Museum, located next door inside the public library. The art was put installed for Arts in April in 2016 and taken down almost two years later.

The public

art face of

St. Helena installation seeks to beautify, inspire and honor the region’s history

22 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

A

A N N E WA R D E R N S T

t the corner of Librar y Lane and Adams Street in St. Helena is a billboard of sorts, designed and built to hold public art and draw attention to its neighbor, the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum inside the St. Helena Library. It is the intersection of a man’s admiration for a great author and the author’s connection to this region, the man’s love of art and his vision of public art and community involvement. “The purpose of that project has been to display works that blend serious artistic intent with themes from the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Its success depends on artistic expression that appeals to all ages,” said Tom Thornton of Calistoga. Art is a “central part of the

human experience,” said Robert Sain, executive director of di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, and it’s an important “ingredient for quality of life.” Public art means that it is available to the entire community for people of “all ages and walks of life.” Thornton, who is on the board of directors for the RLS Museum, considers Stevenson “one of the world’s great authors with a special connection to the valley.” “When I joined the board of the RLS Museum, I saw a collection and story rich in potential, but trapped in an old fashioned home. I wanted to refresh and modernize the appeal of Stevenson,” Thornton said. “My idea was to associate Stevenson Please see Art, Page 24


ART From page 22

with other subject matter in what I called exhibition ‘duets’, and by pairing and contrasting him with other authors, places, cultural phenomena, we could breathe new life into his legacy and bring more attention to his value.” The most recent installation was an homage to both Thornton’s great great great great grandfather who was a signer of the Constitution of the United States and to Independence Day. Painted in a flag theme, on the stripes of the flag Thornton wrote a passage from Stevenson’s book “Silverado Squatters” a story with significant connection to Calistoga, Mount St. Helena, and to Thornton himself. The passage was written at the bottom of what Stevenson called “the grade,” which is where Thornton and his wife, Brenda Mixson, own a vineyard. That vineyard supplies grapes for their winery, “The GRADE Cellars” named for the location and a nod to the book and its author. Matthew Thornton – Tom Thornton’s relative – “was the representative from New Hampshire to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776 and signed his name in the lower right corner” of the Constitution,” Thornton said. “He wasn’t the last guy though, because a couple of other late arrivals squeezed their names elsewhere. “We call Matthew ‘the family traitor’—traitor to King George III of Great Britain that is. So painting this Stevenson passage in the form of Old Glory had multiple meanings for me here on the Fourth of July. Stevenson wrote that passage at ‘the bottom of the grade,’ meaning on the Old Toll Road right next to our vineyard.” The first installation was created for Arts in April and initially intended to be hung for just that month, but it was so well received that Tom Thornton approached the city council to ask for an extension. It was up for almost two 24 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

years before it needed to be taken down to preserve it from any more weather-related damage. It was a collection of 27 twofoot square portrait panels each with Stevenson’s likeness on them assembled into a grid format characteristic of Andy Warhol’s work. “This grid assembly would be an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In sharing the idea with my neighbor, Kendra Kelperis, who teaches art to the RLS Middle School students in St. Helena, we quickly realized that her students could paint the repetitive portrait panels and add their own variations through colorful interpretations of RLS poems,” he said. “The resulting artwork had all the elements of success, including a refreshing new look at Stevenson, involvement by the community, and a new concept for public art display on St. Helena property for public enjoyment,” Thornton said adding that its popularity shows there “is an appetite for” public art. Sain said Thornton’s first installation was “terrific” and “hit the nail on the head in terms of successful public art.” Thornton, an architect, designed and built the structure, and he and Mixson paid for all the materials, including approval by a structural engineer for acceptance by the City of St. Helena. It sits on an undeveloped piece of property that Thornton hopes will be required to hold public art, whether it is this one or something new. “The notion of public art can be expressed in a broad range of scales. It doesn’t have to be an independently made object inserted into an existing space – it can actually be integrated into a space from its inception. The public art can be the object itself inserted as a focal object into an existing space or the environment of the public space itself – the emotional texture of its surfaces,” he said. “I’m a big fan of public art. I enjoy everything from heroic sculpture in public spaces throughout history all the way to the urban graffiti art of the ‘70s and

Tom Thorton

Kendra Kelperis, art teacher at RLS Middle School, puts some finishing touches on the art installation her students painted.

Brenda Mixon

Tom Thornton, left, and Kendra Kelperis, art teacher at RLS Middle School, toast the completion of the art installation at the corner of Adams Street and Library Lane.

‘80s in New York City,” he said. In addition to master’s degree in architecture, he also has a bachelor’s in both visual arts and environmental studies. His wife, Mixson, is an art lover as well and is on the board for di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. “As for public art, well, how else will so many in our communities participate if the art is only in places one goes to intentionally to see art? I think many people don’t think they have time or sufficient understanding to actually seek art out, but art that is out – exposed

– available — just might open the door of curiosity and encourage someone to dig deeper,” Mixson said. “Art enriches our lives, and public art is almost stealth in its ability to provide a special experience when least expected.” Public art “gets us to stop and look and see and think” and there’s a difference between looking and seeing, Sain said. It provides an “ingredient of cultural tourism” and is an added attracter to the region. Thornton said he hopes to have more community involvement in future installations.


Winter/Spring 2019 ÂŹ 25


Main Street Saint Helena

Downtown Santa Rosa


A

niche ni nic c che he all its own Submitted photo

Meadowlark Country House cultivates private, low key vibe - and a clothing-optional pool

W

hen you cross over the quaint covered bridge off Petrified Forest Road near Calistoga into the world of the Meadowlark Country House, you are in for an experience that’s unique to the Napa Valley. Because Meadowlark is not a Bed & Breakfast, it’s not a hotel or spa, yet it has wonderful breakfasts service daily and an attractive offering of rooms, suites and guesthouses. Here you’ll find find something that has guests, including celebrities and professional athletes, coming here from all over the world, many of who are repeat customers who wouldn’t stay anywhere else. And that something is a clothing-optional pool area. Yes, you can enjoy the pool, the hot tub or sauna in the buff. Or not. It’s your choice and no pressure either way.

K I R K K I R K PAT R I C K

If you go Rooms and suites range from $285 to $395 per night. Guesthouses range from $500 to $790. All come with a full breakfast, fireplaces, and private view decks and terraces, in-room whirlpool tubs for two, TV, Internet, Wi-Fi and computer access Meadowlark Country House is located at 601 Petrified Forest Road. The phone number is (707) 341-8005.

Kurt Stevens and Richard Flynn

But more about that later. Kurt Stevens and Richard Flynn are partners in the business, and your hosts when you are there. Many regulars say it’s Kurt and Richard who make all the difference. Because the Calistoga resort caters to many wealthy and famous people who value their

Submitted photo

privacy above all else, guests we interviewed asked that we only use first names for this article. One repeat guest, Ray, said he and his wife have been coming to Meadowlark four or five times a year for 10 years. “We keep coming back here because it’s really relaxing for us,” he explained, “and of course we

love our hosts, Kurt and Richard. We don’t normally come back to the same places over and over, but this is close to San Francisco where we live and we can get here in an hour or so. And it’s in the heart of the wine country; how can you go wrong? We both have a pretty stressful jobs,” he added, “so we come up here to relax and catch up on our reading. Please see Niche, Page 28

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 27


Submitted photos

NICHE From page 27

“We get a great breakfast here; eggs benedict and omelets, but they do special orders too if you ask. They have their own chickens so the eggs are fresh, and they grow a lot of the other ingredients right here.” Ray said the group at Meadowlark is eclectic but also egalitarian. “We’ve met everyone from bank presidents, to lawyers, to doctors, a whole gamut of people. There’s something about a place like this where you can unwind and leave behind the B.S. that people carry around with them. You don’t really see that here and it’s very, very nice.” “We were drawn to the naturist pool in the beginning, but there is so much more to Meadowlark than that. And of course,” he laughed, “we dress outside of the pool area.” Ray said they have they’re favorite rooms at the resort. “We have an upstairs room this trip with its own private balcony. All the rooms are very well maintained and very nice.” Another couple, Jim and Janet from Sacramento, were visiting Meadowlark for their fourth time. “We were coming to Napa for a wedding over 4th of July weekend and we were looking for a nice place to stay,” Jim said. “We looked at Trip Advisor and Yelp and whathaveyou, then we came across this place and it looked very comfortable and relaxing. We come 2-3 times every summer now.” 28 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Janet said the environment at Meadowlark was part of a lifestyle change for her. Originally from New York, she thought coming to a resort with a clothing-optional pool area was part of embracing California. “I’m being very serious,” she said, “I feel like I would have been less likely to come to a clothing-optional place in New York. We love Meadowlark and we also love Calistoga. We’ve stayed some other places in the wine country but Calistoga is very much our speed.” “Richard and Kurt have been great. It’s nice to be treated like a regular, to be known, recognized and embraced. That’s a feeling I really appreciate,” she said. Mike and Jackie from Scottsdale, Arizona came to Meadowlark to beat the heat and celebrate their 8th anniversary. Relaxing by the pool, Mike said it was the couple’s first visit to the Calistoga area after having previously visited Sonoma and Healdsburg. “This is the first time I’ve ever taken my shirt off in public,” joked Jackie. “I feel very comfortable so I don’t know why I was always afraid to do that. It’s great. I’m already planning a girls getaway here in August.” “The way Kurt and Richard described the environment here was very non-threatening to Jackie,” Mike said. “In a word, the reason we love this place is the hospitality. I don’t want to say too many good things because I kind of want to keep Meadowlark my secret,” he laughed, a thought that was echoed by several other guests. “This trip was 50-50 coming to the Napa Valley and coming

here to Meadowlark. My wife organizes all the winter vacations, so this was my turn,” Mike said. Alberto and Natalie, he from Los Angeles and she from Benecia, were visiting Meadowlark for their third time. “One thing that peaked our interest was that Meadowlark has a 24-hour swimming pool and a 24-hour hot tub,” said Alberto. “I have a serious hot tub obsession,” added Natalie. “This is a place where a woman can feel comfortable. It’s a very classy place.” Stevens, who bought the resort in 1984, said he doesn’t promote the nudist aspect too much. “We call it a sophisticated and cosmopolitan atmosphere where everyone is welcome,” he explained. “People don’t walk around nude here; we have a clothing-optional pool area not a clothing-optional resort.” But at the same time, he agrees that he has a niche in the market that has been good to him. “How did the clothing optional start,” said Stevens rhetorically. “For me as a European, it’s no big deal. But nude has nothing to do with lewd.” “When people ask me to tell them about our pool, I say it has water in it,” he said. And no one has to take his or her clothes off in the pool area. “You don’t have to do anything,” Stevens said. “But if you want to take your clothes off it’s a safe environment where nobody cares. We don’t want anyone coming for the wrong reason, and without being nasty, I simply ask those people to leave. It doesn’t happen very often.” Stevens and Flynn keep several

horses on the property. “In the beginning, the barn was the most important part. I bought it basically sight unseen, I brought all my horses here and was not real happy initially. Calistoga was sleepy and boring back in the day and I was not used to that,” he said. At the advice of some friends, Stevens said he added lodging to the mix after he fixed up the buildings on the property. “I went and bought a lot of furniture and bedding and furnished everything. I had to learn how to be a good host because I was a perfectionist, but that doesn’t really work,” he said. “When the weather is good, I need all the chaise lounges at the pool,” Stevens said. “We allow day-pass people to come here as well as overnight guests of course.” “Many times people call on short notice and we have to say you should have booked two weeks ago. Even our repeat customers have that problem. So we invite them to stay somewhere else in the area and come here on a day- pass. Regulars who have been coming here for 20 or 25 years don’t pay anything for a day pass.” “We invite visitors and everyone in the area to come and see Meadowlark,” Stevens said. “What you see is what we get, but you should leave your hangups behind when you come here. It’s very private and no one cares whom you are, that’s why we have celebrities and professional athletes who come here to get away.” “I could have sold this place many times,” Stevens said, “but I’m in love with my property and I love the Napa Valley. I will be here until they carry me out.”


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An estate

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A grand home and wine brand honors legacy of Napa Valley pioneer With a reputation for producing terroir-inspired wines, the Napa Valley is one of the most coveted appellations in the world. A region where dreams can come true, enthusiasts culminate to build, create and influence. Rooted in history, the region’s legacy dates to the 1800s. Characterized as a farm community, visionaries, such as Henry Pellet planted with one goal in mind, to be the best in the world. A true pioneer, Pellet was one of the founding winemakers in the valley. Alongside, Charles Krug, John Patchett, H.W. Crabb and Dr. G.B. Crane, Pellet paved the way for generations to come. With the purchase of Pellet Vineyards in 1863, Pellet planted 38 acres of his 45-acre parcel

30 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

in the southwest corner of St. Helena. Over the years, growth ensued. With the expansion to a wine cellar under the name of Pellet & Carver during the 1870s, Pellet’s determination led him to establish one of the first commercial wineries and become elected as the first secretary of the St. Helena Viticulture Society. Though Henry Pellet passed away in 1912, his legacy lived on. As the property changed hands over the years, the vision, passion and inspiration behind the name went along with it. Then, in 2004, the Krill family acquired a parcel of the historic property and built an estate and vineyard carrying on in the footsteps of Henry Pellet. Launching Krill Family Vineyards, the Krill

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family collaborated with a team of talented professionals to create the Pellet Estate brand and wine portfolio. Today, the vineyard, brand and spectacular estate is for sale embodying the character and vitality established years ago. Boasting over 6,150 square

feet on just over 5 acres, the luxurious European manor estate in nestled amongst the vineyards. A true dream-inspired property, the craftsmanship and detailed work throughout the estate is flawless. From hand-carved stone fireplaces to a magnificent custom made iron staircase, the


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home features 360-degree panoramic vineyard views, an open chef ’s kitchen, and a gorgeous 1,000-square-foot entertainment room perfect for capturing the grandeur of the Napa Valley. Additional outdoor features include, a beautiful garden and orchard, a custom raised swimming pool, loggia, fire pit, bocce and sport court. “The detail in the house is unbelievable. It truly tells a story,” said Cyndi Gates of Gates Estates Sotheby’s International Realty. “Different parts of the house come from different parts of the world. From the backsplash in the kitchen to the stained glass window up the staircase, the home features very special elements throughout that make it so unique. “ Just three minutes from downtown St Helena, the impeccable estate and vineyard provides a tranquil haven to relax and rejuvenate. Whether you are looking for a home away from home or a new place to call home, the picturesque estate, premium vineyards and wine brand, located on 2059 Vallejo Street in St. Helena, celebrates Napa’s heritage through quality and excellence. Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 31


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Celebrating

100 years Greene’s Cleaners grows up with Napa, looks to expand to meet the future M A RT Y O RG E L Greene’s Cleaners, the venerable dry-cleaning company in the Napa Valley, celebrates its centennial anniversary in April, marking a century of serving Napa residents with consistency, pride and quality. “It’s a great place,” said customer Ben Bezayiff, who has been bringing his dry-cleaning to Greene’s for years. “It’s their professionalism that keeps me coming back. It is their welcoming demeanor and their quality.” “Oh, man!!! I’m getting so old! Been using Greene’s cleaners for 37 years! That alone should tell you how good they are,” said Linda W. in a Yelp review. That was four years ago. And Greene’s is still going strong. Greene’s began when the late George Greene opened his doors in 1919. Greene sold the store to Glenn and Helen Paulsen in 1957. The storefront was moved to Jefferson Street during their ownership. The Paulsens retired in 1979 and sold the business to Peter and Terry Smith. During their ownership, the Smiths’ daughter, Laurie, worked at their Jefferson Street shop. She learned the business from the ground up. This is significant because when the Smiths were ready to retire, they approached Laurie and her husband, Alonso Corona, and asked the couple to buy them out. The Coronas did and have been working since to bring this hundred-year-old business firmly into the 21st century. Alonso is president and CEO of Greene’s Cleaners, Inc. and Laurie is CFO and in charge of accounting. 34 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Marty Orgel

Customer Ben Bezayiff picks up laundered shirts at Greene’s Cleaners as customer service representative Manager Rosa Becerra looks on.

Early 20th century Napa When Greene opened his dry-cleaning doors in the early 20th century, Napa was a rough-and-tumble frontier town. To understand 1919 Napa and the events that led up to Greene’s opening, step back one more century, to the late 1800s. According to Napa County Historical Society Executive Director Nancy Levenberg, Napa in the late 1800s was mostly agriculture but industry was on the rise. The largest industrial companies were tanning factories that produced

hides and tallow. In 1919 Napa had four tanning factories. As late as the 1930s, Sawyer Tannery was the largest employer west of the Mississippi River, with 200 people working. The tanning factories processed 1,500 hides a day. Napa’s second largest business back then was wheat processing. Both were dirty businesses, which helped create the need for a commercial cleaner. During this time, farmers and factory workers would need to have their jeans, belts, boots, and saddles cleaned.


Victorian era men dressed in suits. Women wore ruffled dresses. All were difficult to clean at home with just an iron. So the population started to turn to commercial cleaners. Fast-forward 100 years and Greene’s Cleaners prides itself on having close ties to the past as well as the present. During the 2017 wildfires, Laurie said, “Greene’s partnered with #NapaStrong and cleaned more than 5,000 pounds of donated items.” They created a storefront where anyone affected by the fires and those who lost their homes could come and choose from donated items to replace clothing and household goods. And most importantly, begin the road to recovery. Into the next 100 years But Laurie and Alonso Corona are not resting on their laurels; they actively plan and implement new operations they hope will keep the business open and profitable for the next 100 years. Taking their cues from the past to march into the future, Greene’s recently expanded into Sonoma, “It was a natural move for us,” said Alonso. Greene’s also now services corporate accounts like hotels, B&Bs, wineries and restaurants. Greene’s commercial business specializes in guest room linens, event linens and large textiles such as drapes and rugs, as well as employee uniforms. Greene’s offers free pick-up and delivery, wedding gown cleaning and preservation, alter- Owners Laurie and Alonso Corona. ations, leather cleaning, area rug cleaning, and smoke damage and fire restoration cleaning. “The decision to expand into Sonoma was made in large part because how successful the addition of full-time pickup and delivery services in Napa County to homes, offices and businesses between St. Helena and American Canyon has been,” said Alonso. “It was really not that much of a difference to add Sonoma County.” To help accommodate their pickup and delivery service into Sonoma, Greene’s Cleaners’ Jefferson Street location will stay in place and its Silverado Trail facility will be expanded. Today, Greene’s is the largest volume dry-cleaning and laundry company in Napa County and one of the biggest in Northern California. Greene’s operating process has also moved into the 21st century. Drivers use hand-held devices and apps to chart every stop they make and how long it takes. Cutting-edge computer systems track every single shirt, coat and dress and can pinpoint where every garment is located at any time during the cleaning process. This also drastically reduces the number of lost garments. And Greene’s is now green. “We do not use the word ‘chemical’ when talking about dry-cleaning; we say ‘solvent’,” said Laurie. “The solvent we use has the best cleaning power. The best environmental reputation in the country.” Greene’s Cleaners store and staff in 1947.

An early advertising poster for Greene’s Cleaners. Marty Orgel

Marty Orgel

Courtesy Greene’s Cleaner

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 35


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The Meadows of Napa Valley has filed an application for Certificate of Authority to the state of California for the expansion and has been issued a permit to accept deposit. RCFE#: 286801070 • COA#: 249 • SNF#: 110000292. An IOOF Community. A not-for-profit, resident-centered community. Equal housing opportunity.


GETTING TO KNOW YOU

NVUSD Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti If I won the lottery, I would: use the money to make sure my family and I could travel wherever we wanted, as often as we wanted. I would probably invest in a property in a warm, tropical place, too. Go-to day trip? A long hike on a Bay Area trail, preferably by the ocean. Why salsa dancing? I was born in a Cuban household. My mother is from Havana. Cubans love their salsa music. It’s a big part of the culture. I grew up listening and dancing to all the salsa greats and continue to appreciate the music. Favorite subject in school? I loved school, and excelled at most subjects. My favorites were English and history. Least favorite subject? Never had a least favorite subject. Cats or dogs? I have one dog. He is 10 years old and his name is Blue. My children adore him. Lunch at your desk (what do you eat)? Three hard boiled eggs, some cheese and a green salad with avocado. Favorite novel? My favorite timeless novel is The Catcher in the Rye. When I’m sad: I remind myself to breathe. What is it about the Curry family that you like so much? I am a big Golden State Warriors fan, and my favorite player, like so many in the Bay Area, is Stephen Curry. I appreciate how his entire family stands behind him. We need our families behind us as we pursue our dreams. When nobody’s around: I love to drink a cup of warm mint tea. Why teaching? Teaching is a gift, and I believe access to a high-quality education is everyone’s right. Education has been a transformational part of my life. Working in education provided me an opportunity to give back the gift and create access to an education for my students and their communities. My coworkers say I am: passionate about my job and enjoy every minute of it, even when it’s challenging.

Photo Illustration by J.L. Sousa, Register

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 43


LIVING THE LIFE

We’ve got it made C O L I N M AC P H A I L Health, happiness and prosperity. This is a common definition of well-being, and if we believe our own back labels, many of us who work in the wine industry have achieved some modicum of contentment. Barring natural disasters, we live in a beautiful region, with a temperate climate, and in a period of mercantile flourish for our industry. We make a product and live a life that our audience is enthralled by, or at least very interested in. In moderation, our wines provide a wonderful social lubricant that loosens tongues and opens hearts. As they say, “What’s not to love?” The enemy of our well-being is success—how we define it and how we strive for it. My mother was a Swedish photographer of note in the far-flung northerly islands of Scotland. She was once asked a series of “What and Why” questions for the weekly ‘Orcadian’ newspaper piece on local worthies. I was a distracted teenager at the time but her answer to one question has stayed with me all my life. She was asked, “What is the most overrated virtue?” Her answer was, “Success—because it is perceived as one.” Success is usually associated with well-being but is measured differently. We assess whether we are healthy or wealthy in the moment. Your bank account is self-evident, and your health is like having your car serviced. “No weird sounds, I’m probably OK.” However, we usually delay our decision on assessing success until some point in the future. A time when we feel we have reached goals that are related to our understanding of personal completeness achieved. From two bedrooms to three bedrooms, a cul-de-sac to a vineyard view, 44 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

a bicycle to a boat at the lake, from a nice bottle to a limited ‘Reserve’ allocation, from Macy’s to Mario’s. But these goals do not deliver on the promise we associate with them. In his book “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor writes about how we tend to have a happiness average, and whether we suffer serious setbacks or fortuitous leaps forward, after brief elation or spells of despondency, we usually return to our chosen level of happiness. In my observation, many wineries in the last two or three decades were started to represent the achievement of well-being. An expensive demonstration, but still at its core a simple “Look at my life, how I live, and what I have achieved” entity. Wineries can be deeply emotive places where wine sales fluctuations are interpreted as less about revenue and more as a demonstration of “They love me, they love me not.” Every bottle sold, or not sold, is a benchmark to the creators’ proclamation of well-being as success. To extend that thought,

will consistently take your breath away. Forget those things you think you need; in the eyes of 90 percent of our visitors we’re already a success and have achieved well-being. When my son, Lewis, was about 12, Sarah made a picnic for dinner and we took him and the wee one on a Polaris to a quiet corner of a beautiful 100-acre vineyard on the valley floor. Sarah laid out the blanket and lined up on the tailgate a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the vineyard, with a generous board of bread from Model and some assorted cheeses and charcuterie. As she did so, I seized the opportunity and tried to explain to Lewis how perfect this moment was. Mount St. Helena loomed over our awe-inspiring amphitheater of agrarian paradise. You couldn’t see any structures, the vines surrounding us were verdant and full of emerging fruit, the evening light softened and beautified every line. I lectured Lewis on how many people all over America worked all their lives scrimping and saving, “to have the chance to be in a place like this, having a moment like this.” I remember emphatically pushing the point, “…and you have it all now. You are only 12 and you’ve already made it...” Meanwhile he looked at his cellphone and said, “I don’t get reception here.” Someday, I’ll remind him of that evening again and I hope he might remember it differently; as a life moment of unmatched well-being in Napa Valley.

perhaps it is also well-being that we sell as the supporting cast. “A heady aroma of success, with a beautiful mid-palate of validation, and a long lingering sense of self-satisfaction in the finish.” Depending on what you spend, you rise up to the bar that says, “Yes! I have achieved happiness, health and prosperity.” My price is my chosen designation of success, nothing more, nothing less. We are often told we are selling lifestyle in Napa. It may be more accurate to say we are selling well-being. When my brother was visiting from Scotland, we were at a winery tasting wine at 10:30 a.m. and he said, “You realize that if I did this at home, I’d have a problem, but here it’s sophisticated — isn’t it?” I assured him it was. So, if we live here the good news is that after all the traffic, the home prices and the cost of health insurance, we (most of us) have actually made it. We have vineyard views, wine country lifestyle, moderate climate, good Colin MacPhail is a wine conneighbors, no belligerent sub cul- sultant and writer who lives in tures, and an evening light that Calistoga.


A delicate arc of gold balls, a radiant mini – cluster of diamonds, and a chain of perfect gold circles – This is how Gabriel interprets Bujukan, the Balinese act of persuasion achieved by a subtle wink, a gentle touch, and that one perfect word spoken in a whisper. After all, when you’re irresistible, why shout?

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“A star danced, and under that was I born.”

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Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 45


A (WILD) DOWNHILL RIDE K I R K K I R K PAT R I C K

Remembering the days when the Malihini Skate Board Club ruled Napa’s hills If you lived on or near a hill anywhere in Napa in the 1960s, chances are you saw members of the Malihini Skate Board Club doing their thing. Four original members of the club — Will Koepp, Sam Kresge, Richie Ward and Mel Owyeong — recently gathered in Alta Heights on one of their favorite roads to recall memories from the good old days. Owyeong said he started skateboarding around 1964 as something to do. As was the case with most skateboard enthusiasts of the day, he recalled his first skateboard was fairly primitive. “It was just a board with some metal roller skating wheels attached to the bottom,” Owyeong said. “Eventually I graduated to a board with clay wheels and that’s when me and some friends started skateboarding all over Napa including places like Alta Heights, Old Sonoma Road, or our most famous run, Oakville Grade.” He added that one time, after avoiding a car, he had to skateboard straight down the hill and was lucky to survive. “My friends all thought I was dead for sure,” he said with a laugh. “After we formed the Malihini Skate Board Club and we got better, I invited the Hobie Skate Board Team from Berkeley to come up to Napa and compete against us on a slalom course,” Owyeong said. “And believe it or not, we beat those guys and they were in total shock. I’ll never forget that. Two members of that Berkeley team 46 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Kirk Kirkpatrick

Members of the Malihini Skate Board Club gather in Alta Heights to share memories. Left to right, Will Koepp, Richie Ward, Sam Kresge, and Mel Owyeong.

were later inducted into the California Skate Board Hall of Fame.” Another member of the original club, Sam Kresge, also recalled beginning with roller skates nailed to a board. “Later, I upped my game by putting a piece of carpet on my board and riding it barefoot. Very high class,” he joked. “When I went to Redwood Junior High, I met Mel, Will and Richie and we started coming up to Alta Heights to skateboard on days we didn’t have school,” said Kresge. “The neat thing about skateboarding was that it brought us all together and we became really good friends.” Unfortunately for the club members, they all lived in the flatlands of central Napa and would have to travel on their skateboards a long ways before finding hills. “We didn’t have cars, so we would come all the way across town our boards and then skateboard all day before riding back home,” he said. “That was just normal for us.” The team members were fearless in those days and never wore elbow and knee pads or a helmet. “I remember riding on the shoulders of one our guys and it

never occurred to me that if he fell, I was going to really get hurt,” Kresge said. “We would also try and jump over barriers and land back on our boards, that was hard on the elbows when you didn’t make it.” Fellow team member Richie Ward said he began skateboarding in the 7th grade when I became good friends with Kresge at Redwood Junior High. “Then we got together with Mel and Will, and we would skateboard to Alta Heights every Saturday like clockwork. It was an all day thing. Eventually we had 12-15 guys who would show up,” he said. Ward also has vivid memories of hurtling down Oakville Grade, when team members had cars they could use to get there. “I remember when we would all slalom down Oakville Grade we would be in both lanes, and if a car came up behind us, we would move over. One day when this happened, the car behind us turned out to be a California Highway Patrol,” Ward said. “I jumped off my board thinking that I was going to be in big trouble, and what was I going to do.” Instead, the officer complimented the team on their riding

skills and asked if he could watch. “He even offered to give us a ride back up with hill when we got to the bottom,” he added. But it wasn’t always a happy ending on the road that’s famous for sharp turns and a steep descent. “One time, I wiped out coming down on Oakville Grade and I was covered in blood,“ Ward recalled. “Fortunately, a lady who lived at the bottom of the hill patched me up.” Will Koepp was the earliest to begin skateboarding of the group, beginning in 1959. Koepp also stayed with the sport the longest, eventually turning pro and skateboarding until he stepped of his board for good in 1999. After moving to Sacramento in his 20s, Koepp began teaching skateboarding through the many skateboard shops in the area, and also began racing competitively in the downhill, slalom and luge races. Luge, he explained, is where you ride a board specially made so you can ride down a course feet first, while lying on your back. “I’ve been clocked at 70 miles per hour on my luge board,” Koepp said. He also said he could jump over up to three boards while performing something called a “v-sit,” a trick that he’s seen only one other skateboarder do. Koepp, like others on his skateboard team, was also a victim of the treacherous Oakville Grade. “I wiped out when one of the clay wheels on my board exploded from the heat,” he admitted. The club members are older and wiser now, and understand the dangers of the sport, particularly for guys in their late 60s. Speaking for other members, Kresge said: “I don’t want to fall and get hurt; plus, my wife won’t let me.”


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Submitted photo

Chase and Dalia Ceja Swedelson

HAPPILY EVER AFTER ‘T

o have and to hold from this day forward, I thee wed,” is a declaration of everlasting love. A limitless bound of exploration given to those who dare to dedicate themselves to another. For some, love is a fleeting moment of infatuation, for others, it’s a journey full of wonder. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The giving of love, is an education in itself.” Though complicated, the depths of one

48 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

VA L E R I E OW E N S emotion can cultivate patience, understanding and unconditional devotion. For two local couples, the notion of “falling in love” is far more than a simple fairy tale. It is an adventure composed of ups and downs and heights far beyond what they could have possibly imagined. The Swedelsons: Newlyweds Dalia Ceja Swedelson met her future husband, Chase, while attending San Francisco State University in 2003. A serendipitous

encounter through their employment at Abercrombie & Fitch would change the course of their lives forever. “I was a freshman and Chase was a sophomore. As luck would have it, my roommate had biology class with him and mutual friendships began to form. The following week, I got a job and worked my first retail shift with no other than Chase himself,” said Dalia Ceja Swedelson. “That day, he kindly offered to give me a ride home from work on a cold


winter evening. Needless to say, we immediately started dating.” The beauty in Dalia and Chase’s relationship was the ability to give each other wings to fly. Eager to find themselves and explore the world, the couple made the decision to part ways after two years of dating. Eight years later, fate would step in. “Due to the beauty of social media and mutual friends, our love rekindled. Our first date, the second time around, included a 49ers football game and during the halftime show, he stole and sealed his first and last kiss,” said Ceja Swedelson. On July 7, 2017, the couple was engaged. From college sweethearts to working professionals, Dalia and Chase found a love unlike any other. Their story unfolded over 15 years and is an inspirational tale of romance. Exchanging their vows in front of family and friends, the joyous couple married. “On Aug. 8, 2018, the stars aligned. On my family’s vineyard, we exchanged vows of love, commitment and unity. It was magic,” she said. Today, the newlyweds embrace their flourishing relationship and stay true to themselves. Raised in the valley, Dalia’s commitment to her family and community is admirable. Commuting from San Francisco, Dalia’s passion is the direct result of the hard work and dedication instilled in her since infancy. As the Marketing and Sales Director for Ceja Vineyards, Dalia will follow in the footsteps of Amelia, Pedro, Armando and Martha Ceja, who were the first-generation Mexican-American vintners in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys,

Chase and Dalia Ceja Swedelson

Pam and Cal Watkins

Submitted photo

and continue the legacy of the Ceja name. Together, Dalia and Chase will work together to support one another, lift each other up and share in each other’s dreams as they begin their journey as husband and wife. The Watkins: 39 years of marriage Mignon McLaughlin once said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” The story of Pam and Cal Watkins is one to emulate, one to strive for and one to marvel at. For 39 years, Pam and Cal have been by each other’s side. Both working for JC Penny in 1978, the two met when Pam was just 23 years old. Though 22 ½ years apart in age, the instant spark was undeniable. Inseparable, the couple exchanged vows just one year later.

Submitted photo

“We met on Nov. 8th and were married on Nov. 18th, the next year,” said Pam Watkins. “My father always joked that he knew before I did that I was in love with him.” Newlyweds, Pam and Cal moved to Montana after Cal was transferred. For 4 ½ years, the couple made the most of their venture and started their family with the birth of their daughter, Kelli. Instantly, a new love had entered their lives and a lifetime of dedication and devotion to their own family would ensue. In 1988, the family moved to Napa and expanded with the birth of their daughter, Katie. Transferred to the local JC Penny, Pam and Cal continued their work with the retailer. “Cal worked with the company for 43 years and I was with them for 29 years,” said Watkins. “After they closed, Cal retired and took care of our daughters.” As a working mother, Pam embraced the partner, the best friend she had in her husband. “Our dad was Mr. Mom. He was the school president, he did our hair and went on every field trip,” said daughter Katie Wedding. An absolute partnership, Pam and Cal worked together to raise their daughters. Building a foundation of faith and support, both Kelli and Katie grew up in a home full of love, respect and pure happiness. Though Cal retired and treasured his time with his daughters, his work was far from over. Eleven years after he left JC Penny, Cal, along with his family embarked on a new journey. “After Cal was retired, he decided that it might be a nice idea to buy a deli and so begins the Monticello Deli and Catering Company, which we had for 15 years,” said Watkins. A family affair, the Watkins’ devoted themselves to their business and the community they cherished. Though they lost their lease in 2017, the couple has continued to run their catering business while caring for their grandchildren and supporting their daughters in any way they can. With a lifetime of memories, the story of Cal and Pam Watkins is far from over. Working together their entire relationship, their devotion to one another is inspiring. For 39 years, their love story has remained the same. “We have a wonderful life together,” Watkins said. “I only wish he was 20 years younger now because I can’t imagine my life without him.” Love is an adventure. It inspires, fulfills and captivates those lucky enough to find it. For the Watkins, love has been the answer to a lifetime of euphoria. For the Swedelson’s, it is the glue that will bind them for years to come. The key is to never let go.

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 49


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Blacksmith Ken Maxfield works at the Calistoga shop where he produces custom handcrafted items from metal. TIM CARL PHOTOGRAPHY

A CRAFTSMAN

OUT OF TIME Calistoga’s Ken Maxfield carries on the ancient art of the blacksmith

W

hen Ken Maxfield was a child, his father Robert owned the Calistoga Steam Railroad Co. From 1975 to 1979 the tourist attraction included a rebuilt 1913 locomotive that carried tourists around a 2.5-mile loop of track on the southeast side of town. Maxfield’s future as a blacksmith was forged when he watched as the ancient iron train was reassembled piece by piece, the welders working, the sparks flying, and then standing in awe as the grandiose engine bellowed steam before it crept down the tracks on its maiden voyage. “When I saw my dad and the others working on the train day after day, all of them with 52 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

TIM CARL their old tools and equipment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” Maxfield said. From then on, transforming metal into functional items that many also consider works of art was about all he could think about, or as Maxfield put it, “I was like a moth to a flame.” FROM A FORGOTTEN TIME Maxfield’s workshop, housed in a barn on the outskirts of Calistoga, is replete with handmade tools that hang from the walls above hefty centuries-old anvils that are positioned next to fiery forges glowing orange, their blue-tipped flames occasionally flickering skyward. The air smells of burnt metal and hard work, with the only sense of modernity the crackly sound of a Hank Williams CD and

a few brightly colored acetylene tanks used for welding. Outside, a 1963 Ford truck represents Maxfield’s “newest” vehicle. The entire shop and its owner seem to have stepped directly out of a forgotten time. As we talked, Maxfield continued to work, the sharp clang of metal on metal occasionally ringing out, reverberating off the walls. Clad in a leather smock and dressed in a handsewn white cotton shirt and dark trousers, the bearded blacksmith moved fluidly — his body, hands and metal seemingly linked together as they plunged a hunk of cold steel into the orange coal-fire forge with tongs, then twisted back around quickly to hammer the glowing metal into something intricate and


surprisingly delicate, such as a grape leaf. Unlike many metal workers, Maxfield does not use preformed molds or presses in his shop. Everything is handmade, often with little more to go on than a simple sketch drawn with chalk on the floor. T R A N S F O R M I N G M E TA L I N TO FUNCTIONAL ART “Ken is wary of technology,” said Mary Jo Geitner, Maxfield’s partner for the last 22 years. “He’s always been an old soul. And he’s also been uniquely fascinated by metal — he has a love for it. But it’s more than that, I think: It’s transforming something from the earth into something beautiful — not perfect, but real. He’s a true artist.” Geitner and Maxfield often work together designing projects, sharing ideas and sketching out rough drawings of what a final piece might look like. But these are only guidelines, and as a piece progresses it might change and morph as the project evolves and the final object is revealed. “Before I met Ken, I thought of metal as something fixed, something solid,” Geitner said. “But through his eyes metal is like clay. While working on a piece he might notice something new or I might see something, and he’ll work to uncover it.” A GATE TO THE PAST Because Maxfield does not have a computer or a TV and only reluctantly carries a flip phone, his clients come mostly through word of mouth or personal connections. And yet, travel through the Napa Valley and if you come to a gate or railing that is made from handcrafted metalwork, chances are it has come from his hands. His work at wineries and in homes is often shrouded in hushed silence, as if the owners are reluctant to share the secret, fearing that if others find out about this quiet artist they might have to wait in a long line for their next piece. However, one client, Tim Petersen, co-owner of Silverado Ace Hardware, is happy to show off Maxfield’s work. “I’ve known Ken since we were kids,” Petersen said. “He’s always been mechanical, and his iron work speaks for itself — it’s truly one of a kind.” Ten years ago, Petersen and his wife, Maryanne, decided they wanted to create a new gate for their storefront. They wanted something special, something unique, and so they called Maxfield. “I had a bunch of old tools, and we thought it would be interesting to make a gate out of them,” Petersen said. “After drawing out a few options on the shop floor with chalk, Ken suggested we add in vines and I thought it was a great idea.”

TIM CARL PHOTOGRAPHY

and you’ll find the artist’s name and his phone number etched into a small brass plaque.

Tim Carl

Blacksmith Ken Maxfield at his Calistoga shop ponders a metal grapevine that will be used as a base for a handrail at a Napa Valley winery.

From that point, Geitner suggested adding in a hummingbird because of Maryanne’s love of birds, and Petersen suggested adding roots to the vines that twisted around the tools, “like an old farmer had buried them there years ago.” From there Maxfield worked for months bending and sculpting each intricate detail of the gate. Today, the work of art stands at the entrance of Petersen’s shop on Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga. “We get a lot of people coming in and asking about it,” Petersen said. “It really tells a story of the quality of Ken’s work and his vision but also something about this place and our history.” The gate consists of two panels, one side an ancient grapevine brandishing grape clusters and iron tools, Petersen’s father in-law’s old Ford Model T wrench held tight within the vine’s roots. The second panel showcases a meandering vine with passionflowers — one of which has a tiny hummingbird poised in midair, as if caught in the act of sipping nectar. Look closely at the very base of this panel

THE FUTURE OF “PERFECTION” As time passes, it is unclear who might eventually carry on the ancient craft of the blacksmith. Only a few full-time professionals remain, and as they pass so does much of the art and craft of the trade. A few organizations advocate for the craft, such as the California Blacksmith Association, and so do places seeking to keep the art alive, such as Sturgeon Mills in Sebastopol. “Over at Sturgeon Mills, we are open to the public four times a year,” Maxfield said. “There young people can actually see this kind of work being done first-hand. Sometimes I see a light go off in their eyes — many kids don’t even realize that metal comes from the earth and can be worked and formed into something by hand. I like to think that a few of these young people might go out and carry on the craft someday.” Even with such inspiration, will today’s young people decide to follow what is a challenging career path? Is it imaginable that one day such a craft as blacksmithing will be lost to time with every metal and steel item perfectly formed from a machine? For now, the world has craftspeople such as Maxfield and his supporters as stalwarts, crafting items that allow us to pause for a moment, say in front of a gate, to ponder what really matters and why. “Metal can be formed into nearly anything you can imagine — it’s more fluid than people think,” Maxfield said. “Hand-worked metal items are not like those coming out of a machine, which are each the same. Making things that are not ‘perfect’ in what’s become a ‘perfect’ world is something that some people continue to find meaningful and important.” Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 53


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NEIGHBORHOODS

David Stoneberg, Star

Members of the Calistoga Cubs Cheer group practice their routine on Cedar Street, before heading onto Lincoln Avenue before Calistoga’s annual Fourth of July Parade in 2018.

A world unto itself Calistoga’s eclectic Cedar Street thrives on history, friendship - and plenty of parades A N N E WA R D E R N S T When Kate Stanley was driving around Calistoga looking for a place to buy, she didn’t have any particular area in mind, it just needed to be in Calistoga. Then she turned her van onto Cedar Street and saw something from her dreams. Large shade trees, quaint homes with front porches, beautiful Craftsman-style houses. “Some day,” she thought, “some day” she would live there. Two years later, Stanley bought the “worst looking house on the best looking street.” She was, and still is, giddy about her

neighborhood. Her affection for Cedar Street is shared by her neighbors. The lure of what some say is the most desirable street in Calistoga is more than just a pretty face. Residents of the tree-lined street agree that the dappled lane with charming homes is one of the more enchanting streets in Calistoga, but Cedar Street residents say it’s deeper than the pageantry. It’s a true community within a community. “I love that our neighborhood Please see Calistoga, Page 58

Anne Ward Ernst, The Weekly Calistogan

Raffle tickets were sold at Cedar Street Festival in 2014 for opportunities to win such prizes as an instant wine cellar.

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 57


Submitted photo

Molly McGowan and Robert Marvan model T-shirts with the Cedar Street Festival logo.

CALISTOGA From page 57

is such a neighborhood,” said Genevieve Welsh, who has lived on Cedar for 17 years with partner Thomas Rivers Brown, and grew up in her family home at the north end of the street where she and Brown are building a winery. They also own a house down the street that serves as their office. “People live on Cedar Street. They raise their families on Cedar Street. There is a true community that exists in Calistoga,” on Cedar, Stanley said. “It’s not just second homes.” It’s one of the oldest planned streets in the city and there is longevity in the residents, with folks like Kathy and Jim Flamson, who have lived in their house for more than 40 years. The people who reside on Cedar spend time on Cedar, too. People “are around, sitting on their porches, watching out for their neighbors and growing both close ties and connections to the community,” said Tim Carl, a frequent Inside Napa Valley contributor who has lived on Cedar for five years. The houses have a distinctive “Calistoga” look and feel to them. For example, there is still a cottage built by city founder Sam Brannan on the street and the Judge Palmer house that sits next to Pioneer Park are just some of the gems 58 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Lindalou and Michael Ryge perform on Cedar Street in 2014 while wearing the t-shirts designed with the Cedar Street Festival logo.

— and its close proximity to the main downtown businesses make it walkable, Carl said. Walking Cedar Street can take a while, sometimes a long while, said Jim Flamson, but not because of its length; Cedar Street is nine blocks long between Pine and Willow streets (not counting the blocks that continue on Rancho de Calistoga’s side, which is separated by green space and a walking trail nicknamed “The Loop”). “It takes twice as long to walk” down Cedar than anywhere else “because you stop and talk to everyone you know,” Jim said. Stanley’s mother was curious why she saw so many people walking past the house. It’s part of “The Loop” Stanley told her. At the northern terminus of Cedar, there is a walking path that leads to Rancho de Calistoga and forms an about-three-mile loop that is popular with Cedar residents as well as other Calistogans. “It’s gorgeous,” said Dennis Lang about The Loop. A lot of people use the walkway, he said. His wife, Michele Treuscorff added, “It’s a very popular circuit for us old fuddy-duds that can’t run very far.” Walkers headed to The Loop pass by affable folk watching the day go by from favorite perching spots out front. “It seems like a front porch culture,” Kathy said. “People kind of come by and talk.” Porches on Cedar Street are indeed gathering places. There are potluck porch dinners organized

by word of mouth, email or shouting out to a passing neighbor to join in. It’s common to be invited by an impromptu wave and beckoning to come on up to the porch for a glass of wine – there are, after all, at least a handful of winemakers who live on Cedar, and no shortage of wine enthusiasm and knowledge. An enterprising and curious wine connoisseur might consider rooting through the recycle bins on Cedar to find out what the experts are enjoying. Those porches — some hugged on the front and sides by railings and covered overhead, others with an open face — are premiere viewing spots to watch Calistoga parades. In fact, Cedar Street accepted an official “apology” from Mayor Chris Canning — who owns a house on Cedar but said as mayor he cannot opine on any “favorite” street, because “they are all beautiful” — in the past when he announced that the annual Fourth of July parade would not be lining up on Cedar Street as it normally does due to the construction on the Lincoln Avenue bridge, which is in the midst of a two-year complete overhaul by CalTrans. Canning knew that the parade re-route would dampen the usual festivities on Cedar – not entirely, but somewhat. The same bridge work would mess up the routine route of other parades like the annual Lighted Tractor Parade – largely due to the angle of the turns necessary from

Cedar onto the main route and the way the construction site was situated at the time. But Cedar Street residents know they have prime views come parade time. Welsh remembers when she and Brown were about to buy their home and her dad, Barney, cautioned Brown that living on Cedar Street meant you better love parades and welcoming people in your front yard – more on their particular front yard later. Dawnine and Bill Dyer had a parade-day porch party every year they lived on Cedar Street in the house now owned by Welsh and Brown. “I was working at Chandon at the time many of those years. We would have some form of sparking cocktails and a brunch party,” Dawnine said. “Anybody who walked by was invited.” Most Calistoga parades – Independence Day, Homecoming, Lighted Tractor Parade – stage on Cedar Street giving residents a behind-the-curtain-like glimpse at every parade entrant as they do final touches before for the judge-worthy glamour shots down Lincoln Avenue. “You can walk (down the road and) see the whole parade before it starts,” Jim Flamson said. “We almost never get to Lincoln” before they’ve seen all the entrants, he said. The annual Fourth of July parade was staging on Cedar Street as it always does – and it was hot, Please see Calistoga, Page 97


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“Wooly Weeders” are on a mission TIM CARL

Bringing the tradition of sheep herding back to the vineyards When Don Watson’s best friend died from cancer in 1986, Watson became angry at God. He had grown up in California’s Central Valley and intended to start a farm with his college buddy, Steve Peterson. They’d just need to spend a few years building their bank accounts. They were young. They had time. The two men married their college sweethearts and they all met often to discuss their shared plans. But those plans never came to fruition, and after Peterson passed at age 27, Watson and his wife, Carolyn, packed their bags and headed to Australia. There they hoped to find a new life — one with meaning and purpose. “We just wanted to get away — start over,” Watson said. “I had a vague idea that herding sheep might be in our future, but it was only a thought at the time.” In Australia, after a chance meeting in the outback, the American couple found themselves working on a remote sheep ranch and learning the trade. From that point on other opportunities led them to where they are now. Along with their son, Donny, and his wife, Stephanie, they are the owners of one of Northern California’s most prestigious sheepherding companies. And like most businesses in the area, they’ve developed deep ties to the

wine- and food-service industries. That, too, source.” came from an unexpected encounter. SHEEP “WEEDERS” MEETING MONDAVI When Watson started his handshake deal In the middle of the summer of 1991, Wat- with Mondavi in 1991, the idea of sheep son was grazing 500 sheep in a grassy, open weeding vineyards was novel in California. parcel adjacent to one of Robert Mondavi’s Although the practice had been done for cenOakville properties. turies in Italy and France, Napa Valley vint“We were careful to keep the sheep out of ners had not yet widely adopted the practice. the vineyards because they’ll eat the leaves and But since then, finding sheep grazing in even the grapes if they’re ripe,” he said. “But vineyards has become less novel and is looking somehow they got loose and got into what more and more like a good business decision. was a really nice-looking vineyard right next According to Watson, sheep can clear about door. I was thinking I had a big problem on 10 acres per day, and using other methods my hands.” (humans, herbicides or machines) costs more. Learning that it was Mondavi’s property, The practice also has positive environmental Watson contacted their friend Holly Peterson impacts. (Mondavi’s chef at the time) and offered to A friend of Watson and another early donate a couple of lambs as atonement. The adopter of “sheeping” was Clay Shannon, winery agreed. owner of Shannon Ridge Wines and Shannon “So I delivered two butchered lambs to Ranches, a vineyard management company, the winery kitchen at about 7 o’clock in the which services Napa Valley wineries such as morning,” Watson said. “There’s this old guy Clos Pegase, Girard, Cosentino and Charles sitting at the counter drinking coffee. He gets Krug. right up and helps me hang the lambs in the “Throughout the year the sheep are eating refrigerator and then offers to take me on a summer annual grasses and weeds, and then tour of the winery. I thought he might be the they start on the winter annual weeds and security guard. Later I find out that was Robert grasses. This process we call fertilizing with Mondavi himself. I had no idea.” our woolly compost machines,” Shannon Mondavi never mentioned the lamb-in-the- said. “Sheep have rumen in their stomachs vineyard incident, but a few weeks later (after that accelerates the breakdown of grasses and the grapes had been harvested) Watson received weeds and turns it into poop that’s scattered a call. throughout the vineyard.” “Mondavi wanted the sheep back in the According to Shannon, the poop is vineyard,” Watson said. “They wanted them for weed control and as a natural fertilizer Please see Sheep, Page 62

Don and Carolyn Watson, owners of Napa Valley Lamb Co. “Wooly Weeders,” stand in front of one of Clay Shannon’s vineyards in Lake County. The Watsons, along with Shannon (Shannon Ranches and Shannon Ridge Wines) and Robert and Jamie Irwin (Kaos Sheep Outfit) have formed a loose alliance of Northern California sheepherders who service many of the area’s vineyards. TIM CARL PHOTOGRAPHY

60 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019


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TIM CARL PHOTOGRAPHY

A sheep (ewe) and her lamb graze one of Clay Shannon’s vineyards in Lake County. Shannon (Shannon Ranches and Shannon Ridge Wines) and Don Watson (Napa Valley Lamb Co., “Wooly Weeders”), along with Robert and Jamie Irwin (Kaos Sheep Outfit) have formed a loose alliance of Northern California sheepherders who service many of the area’s vineyards.

Starks, he learned, was having a problem of his own: How could he cost-effectively mow his 1,600 acres of hilly property? From page 60 “I met Jere on a plane while flying to Denver,” Watson said. “At that point, I was paying composed of more available fertilizer than that about $1,000 a day for extra hay, so things were of normal sources. pretty tough. When Jere asked when I could “This form of nitrogen creates a good slow get the sheep to his place, I said, ‘How about release of fertilizer for the vines,” Shannon said. tomorrow?’” “This also leads to fewer pest issues, which means less spraying, fewer tractors, less diesel WOOL, WEEDS, FOOD AND FIRE used and no tractor tires to compact the earth.” According to Watson, the local demand for Beyond the weeding and pooping, many his sheeps’ wool is on the increase, but he says herders have found that their flocks can also currently the bulk of his business is split mostly handle some more technical vineyard duties, between the work his weeders do and selling his such as “leafing,” which is typically done by lamb meat to Bay Area restaurants. Because the human hands. sheep are local and graze at organic locations, “Some years we put sheep back in the vine- their meat is highly prized and has graced the yards at bunch closure to eat the basal leaves in menus of some of the area’s finest establishments the fruit zone (to improve ripening of clusters) — such as Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and San while the fruit is green and acidic,” he said. Francisco’s Quince — and has been a consistent “The sheep will not damage the fruit (when it’s addition to Yountville’s Mustards Grill since the green). We call this ‘sheafing,’ — leaf removal early 1990s. with sheep.” “When the lamb is of such high quality and Shannon points to what he calls the “ovis” is also this fresh it basically takes the experience (Latin for sheep) cycle. to another level,” said Mustards Grill executive “The entire time these sheep are eating, mak- chef and partner Michael Foster. “Having a ing fertilizer and reducing the use of fossil fuels relationship with Don for so many years, the the sheep are (growing wool and) making milk restaurant has come to learn about how the to feed their lambs, which in turn feeds people,” lamb’s changing diet throughout the year can he said. “This is a truly sustainable system.” affect the flavor and texture of the meat. Knowing this, we can design new dishes that highlight HAVING A LOT OF SHEEP MEANS not only the quality but are also dialed into the NEEDING A LOT OF GRASS season. That’s just something you can’t get from By the early 2000s, Watson’s herd had grown products farmed from who knows where and by to nearly 18,000 sheep that “mowed” nearly all who knows who.” of Mondavi’s vineyards. But when the Mondavi Beyond the sheep working in vineyards, supWinery sold to Constellation Brands in 2004 plying quality meat to local restaurants and wool Watson was in a quandary. to local manufacturers, the biggest demand for “We had a lot of sheep at that point,” he their services today is coming from an entirely said. “We weighed the idea of starting fresh in new direction. Colorado. But in the meantime, where do you “Fire control has become our No. 1 source of put them all? They still need to eat.” new business lately,” Watson said. But through another chance encounter, this Writer and philanthropist Terry Gamble and time with Jere Starks, vice president of facilities her husband, Peter Boyer, own a 200-acre ranch and operations of the Sonoma Raceway at Sears in the Carneros region. For the last five years, Point, Watson found a way out of his dilemma. they’ve been using Watson’s sheep for weed and

SHEEP

62 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

poison oak control. According to Gamble, when the 2017 fires hit the region, their land and trees remained relatively unscathed while other nearby structures and trees were lost. She attributes much of the success to Wooly Weeders. “Initially we brought them on as a way to beautify the property and improve carbon sequestration of the land,” Gamble said. “But Don’s focus, even back then, was to highlight the benefits of fire control. And he was right. By removing much of the taller grass and bramble, the fire was not able to spread quickly or reach the structures. But it was also unable to spread upward into the trees, which is what saved most of our oaks.” A FUTURE OF HOPE Be it for fire protection, vineyard health or just to have the company of herd animals, clients of Wooly Weeders quickly become accustomed to the sight and sounds of the sheep as they graze or the occasional call of one of the trained Peruvian sheepherders as they direct the dogs — primarily border collies and Great Pyrenees — that function both to keep the sheep directed and in a group and to keep predators such as coyotes, mountain lions and golden eagles away. As we talked at Sonoma Raceway in Carneros, the sun began to drift toward the horizon and the rolling green hills in the distance were obscured by the advancing fog. We watched as Donny Watson worked alongside Peruvian sheepherder Adrian Estrella Espinoza and their dogs to lead the sheep to where they’d rest for the night. Watson paused and took a deep and audible breath. In the distance, the soft and comforting sounds of the sheep ‘baaing’ echoed throughout the landscape. “I’m no longer angry with God,” Watson said, turning his gaze skyward. “You know the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11,” he asked rhetorically, pausing only a moment before he recited the verse from memory: “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declared the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”


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Wine &dine in the Napa Valley

Maria Sestito

Winter/Spring 2019 ÂŹ 65


Honey’s healthy benefits M A RT Y O RG E L

Nature’s sweet treat has many uses, but be sure to read the label The health benefits of wine in the Napa Valley and across the globe have long been documented; from containing healing antioxidants to helping boost the immune system, to increasing bone density, and to reducing the risk of stroke. But another often overlooked crop produced in the Valley with healthy benefits is honey—the sweet nectar that bees create after they buzz around pollinating plants and flowers. Pure honey from a jar. Honey harvested for its pollen to fight allergies and to make beeswax, royal jelly, and mead.

Milous Chab, Dreamstime.com

66 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Like health benefits attributed to wine, honey has also proven to provide benefits ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol, to helping reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. What folks might not know about honey, said Dr. Julia Mueller at Kaiser Health, Napa, is that it is also often used in medicine for wound management and as a cough suppressant. “It is a superlative cough suppressant that works by decreasing the need to cough,” she said. “Honey is recommended for children because it is tastes better than many cough syrups.” But it is not recommended for children under the age of one because it can cause infant botulism spores. Wound management studies have documented the benefits of honey. “Honey has a broad spectrum of anti-bacterial qualities in wound treatment,” said Mueller. “It is used to treat people with serious scrapes and

burns.” Doctors use manuka honey, a rare and expensive honey that comes from bees that pollenate the manuka bush, which is only found in New Zealand and a small part of Australia. But if you want to try honey on a wound at home, and cost is a factor, even plain, pure honey can be used, said Mueller. Veterinarians also use honey on cats and dogs. Paul Hess at the Silverado Veterinary Hospital said it is used in skin scrapes, road rash, and deep cuts. “It speeds up healing and keeps infections at bay,” he said. Most honey produced in Napa and surrounding counties is sustainably farmed. And because it is 100 percent natural, it is also produced in far less quantity than the honey found on supermarket shelves. “There’s a huge rift between sustainable bee keepers and those who use chemicals, like in China,” said Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller. “There’s not much to forage for in vineyards. Bees have to be moved to the deep hills to forage,” he said. Because raising bees and making honey is so work- intensive the price of honey is high. Sustainably produced honey now costs $2 to $3 per ounce. A quart can be as high as $62. The decimation of bee hives by mites also adds to the cost and difficulty of keeping bees and raising the cost of a jar of honey. “This last season was not great,” said Carlos Corrales, General Manager of Marshall’s Farm Flying Bee Ranch in American Canyon. Marshall’s is one of, if not the largest, honey producers in the area and produces 20 to 35 barrels of honey a year. “Mites are always a threat,” he said. “We try to breed from the strongest hives; We are sustainable, organic, and use no chemicals, which makes combating mites even tougher.”


Marty Orgel

Carlos Corrales, general manager of Marshall’s Farm Flying Bee Ranch, American Canyon in front of his beehives.

WHAT’S IN YOUR HONEY? BEWARE OF LABELS Lily Brady of Pleasanton was dining at a North Bay café when the subject of honey came up. Brady recently completed a class in bee keeping and was appalled to learn about production practices by some domestic and foreign, non-sustainable honey producers in the U.S. and especially in China. After doing more research, Brady came to the conclusion that many mass-market honey producers care more about the end product than the health of their bees. “The manipulation on wines and juices is much different than what’s done to bees,” she said. “Bees are breathing, feeling creatures.” She is not alone. There is growing concern about the how some bee keepers produce their honey — especially in China where fraudulently produced honey is labeled as being pure. To create low-cost honey, unscrupulous Chinese bee keepers label it as coming from a single, desirable flower while it is really a mixture of cheaper and many different and less costly flower blends. Some add sugary syrups like cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to cut honey and increase volume, then label it as all natural to increase profit margins. Others harvest their honey ahead of time and dry it themselves to cut costs instead of letting it dry naturally over a longer period of time. Chinese honey was banned in the European Union almost a decade ago after Chinese producers were accused of mislabeling their honey and adulterating it with animal medicine, lead, and other heavy metals. Chinese producers now dump their honey in the U.S. where the FDA has not put any restrictions into place. “Any honey from China should be suspect,” said Keller at Napa Valley Bee Company. “Foreign and many U.S.-based honey producers use fungicides and insecticides,” he said. “Bees are under tremendous stress these days. It’s challenging worldwide to keep bee hives.” The Chinese consulate in San Francisco did not return phone calls seeking a comment. Misleading labels can be found on honey jars

Dreamstock,Dreamstime.com

Bettapoggi, Dreamstime.com

in many chain grocery stores. And “local” does not always mean local. A quick survey of honey available in North Bay grocery stores bears this out. Front labels proclaiming the honey was “local “said something altogether different on the back labels. If not outright false, honey labels can be purposely misleading. One brand that said it was local honey on the front label said it was made in Iowa on the back label. Local bees in Iowa, perhaps, but not local bees in Napa. Another jar labeled on the front as being from California had a back label saying it was made in Kansas. Another jar labeled as being made from “Local Honey Made by Local Bees” was from Colorado. Other jars labeled on the front as local were labeled on the back as being imported from

Australia and Brazil. Only one bottle of honey labeled as being local was even remotely accurate. It was made in Oakland. “From now on,” said Brady during her North Bay visit, “I’ll get my honey from my certified sustainable, neighborhood, farmers market.” Yet that may be a challenge. During a recent visit to the Napa Farmers Market, only one vendor was selling locally produced honey and it was from Marin. Another Sonoma honey producer at the Napa Farmers Market was selling only Sonoma made honey jelly. “We’re still rebuilding from the 2017 fires,” said Austin Lely, of Bee-Well Farms in Sonoma. “It might take us until 2020 until we can start harvesting honey again at any meaningful levels,” he said. Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 67


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FOOD TRUCKS OF THE NAPA VALLEY

PLATANITO LATIN CUISINE (formerly Platanito Pupusas)

Maria Sestito photos

M A R I A S E S T I TO

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hat you’re eating: Pupusas, or thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and beans or meat (think: chipotle chicken, pork belly, chorizo) heated up on a grill and topped with pickled cabbage and salsa. Pupusas are what the truck is known for, but it also offers a tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Who’s making your food: Maria Trujillo started selling her pupusas to friends and neighbors before enlisting her Marine Corps veteran son, Arturo Bibiano, to help her start selling them full time. The duo began selling pupusas at the Napa Farmers Market in 2015 and started their food truck in 2017. Pupusas, which originated in El Salvador, aren’t typical in Mexican culture, Bibiano said. But even skeptical Salvadorians who 70 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

visit the truck come back again. “We’ve had no complaints about our pupusas,” he said. And why should they? They are the family’s bestsellers. Don’t leave without trying: The platano maduro frito — fried plantains — with condensed milk. This sweet and savory snack is also

available plain or with sour cream. But live a little — get the milk. Pro tip: The pupusas, which are made to order, take about 10 minutes to make. So call ahead or text your order to 707-812-2989, especially if you’re on your lunch break. Prices: Tacos start at $2,

pupusas, fish tacos and plantains are $5 each. Burritos and quesadillas are $12. Where to find it: The corner of Soscol Avenue and Vallejo Street in front of Umpqua Bank between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday—Friday (FYI: They’re busiest at lunch, dinner and just before closing). During the winter months, Platanito Latin Cuisine is at the Napa Farmers Market in South Napa Century Center parking lot, 195 Gasser Drive, on Saturdays between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. When the market closes, the truck heads back to its corner until 9 p.m. Between April and September, when the farmers market runs Tuesdays and Saturdays, the truck will be there. Word to the wise: The truck is available for catering and community events, so check the Facebook page for updates.


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Peter Jacobsen harvests a few of the winter vegetables at his Yountville farm.

Tim Carl

Napa Valley’s

‘culinary muse’ From weekend vacationers to stewards of their land, Jacobsens spread the love of farming TIM CARL For 35 years, Peter and Gwendolyn Jacobsen have owned and operated a small farm within the Yountville city limits. They live and work primarily in San Francisco, but they initially became farmers because an orchard existed on their 1 1/3-acre weekend property. Over time, they’ve grown a deep appreciation for their farm and gained an ever-increasing respect for both the soil and the plants that grow there. As a result, their efforts have influenced Napa Valley’s culinary landscape and beyond. “For Gwen and me it was as if we’d stepped into our rightful place here at the farm,” Jacobsen 72 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

produce goes to Yountville’s Michelin three-star restaurant, The French Laundry, with the remainder going to other highly regarded Bay Area eateries, such as San Francisco’s SPQR. A SMALL-TOWN FARM Jacobsen and I met on a rainy day in January. Hedged by a perimeter of tall cypress trees, the farm was smaller than I imagined. Situated on the edge of town, surTim Carl rounded by tracts of houses, it is like a small oasis. Large redwood Aerial view of Jacobsen Orchards, located at the edge of Yountville trees tower over a modest twosaid. “When we first got here all boxes around to restaurants, many story wooden home flanked by an the fruit was just falling on the of whom loved the variety and orchard and garden. ground, but we couldn’t bring our- freshness.” From the orchard came the selves to waste it and so we carried Today, 80 percent of their chatter of birds as they clustered


on the leafless branches of the 120 different types of fruit trees or from their hidden perches within the green foliage of 16 different types of citrus. Worm casings dotted the earth and a fuzz of newly sprouted green grass carpeted everything that had not been tilled into rich-dark-earth rows. As we walked and talked, Jacobsen occasionally stopped and either reached up into the branches of a tree or kneeled down to grab an edible morsel. “Take this, for example,” he said, reaching down and plucking off a tiny green sprig from the base of one of the enormous redwood trees. “When they’re tender like this these have a wonderful flavor that is reminiscent of citrus and pine.” He handed me the delicate cutting and I placed it on my tongue and then chewed it lightly. Indeed it did have a grapefruit-rindlike taste and finished with a distinctly cedar note. “I’m not a chef, but I sometimes think of myself as a culinary muse,” he said. “When I taste something new I immediately think about what other food it might go with and which chef might be able to appreciate it best.” A SATISFYING JOURNEY Gwendolyn (Gwenny to her friends) and Peter met while at college in Florida — her focus physics and his dentistry. Eventually they would move to the Bay Area, where he’d work as a dentist and professor of dentistry while she’d run their office. “Deep down I think we are both caregivers,” Jacobsen said. “This includes giving care to plants — nurturing them. Caring for them is a sort of meditation, but it has given us an opportunity to work on something together and also allowed us a connection with aspiring young people, as in chefs, students and farmers.” Every year, the Jacobsens host students from the various local colleges and culinary schools to visit their farm and learn about how food is grown. “The whole experience was eye-opening — I mean, it changed my life,” said David Cruz, a

third-year student at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone who visited the Jacobsen’s farm last summer. “I’d never seen where my food was coming from before. I also didn’t know how much work and care goes into growing and transporting all the food we eat.” Ryan Hill, proprietor of Yountville’s Hill Family Estate winery and vineyards grew up next door to the Jacobsens’ orchard. “I was born across the street from them,” Hill said. “Peter is an incredible farmer who loves showing you the latest thing that he’s planted or harvested. He was a proponent of being 100 percent organic before the organic movement took off, and that speaks volumes about his stewardship of the land and their relationship with Mother Nature.” INSPIRING ASPIRING CHEFS In 2008, Luisa Perez was a cook working the garde manger (handling salads, hors d’œuvres, and appetizers) station at Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York City. Encouraged by the chef de cuisine at the time, Jonathan Benno, Perez tasted figs that had been flown out from a small farm in California. “Our salad that day featured Peter’s figs with burrata cheese,” Perez said. “We added 100-yearold balsamic vinegar, sylvetta arugula, and finished it with Armando Manni olive oil and Maldon salt — it blew my mind! I had never had a fig so delicious and sweet.” After that experience, Perez made a point of tasting any fruit they’d receive from Jacobsen Orchards. “A little seed was planted in me to come to California and see where such beautiful produce came from,” she said. “A few years later, I moved to Yountville and started helping at The French Laundry’s own garden.” From there, Perez met the Jacobsens and eventually worked on their farm in exchange for some farming knowledge. “The time I have spent at Jacobsen Orchards has been monumental in shaping how I view food — realizing how important

it is to have a connection with the land and to know where my food comes from,” she said. Perez continues to farm and cook in the Napa Valley and is currently the sous chef at Thomas Keller’s newly opened La Calenda restaurant in Yountville. Another Per Se chef and Jacobsen Orchard devotee is Matthew Accarrino who is currently the executive chef at San Francisco’s SPQR (the abbreviation for the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus, “The Senate and People of Rome”), a Michelin-starred restaurant that serves modern Italian fare. “I first understood Peter existed

can have a direct connection with ensures that we are aware of the farming practices they use. Plus eliminating transportation and storage allows the farmer to take more of the profit.” Hill agrees that small farms like the Jacobsens’ are important but also points out one potential drawback — heightened expectations. “When you grow up eating fruit from trees and vegetables from dirt in your backyard you won’t settle for anything less,” Hill said. “You will also appreciate paying for a dish at a restaurant that supports local farmers as it will be far superior.” Beyond the health and taste,

TIM CARL PHOTOGRAPHY

A selection of a few of the 16 different types of citrus grown at Yountville’s Jacobsen Orchards.

when I was an opening sous chef at Per Se in 2004,” Accarrino said. “Jacobsen Orchards would be listed on the menu and I remember thinking, ‘where is that?’ Once I made it to San Francisco in 2009 I realized Peter had an office (dental) just up the street and was a regular diner at SPQR. One day, he stopped by the kitchen and struck up a conversation. Within a few months he had left me the keys to their farm with the instructions to harvest whatever I could while they were traveling. We have never looked back.”

farmers working closely with culinarians can result in innovation. “When I witness Peter in the garden with a chef talking about a new dish that will be utilizing his produce, it’s like watching Steve Kerr drawing up a plan for Steph Curry from the Warriors,” Hill said. “You know that something magical is going to happen.”

GREEN ALMONDS AND FICOIDE GLACIAL “I remember Peter working with chefs on incorporating green (unripe) almonds into savory dishes,” Hill said. “He would LOCAL FARMS ‘KEEP braise different proteins in fig US HEALTHY’ leaves (that seemed) to pass along “It’s important have local farm- a coconut essence; he seeped peach ers in the Napa Valley because leaves in milk to create a peach-leaf eating fresh fruits and vegetables ice cream that tasted like almonds keeps us healthy,” Perez said. “Also, buying from local farmers who we Please see Jacobsen, Page 74 Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 73


JACOBSEN From page 73

and utilized ficoide glacial (ice plant) before it became a thing for chefs. From what I recollect, Peter was also the first farmer in America to have his escargot certified organic from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). These were always served to VIP guests at The French Laundry, and people got a kick out of hearing the story that Peter didn’t get mad, he got even — it was his way of seeking revenge on a pest in his garden.” IN THE ‘WEEDS’ “Peter’s farm is too small and he supplies several friends with produce and fruit when abundant, so I never rely on his farm for any large production,” Accarrino said. “It’s the small things and crazy ideas that we have collaborated most on.” One of these “crazy ideas” is to eat “weeds.” “Wild cropping is basically harvesting ‘weeds’ or volunteers, as

Jacobsen said. “We’ve been blessed, but it’s possible that this farm here will be bulldozed and houses thrown up after we’re gone.” However, Jacobsen also points to new models of farm collectives that help gather produce from small to midsized farms such as his and then distribute it to restaurants and local grocery stores, allowing the farmers to reduce their costs and focus on farming (and probably to work additional jobs to supplement their incomes). Tim Carl Examples include the Bay Area’s own Cooks Company, which Peter says, so he grows an edible sources from more than 300 differcover crop and harvests it in the ent local farms, and Ohio’s Chef ’s winter months when produce is Garden that is fast becoming the scarce,” Accarrino said. go-to source for overnight delivery of hundreds of rare produce items. THE FUTURE OF SMALL FARMS COMMON CAUSE Although Jacobsen believes that Pointing often to the work of small farms such as his are import- the American writer and environant for the health of the planet as mental activist farmer Wendell well as for quality food produc- Erdman Berry, Jacobsen relates to tion, he does admit that it might both the concerns and hopes often be tough for future farms such as expressed by the author. his to survive. During an interview with Bill “It can be really tough if this Moyers, Berry once described is your only source of income,” the importance of maintaining

connections with the “preciousness” of the earth — one way being the working of small farms tended by people, not heavy machinery. “The poet William Butler Yeats said somewhere, ‘Things reveal themselves passing away,’” Berry had said. “And it may be that the danger that we’ve now inflicted upon every precious thing reveals the preciousness of it and shows us our duty. The solution to our problems can’t be imposed but only solved through seeking to learn all you can about where you live and then make common cause with that place.” And it is such a desire for common cause that keeps the Jacobsens tending their small plot of land in a Yountville neighborhood surrounded by the ever-expansion of homes and roads. “Small local farms have a way of building connections with people while fostering closer ties with Mother Nature,” Jacobsen said. “We also hope to share our excitement for how food and nutrition can feed all dimensions — not just our bodies and imaginations, but also our souls.”

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Memories of a cook A new family cookbook tells the story of Mary’s Pizza Shack S A S H A PAU L S E N s p auls e n@!nap ane w s . com In 1959, Mary Fazio had $700 and a dream. She wanted to open her own pizzeria — nothing fancy, just a place to feed people the good Italian food she’d been cooking for years at home and in other peoples’ restaurants. Her son Toto was doubtful. “I told her, Mom, if you have $700, that’s your life savings. You had better save that for your retirement,” he said. Instead, she opened Mary’s Pizza Shack in Boyes Hot Springs in Sonoma County. Today, the restaurant is still family owned and operated, and it has grown into a group that includes 19 locations in Northern California, from Redding to Walnut Creek. These sites include the Mary’s Pizza Shack on Jefferson Street in Napa, where Mary’s children, Anna Albano-Byerly, and Toto (Antony) Albano, and his wife, Peggy, gathered to discuss their mother, her legacy and her recipes, now gathered into a new cookbook, “Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook, A Celebration of Family, Friends and Italian Comfort Food.” “Mom loved two things — family and cooking,” said Anna Albano-Byerly. One of the reasons, Mary decided to open a restaurant was so that Toto wouldn’t have to keep commuting to San Francisco where he was working in the shipyards. Toto and Anna helped their mom open the first pizza shack, and as years went on, their children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other extended family joined the business. It quickly became clear, Mary’s children agreed, that “family” also included anyone who came in to eat. “She loved to feed people,” said Toto, describing one time, early on, when a family came in to her new restaurant and ordered for four of them, one small pizza. “Mom said, ‘That’s not enough,’” he said. And because she sensed that money might be the issue, she sent out more food. “She didn’t want anyone to be hungry.” Stories of Mary’s quiet generosity multiplied over the years. She closed the restaurant on Christmas Day for the family to have a meal together, but if anyone knocked on the backdoor, looking for sauce or meatballs, they often ended up joining the dinner. “She loved to feed people,” Anna said. Mary Fazio was born in 1913 in “the rough and tumble part of Manhattan known as Hell’s 76 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

Submitted photo

Mary Fazio founded her first Mary’s Pizza Shack in Boyes Hot Springs in 1959. It has grown into a family-owned enterprise of 19 restaurants in Northern California.

Kitchen,” according to the book. Her parents, Francesco and Maria Josephina Mattera, had come to New York from Ischia, an Italian island not far from Capri. Finding Hell’s Kitchen to be “less than welcoming to Italian immigrants,” they headed for California and found a home in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. Francesco became a fisherman, operating his own 30-foot boat out of Fisherman’s Wharf. Italian fishermen tended to be good cooks under all kinds of conditions; the fishermen of San Francisco are credited with creating the local specialty, cioppino, a seafood stew that has become a traditional holiday dish as Dungeness crabs become available in December. Mary got her first cooking lessons from her father, when he was not at sea, and later she used many of his recipes in her restaurant. At 15, Mary eloped with Vincenzo Albano, another fisherman from Ischia, and moved to San Pedro in Southern California. In the 1940s, they divorced and she moved back to San Francisco with her children, and began working as a waitress in a North Beach restaurant. Her second husband, Frenchy, was a barker from a nearby burlesque theater. When he inherited property in Sonoma, the family

moved, and she went to work at the original Sonoma Mission Inn. When her children were grown, and she began toying with the idea of a restaurant of her own, a friend offered her the use of a rental cottage. That would become the first Pizza Shack. “She was ahead of her time,” Toto said, “She said, ‘I am going to do this so you don’t have to commute. We can all live here in Sonoma and you can have a job down the road. And that’s what she did.” “We grew up in a shack, a bustling, aromatic, love-filled shack,” Mary’s grandchildren write in a preface to the new cookbook. “When we were little, we would hear our Noni humming as she made her soups and sauces... smiling and chatting with her beloved customers as she chopped vegetables in a kitchen specially designed so she could greet her guests and make sure they were happy. “Given time, our children’s children will grow up in the Shack,” they conclude. Mary Fazio died in 1999 but her memories live on in “Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook,” rich with stories and photos from family albums. But fair warning: It’s going to make you hungry for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, lasagne or one of Mary’s pizzas. It is also filled with recipes and mouth-watering photos of dishes like linguine with clams, stuffed pasta shells, minestrone, pasta e fagioli and Sunday ragu. A whole section is devoted to pizza, “the heart of Mary’s original restaurant,” including directions to duplicate her “Legendary Pizza Dough,” along with variations for Toto’s Combo or a family favorite, Loaded Potato Skin Pizza. Basic recipes, like Anna’s Blue Cheese Dressing, or Mary’s Marinara Sauce, are also included. Nanette, Terri, Marie, Vince, Mary, Rob and Charlew, Mary’s grandchildren, conclude, “For those who love to cook and share, let these dishes be your guide to Italian comfort food — from our family to yours, made with love and in honor of our Noni, Mary.” “Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook” is available at Mary’s Pizza Shack, 3085 Jefferson St., Napa, as well as the other restaurant locations and online at amazon.com.


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J.L. Sousa, Register

WHERE IN THE

VALLEY? How keen is your eye for Napa landmarks? Our photographer J.L. Sousa travels a lot of miles in pursuit of his images, and along the way he’s taken some shots of interesting, quirky, and unusual objects, many of them in plain sight from major

roads. But it can be surprisingly hard to identify these places when you zoom in just on the details, even if you pass by the spots every day. How many of these Napa County places can you identify? Answers are on Page 94.

Winter/Spring 2019 ÂŹ 79


                            

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UNIVERSAL CROSSWORD Edited by David Steinberg January 21, 2019

ACROSS   1 Have a chat   5 “I beg of you ...” 11 ___ Four (Beatles) 14 Taiwanese computer company 15 Made sleepy 16 Copacabana city, informally 17 *Corner square in Monopoly 19 Unusual 20 Pest control target 21 Green pool growth 23 Wranglers alternatives 24 Leftover bit 26 Savory gelatin dishes 29 Snake eyes sum 30 Straitlaced 33 Eeyore’s creator 34 Pakistan neighbor

82 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

35 Triceratops, e.g., briefly 36 Sch. booster group 37 *Secondary wager 40 New England Patriots’ org. 41 Beginner’s supposed advantage 43 Flippers 44 Took part in the Daytona 500 46 Fencing sword 47 Landscaping roll 48 Overly thin, as soup 49 Snake’s secretion 51 Transport freight 52 Accra’s country 54 All together 58 “You’ve got mail” company 59 Crowdfunding site, and a hint to the starred

entries’ first words 63 Hall of Famer Gehrig 64 Plaza Hotel girl 65 Spots for dumbbells 66 Hairy primate 67 Dinged 68 Depart the stage DOWN   1 President William Howard   2 Part of a parcel   3 Look at wolfishly   4 Moscow complex  5 Dinner dishes   6 Tackle box items   7 Rockies roamer

  8 Will Smith’s role in a boxer biopic   9 Bernie Sanders’ title: Abbr. 10 FBI biopic “J. ___” 11 *Fairy tale creature transformed by a kiss 12 Verdi opera set in Egypt 13 Presage 18 Musical compositions 22 Hollywood patrol force, briefly 24 Sailors’ mops 25 Dairy Queen choice 26 Plentiful 27 Stomachflattening exercise 28 *Digit’s worth 29 General pattern 31 Deduce 32 Like fuzzy food in the fridge

34 Take the cake, e.g. 38 “Should that prove true ...” 39 Psychological harm 42 Enthusiastic 45 Being pursued, as a fugitive 48 Wished for 50 Baring it all 51 “Steppenwolf” author 52 Festive celebration 53 Basketball basket 55 River to Hades 56 Big rig 57 Former word for “formerly” 60 ___ de la Cite 61 Negative aspect 62 Set of tools, say

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Keeping a dream alive Ramini mozzarella brings a taste of Italy to the hills of wine country TIM CARL

I

n 1999, when Audrey Hi t c h c o c k a n d Cr a i g Ramini married, they were what some might call a power couple: He was a former minor league baseball player who tried out for the New York Yankees and then became a Silicon Valley consultant, and she was a high-end Bay Area architectural designer. But fortunes can change. Victims of the Great Recession, by 2008 they both found themselves unemployed with only enough money in the bank for six more months before they’d lose their Tiburon home. It was a shock to Hitchcock when Ramini told her he’d like to spend most of their remaining funds to start making cheese. “It was a surprise because Craig had never even milked a cow before, let alone make cheese,” Hitchcock said. “But he was so passionate about making it that I agreed and we started down the path. He had no fear, and we never looked back.” Initially, the idea was to make goat cheese. But after a conversation with Hitchcock’s brother, Dave, they decided to go in a different direction. Dave had lived in Italy after high school and had grown fascinated by the idea that no one in America seemed able to make the highly prized fresh “mozzarella di bufala,” which, on the surface, seems to be a relatively simple cheese to make. MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA When most Americans think about mozzarella, they picture the cheese made from cow’s milk, or what the Italians call “fior di latte.” However, mention mozzarella to anyone from southern Italy and they are almost certain to imagine “mozzarella di bufala.” Whereas cow’s-milk mozzarella is often mild, dense and can be sliced in slabs, cheese coming from

Tim Carl

Audrey Hitchcock, owner of Ramini Mozzeralla, works her 25-acre ranch in Tomales Bay, where a herd of more than 50 water buffaloes produces the rich milk used for making her cheese.

water-buffalo milk is creamy, vastly more delicate and has a sweet-tart flavor and a yeasty-lactic aroma that begins to fade within days of being made. Any mozzarella can be used to make burrata, another popular cheese that includes a layer of mozzarella stretched around a mixture of stracciatella (stretched fresh cheese curds) and cream. Another difference is that unlike most cheeses that require aging — for example, parmigiano-reggiano can be aged for up to three years and bitto storico might take 18 years to age — mozzarella is a fresh cheese that is best eaten

hours after it’s made. This makes mozzarella attractive for businesses. Imagine if you were a winemaker and could make nearly as much per bottle from your unaged rosé as you do from your Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 5 years. However, for mysterious reasons — probably stemming from the fact that buffalo mozzarella has been made in the marshy grasslands of the Campania region of Italy for hundreds of years, resulting in centuries of trial and error — this simple cheese has refused to be made nearly anywhere else outside the Italian countryside.

A LEAP OF FAITH That buffalo mozzarella had never been successfully made in America was not a deterrent to Ramini and Hitchcock, who imagined themselves to be pioneers. But it wasn’t going to be easy. “It was basically insanity, what he did,” Hitchcock said. “In November of 2008 he answered an ad on Craigslist, rented a truck, drove to Southern California and picked up five water buffaloes.” Water buffaloes are not like cows. Cows have a long history of domestication in America. Water buffaloes are comparatively exotic, with shiny black coats and twisting horns that make them appear more like herd animals from Africa than what you might expect grazing in the sun-drenched rolling hills of Northern California. Like milk cows, they require a place to graze, barns for shelter and food to eat. They also have to be milked daily. “So we rented property in southern Petaluma and figured out where to buy hay and he quickly learned how to work electric fencing,” she said. The buffalo were also thought to be pregnant, but there was no assurance. “When the buffaloes arrived, I drove to meet Craig at the property,” she said. “I had found work by that time, and I pulled up in my BMW wearing a skirt and high heels, but I climbed the fence anyway and jumped right into the pen.” Hitchcock said the community of local ranchers had come to witness the new arrivals. “They must have thought, ‘Look at these two city folks who’ve brought some weird-looking cows to the neighborhood,’” she said. To the surprise of the onlookers, Please see Ramini, Page 86

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 85


RAMINI From page 85

the buffaloes did not bolt or display any aggression to Hitchcock but instead allowed themselves to be petted and hugged. “I wanted to welcome them to Tim Carl their new home,” she said. Aerial view of the 25-acre Ramini Mozzeralla ranch in Tomales Bay. BUILDING CONNECTIONS During those early days, the couple learned as much as they could about dairy farming, cheese making and animal husbandry. They found that many of the common practices seemed inhumane and counterproductive. “Craig’s religion was to be unique — to not be like everyone else but to look at things from his own perspective,” Hitchcock said. “So instead of getting a large herd and separating the babies permanently from their mothers at birth and milking the mothers twice a day, 365 days a year and putting out as much product as you can, he took an entirely different approach.” As with cows, milk is produced only by female water buffaloes while they are lactating, which occurs after they’ve given birth. That usually means they are artificially inseminated months after each birth. Because the calves drink milk, they are removed — either sold for meat or as future milk-producers. “But instead of all that, we milk the mothers once a day and then reunite them with their calves in the evening,” she said. “We felt that would allow for the production of the finest milk and also provide a farm experience that we didn’t have to hide from but instead embrace. The vision was to create a dairy farm that’s more like a boutique winery, where people can come and learn about these special animals and their wonderful cheese.” Another early challenge was milking the animals. Initially, they used traditional milking stanchions, which are like mini cages that lock the head of the animal in place while it’s being milked from behind. But it wasn’t working 86 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019

— the animals would thrash and kick. “There’s this idea out there that you need to completely restrain the animals to get them to do what you want, but that’s not true,” she said. “You can force them to do just about anything but if you work with them; try and understand things from their point of view. It works much better.” As a result, the couple redesigned and reoriented the stanchions so that the cows could look around, including outside, while they were being milked. “They just wanted to see how their babies were doing,” she said. “Once they can do that, they calm right down.” A CHEESE WORTH THE WAIT Besides animal husbandry, the couple had to learn the ancient art of cheese making. Buffalo mozzarella’s quality is primarily a function of texture. When done correctly, the cheese takes on a soft-creamy feel that melts on the tongue. The flavor of the cheese typically is slightly less important but is traditionally considered best during the early summer months when the buffalo are grazing mostly on tender young grasses, which can result in a sweet, floral note in the otherwise super-mild cheese. But before you can refine the texture, you first have to learn how the stuff is made in the first place. “To learn how, we read books and watched videos. Craig even interned in Italy, but it’s still a lot of trial and error,” Hitchcock said. Local culinarians have been enthralled by the results. “Ramini is a special and unique cheese that has a powerful story behind it. It’s something that we

love to share with our guests, but also a vision that we like to support,” said Joshua Schwartz, executive chef at Napa Valley’s Del Dotto Winery. “There’s really nothing else like it being made, locally.” Other chef ’s agree. “Most mozzarellas I’ve been purchasing from Italy throughout the years have lost their flavor and consistency,” said Gianluca Legrottaglie, proprietor of San Francisco’s popular Montesacro Pinseria Romana with locations also in Portland, Oregon, and Brooklyn, New York. “Ramini was selected among others, and she worked with me on firmness, size and flavor. What else can you ask for!” Of central importance to Legrottaglie is the quality of the product but also the story behind the product — where, how and by whom it is made. “I believe in things still made by hand rather than by machine,” he said. “In addition, supporting local sustainable farmers is part of our philosophy, and undoubtedly what’s more important is the story behind what any label tells. Ramini is now a one-woman show, and so everything is monitored directly by Audrey. And because it’s such a small production, you can almost be certain that things are being done right.” THE PASSAGE OF CRAIG AND THE FUTURE OF RAMINI On Jan. 17, 2015, Craig Ramini died of complications due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 57. He’d been fighting the disease for a few years. They thought he’d beat it at one point, but by December 2014 he’d re-entered the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center for the

last time. “I took a leave of absence for a while, and the community pitched in to help cover expenses and help feed the animals. I am so grateful to all of them,” Hitchcock said. “But this was his dream. Our dream. My intention is to carry on, not worry about the future as Craig would have insisted on. Make cheese, feed and care for our animals, be good to our community and work to always improve.” “A few months before Craig died, I took my own video of him making what was likely his last batch of mozzarella,” Hitchcock said. “I still watch that video sometimes — it’s both an inspiration but also very hard to watch.” A few months after Ramini passed, Hitchcock wrote the following post on social media: “Yesterday I arrived at the ranch and it was the kind of morning that reminds me of Craig. The fog was hanging low and coated the landscape with a beautiful haze. There I stood in the emptiness of it all, catching glimpses of his shadow in my memory. Remembering photos I’d taken of him in the fog and what those moments meant to us. A double whammy of the bittersweet as I recalled his pure joy at what we’d created and where we’d made it to. Drinking buffalo lattes, walking amongst our herd in the morning fog and feeling so happy for our journey.” The entire legacy of the Ramini mozzarella journey is not yet written. Yet without a doubt, it has already touched the lives of those who’ve come into contact, including the animals that call the remote Tomales Bay ranch home. “Craig was a visionary, a genius and remains my daily inspiration for carrying on,” Hitchcock said. “Now it’s my job to see to it that it happens.” Ranch tours are available every Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and can be booked through the website, www.raminimozzarella. com or by calling 415-690-6633. Hitchcock says tour-goers can bring a picnic and the beverages of their choice, and they can also enjoy the baby-buffalo petting area and purchase cheese.


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Lindsay Upson

Chalkboard art at Pizzeria Tra Vigne in St. Helena.

New menu, vibe at the re-envisioned Tra Vigne Pizzeria

A

t the end of 2015, St. Helena’s Tra Vigne restaurant closed its doors, making way for chef Christopher Kostow’s The Charter Oak. The first in a wave of Napa Valley classics to shutter, it was followed this year by Terra, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Hurley’s, and most recently, Redd. Yet Tra Vigne’s legacy is not completely lost. The restaurant’s more casual, affordable and family-friendly sibling, Tra Vigne Pizzeria, is not only still open for business, but has even adopted some of the former restaurant’s decor and fan-favorite dishes, including their famous Mozzarella Al Minuto. Moreover, in the last year, Tra Vigne Pizzeria has quietly undergone a total refresh of its ambiance and menu. They have a new Chef de Cuisine, Maria Nuno, who has worked in the kitchens of both the former restaurant and pizzeria since she

JESS LANDER

Lindsay Upson

Mozzarella Al Minuto, a favorite at the old Tra Vigne, is on the menu now at Tra Vigne Pizzeria.

was 16. She works closely with Executive Chef Anthony “Nash” Cognetti, and is the daughter of David Nuno, former Sous Chef at Tra Vigne. After Tra Vigne opened in 1986, the pizzeria first opened as Tomatina in 1989— the

Tomatina tomato can still be found at the entrance today — but was renamed Tra Vigne Pizzeria in 1992. Many notable chefs, such has like Carmen Quagliata, Dena Marino, Michael Gyetvan, Nicholas Petrilli, Frank Whittaker and Kevin Davis, got their start at

either the restaurant or pizzeria. “What about these classic restaurants? We’ve been here such a long time that they kind of get forgotten,” said Cynthia Ariosta, marketing and community outreach director for Tra Vigne Pizzeria. “It was kind of a surprise that when the restaurant closed, everyone thought this was gone too. We’ll run into locals, and they’re like, ‘You’re still open? We just thought the whole thing closed.’ But this restaurant is tried and true and it’s stood the test of time.” The first thing you’ll likely notice when you walk in Tra Vigne Pizzeria 2.0 is a series of fun, new chalkboard art over the open kitchen. The project took Oakland artist Jolene Russell a week to complete. Out back, the patio has been transformed into a spot for a date night and a bocce court has been added, but the biggest changes are to be found Please see Pizza, Page 92

Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 91


PIZZA From Page 91

throughout the menu, from antipasti to dessert. Many of the classics, like the house-made ravioli, garlic rolls, and minestrone, are still there. But new dishes include Smashed Avocado Bruschetta, Lucky Shucks wood-fired oysters topped with fiscalini cheddar, spinach and charred chili aioli, and even a burger. The C&B Burger comes with a Creekstone Farms chuckand-brisket patty served with gruyere, heirloom tomato, watercress, roasted onion and a special sauce. “There are people who come that don’t want pizza, and you want something else for them,” said Ariosta. “We were trying to add a few things on the menu that have more protein or are more sandwich-like.” All pizzas and piadinas are now made with a new sourdough

Lindsay Upson photo

Smashed Avocado Bruschetta is another new addition to the Pizzeria Tra Vigne menu.

crust that’s both thin and bubbly. The menu tosses up several fun new pies like the spicy La Bamba (smoky ancho-pasilla chile sauce, chorizo, red onions, jalapeños, cilantro, queso fresco, avocado and crème fraiche) and The Queen’s Pizza. According to Ariosta, The Queen’s Pizza is the true, historical definition of a margherita pizza. It has California-grown Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, whole leaf basil, EVOO and sea salt. “This is really the classic

margherita pizza,” she said. “This is the way it should be done, as it was meant to be when it was invented for Queen Margherita.” Finish your meal with tiramisu, served in a mason jar with ladyfingers, a classic cannoli (ricotta cheese, pistachios, chocolate chunks, citrus) or something you may not expect from an Italian establishment, homemade apple pie. The pizzeria’s new 7-O-7 Happy Hour boasts $1 oysters on the half shell, $5 select craft droughts and well drinks and $7

wine specials seven days a week, from 4-6 p.m. They’ve expanded their craft beer program (now totaling 10 taps) and thanks to a new full liquor license (brought over from Tra Vigne when it closed) have curated an inventive list of rotating, seasonal cocktails. The Weed Whacker, for instance, features hemp seed-infused vodka from Humboldt Distillery, which is owned by St. Helenan Jim Sweeney. Once a month, a local brewery comes in for Pint Night. The brewery pours select beers (get a free glass with your purchase) and often gives away swag to customers who can answer impromptu trivia questions. Ariosta said the pint nights have been a big hit among the wine community especially. “It’s been very interesting to me,” she said. “When we did our pint night last week, some of the winery people came and said, ‘We’re so done with wine at the end of the day, we really just want a good beer.’”

The Queen’s Pizza at Tra Vigne Pizzeria. Lindsay Upson

92 ¬ Winter/Spring 2019


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CALISTOGA From page 58

typical for Independence Day in Calistoga — when a pig that was part of the parade wandered off and found its way behind the picket fence of Dawnine and Bill Dyer’s house. It came into the yard and collapsed in front of the house, likely looking for water that it found in the fountain in their yard, Dawnine said. The front yards on Cedar Street are as lively as the porches are relaxing. “You can run for (political) office by working in your front yard on Cedar Street and win with very little effort,” is what Bill Dyer used to say, Dawnine said. Personal politics on Cedar Street may be at odds with one another; this year’s city council race in point when Welsh and Brown had a support sign out for incumbent Jim Barnes and right next door was a sign for Barnes’ opponent Don Williams. No worries, Welsh said, it’s all about the passion Calistogans have for their city, and that’s a good thing. Welsh and Brown are their house’s fourth owners since it was built in the early 1900s and their porch has looked the same for at least 20 years, maybe more, thanks to its paint colors which are “a particular dark brown, green and red,” Welsh said. They’ve painted the house twice since owning it and each time the prep work stirred concern. “When it’s taped up and people are walking by they say, ‘They’re not changing the paint color, are they?’,” Welsh said. It’s had its distinctive look since Dawnine and Bill Dyer owned it and who lived in that house for 18 years before moving to Diamond Mountain in 1996. The Dyers still own a house on Cedar, one they rent out now, but may use when they decide to downsize. Referring to a house by the names of the people who live in it now – or previously —instead of by its street number seems to

Courtesy of the Sharpsteen Museum

be another part of Cedar Street culture. “When you say you live on Cedar you don’t say the address, you say the name of the person who lived there before,” Kathy Flamson said. For example, those who knew the Dyers when they lived in the house Welsh and Brown now share still refer to the house as the Dyers house even though there was another owner between the time the Dyers owned it and the current owners. Welsh said they’ve had people show up on their porch and ask if this is the Dyers house. “When we bought (the house) the cook stove was wood burning,” Dawnine Dyer said. The people the Dyers bought the house from were the grandchildren of the original owners. They used it mostly as a summer home and it had been empty for some time, she said. Now a “free little library” at the edge of the driveway draws others into the friendliness of the neighborhood. On the route for some Calistoga Elementary School – located at Cedar and Berry streets — the little library is a stopping place for children to pick up a book or drop one off. It’s used “constantly,” Welsh said. On more than one occasion, she noticed there weren’t very many books remaining and the next day it was “like Christmas” and the library was replenished. One day, she spotted a woman she didn’t recognize putting books in the library and asked if the woman was the generous donor; she was. The woman lives across town, drove by and noticed the library and that it was getting low on books so set out to refill it. She shops at garage sales and thrift stores to keep the library full. The neighborhood is “eclectic

Anne Ward Ernst

The trees on Cedar Street provide charm and much-needed shade.

from tip to toe,” Kathy Flamson said, and the “Cedar Street Crawl” – a moveable feast of sorts with guests enjoying appetizers at one home, entrees at another and dessert a couple doors away – has proven to be a popular auction item at Calistoga Rotary fundraisers. There are a “lot of good cooks” on the street, the Flamsons agree. Cedar Street has drawn a diverse collection of dwellers, “a range of different kinds of people all of whom seem oddly friendly and interesting,” Tim Carl said. “There are artists, photographers, writers, designers, architects, computer programmers; people in (or retired from) the businesses of: construction, restaurants, healthcare, hospitality, electricians, plumbers, etc., making it similar to one of the old-school neighborhoods like when I was a kid (in) my neighborhood in St. Helena,” Carl said. “Back then, as on Cedar, it wasn’t just a monolithic collection of individuals and

families from a similar economic strata, with the homes, yards and interest all pretty much the same, but instead represented a broader cross section of the community.” That broad range of interesting people mirrors the interesting features of homes on the street, some with great historic value. “Our house is quite historical,” said Dennis Lang. “It was the carriage house for the Brannan’s, built in the late 1800s. It’s been added on to at least three different times to make it a home.” The Judge Palmer House, next to Pioneer Park – where summer Concerts in the Park are held and considered another treasure of the neighborhood – was named a Napa County Landmark in 2013, and is another example of eye-catching architecture and is one of few examples in Napa Valley of French Second Empire Victorian style. Most of the houses are on the smaller side – though Jim Flamson recalls spending a lot of time at a “really big house” on Cedar as a Cub Scout in his youth – and the lots are small, too. There are few garages on the properties, which forces residents to park on the street. Parking can be cumbersome at times, residents said, and may be one of the few complaints they have about living on Cedar. But it’s a place where you can sit on lawn chairs in the middle of the street in the dark on the Fourth of July, place lit lanterns around you to draw motorist’s attention to your existence and trust cars won’t hit you. It’s something the Flamsons have done to watch the annual Independence Day fireworks at the Fairgrounds. “They’re the ‘cheap seats’,” Jim Flamson said. Not much has changed on Cedar Street in the last handful of decades other than some complete renovations on a few houses and a vineyard has been filled in with the Cyrus Creek development by Paul Coates, maybe there are fewer children living there now and maybe there is a little more car traffic than before. What remains is what makes Cedar Street a neighborhood unto itself. Winter/Spring 2019 ¬ 97


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