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So Long to Summer

Author: Christina Julian
September, 2016 Issue

Every September, as the hype of harvest threatens to consume the valley, I find myself not quite ready to kiss the dog days of summer bye-bye. Growing up on the East Coast, I’ve always thought—as do all Right Coasters—that there’s no better place to be come summertime. The Maryland crabs steeped in beer and dripping with snapping hot Old Bay seasoning, waterskiing across the choppy Chesapeake Bay and the inevitable dose of sweat-soaked days and burning summer nights that scorch long after the sun has set. However, I’ve since learned that Napa Valley has its own seasonal merits. 

Slip sliding away

As rainy weather slipped to the sidelines and Calistoga temperatures started to boom, I decided to sneak to Sonoma to flex a little fitness in between wine sips. Jordan Winery’s hike and tasting experience served up stunning views, plenty of wildlife, an impressive beehive habitat and mini-donkeys Maverick and Goose. In between huffs, guests refuel with snappy olive oil and a lakeside view. Following the hike, visitors are rewarded with stunning wines and a more substantive spread as payoff for hoofing it up and down the mountain.

Alexander Valley Vineyards offers daily hikes in-season with a rolling walk through vineyards (less vigorous than Jordan’s), a visit to a restored 1800s schoolhouse on the property and a trek past the tribe of 50 pecking chickens, with wine sipping pit stops along the way. The adventure ends with wine and a boxed lunch on the deck. I enjoyed each experience for different reasons especially the notion of swapping tasting room din for country slopes that remind me that there is still some country left in Wine Country—at least on the Sonoma side of the hump.

Hot, hot, hot

Blistering heat spikes cemented the onset of summer, which hit a high note at Auction Napa Valley in June. Now a regular at the Barrel Auction, I delight in seeing what changes from one year to the next as well as reveling in those things that never do—like a guaranteed case of palate fatigue—this, despite my earnest efforts to sip and spit. Not surprising given the event sported more than 100 current releases and sky high temperatures to match. None of which dulled the fever-pitched bidding wars that raised $14.3 million for local nonprofits. Sun and sweat-soaked bidders scraped it out at Friday’s Barrel Auction to take home top bid barrels—Melka, which went for $62,100 and Shafer, which pulled in $60,050. The top live auction lot, ‘Into Africa, Incomparably’ from Staglin Family Vineyards, sold for $700,000. Heat or no heat, it’s hard to compete with that kind of giving.


This and that

In other wow worthy news Napa Valley lodging revenue shot up 12.7 percent for the 12-month period ending April 2016, while China snagged first prize as the top tourist feeding country to Napa Valley (up from the number six slot).

Continuing its trend of catering to the all mighty tourist, the Napa Valley Wine Train added a new line of service in June, the Quattro Vino, which takes wine tasting train tours to the extreme with a six-hour excursion, including stops at Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug, Merryvale and V. Sattui. Guests are offered a three-course small bite menu to soak up all the vino.

The west bank of the Napa River may become a port of call for Tideline Marin Group, which is poised to offer water transport from San Francisco and Oakland into Napa. The county stands to reap 20 percent of the revenues of such line if the deal inks.

Amid all the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah of summer, disputes around the development (or over-development, as some refer to the syndrome) of Napa Valley continue to boil as the November election nears. Townsfolk rumbled when a proposal to protect the Napa County watershed was rejected by county officials on a “technicality.” This despite gaining 6,300 (of the 3,791 required) signatures in support of the initiative—a move that prevents the measure from making it on the November ballot. But not if the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Committee have their way. The group took steps this summer to file a suit to upend the decision.

As the year chugs along, it seems local preservationists and wine business advocates are no closer to reaching agreement over how best to preserve the Napa Valley than its townies are apt to agree on whether to serve Cabernet or Merlot at the supper table.


In this Issue

The Ancient Practice of Biodynamic Farming

Seeking stronger relationships with the Earth and ways to express truly unique terroirs, winemakers and vineyard owners across Napa and Sonoma are embracing biodynamics —“organics on stero...

Budding Business

The legalization of the cannabis market is predicted to generate more than $20 billion in U.S. sales, but rules and regulations are still in a state of flux....

Rocking the Wine World

Sonoma Cast Stone in Petaluma has been making concrete fermentation tanks for eight years. Owner Steve Rosenblatt started his company 20 years ago to create concrete for custom walls, countertops an...

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