• Ghost Wineries

    By all accounts, Napa Valley’s fledgling wine industry was thriving in the 1800s during th peak of the Gold Rush. While creating new fortunes, the thrill of winemaking beckoned. It was a pioneering era, and by the turn of the century, more than 140 wineries were established and thriving — but it didn’t last. Prohibition forced all but a handful of wineries to close, and many owners simply abandoned their property. The wine industry was debilitated, leaving little more than ghost wineries and memories.

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  • Family Roots

    One of the oldest wineries along West Dry Creek Road in Sonoma County is A. Rafanelli Winery. Nestled on a knoll that offers a sweeping view of the valley, the rustic winery is still family-owned and operated. And though it operates by appointment-only reservations and there’s a gate at the bottom of a hill that requires a code, it has remained true to its family traditions and heritage.

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  • Harvest Rituals

    It’s the first day of harvest at Grgich Hills Estate, and there’s a mountain of grapes ready to be crushed. But at the moment they’re on display for more than 100 guests, each with a glass of wine, ready to toast. There’s a priest standing by, along with Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, co-founder and Vintners Hall of Fame member. The crowd’s sense of anticipation permeates the air, and the drinks in hand are only part of the reason.

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  • For the Love of Pie

    Pie is the classic American dessert. And if you’re from the North Bay, chances are you’ve enjoyed your fair share of Kozlowski Farms pies over the years. Lovers of these homemade-style pies and tarts will be happy to know that while the farm store, a local institution since 1949, is now closed, the legacy of Kozlowski baked goods will continue on thanks to a new partnership with Healdsburg’s Costeaux French Bakery.

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  • Cabernet Season

    “Grapes are promiscuous,” says Liz Thach, distinguished professor of wine and management at Sonoma State University. “They like to breed with one another to create new varietals. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is the offspring of Cabernet Franc. In Bordeaux, as a result of vintage variation, they frequently blend Cabernet to enhance flavor and complexity. In cooler years, it’s sometimes difficult to ripen Cab, which is another reason why they blend.”

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  • Succession Planning

    Starting a business and developing it into a prosperous enterprise is a major accomplishment. And so, the desire to pass it on to the next generation and see it continue to grow comes naturally. It’s a legacy that has the potential to provide security for a family, but it takes more than handing over the keys to the door. Rather, careful long-term planning for succession provides the best chance for the transition to succeed and a business to endure.

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  • On the Road to Aging Well

    Since ancient times, humanity sought the fountain of youth. Originally the term was used in a literal sense, referencing a spring with the power to eliminate years of aging for those who took a drink or bathed in its waters. The Spanish learned such tales from the writings of Herodotus and famously searched in vain for the magical cascade in the 16th century. Though science broke the news long ago that no such fountain exists, we nonetheless yearn for similar results and seek ways to preserve our vigor and appearance—ideally living longer and more fulfilling lives. Mike Charleton, a 50-year-old Windsor resident and nationally ranked cyclist, found his modern version of the eternal spring.

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  • Downtown Santa Rosa

    When a new agency of the federal government called Housing and Urban Development was established in the 1960s, one of its tenets was an urban renewal program, created in part to provide funding for sprucing up old downtown areas across the nation. The City of Santa Rosa decided its Courthouse Square needed some renewal, and subsequently divided the space by building a new motorway through the middle to connect Mendocino Avenue to Santa Rosa Avenue.

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  • Wine and Food Pairing

    When all of us first began enjoying wine in adulthood, we heard the same old chestnut: white wine with fish, red wine with meat. It was a rule destined to be broken, if not seriously twisted like a corkscrew.

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  • Soft Skills

    As the tail end of the Millennial generation graduates college and enters the American workforce, one thing seems to be clear: It is long past the time to go hard on soft skills. The generation that was weaned on technology and grew up with smartphones is wired with all the hard skills one can imagine, from computer programming to accounting.  But somewhere along the line, many didn’t learn about the need to show up on time, dress appropriately and make an effort to play well with others.

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  • Restoration Hardware

    U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers are in retreat. Pier 1 Imports is planning on closing more than 140 stores and Z Gallery is shuttering 44 locations. Sears filed for bankruptcy, joining Gymboree and Payless Shoes. Closure of retail stores across the country hit a 10-year high in 2018, according to Citylab. Don’t bring this to RH chairman and CEO Gary Friedman, “The death of retail is overrated,” he told shoppers in September 2018 in one of his famed letters. The brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware has its own language. Catalogs are Source Books. Stores are Galleries. And RH has more Collections than the Smithsonian.

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  • G and C Auto Body

    The auto body repair business has history that extends back more than a century. Horseless carriages were initially reserved for the wealthy, and chauffeurs doubled as mechanics. In 1972, following a stint in the military, Gene Crozat returned to his hometown of Santa Rosa with a pack of smokes and $1.40 in his pocket. He learned car painting and auto repair skills in the Air Force, and sensing a prosperous opportunity, Gene set up an auto repair body shop with partner Leo Gassel. Though Gassel retired three years later, Gassel and Crozat Auto Body, better known as G&C Auto Body, was born.

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  • Still Sonoma Strong

    The firestorm was declared fully contained two weeks later on Nov. 6. In that time, nearly 78,000 acres were destroyed; 180,000 people were evacuated (including 300 inmates in the North County jail); and 374 buildings were destroyed (174 homes and 11 businesses). Once again, Sonoma County fell to its knees.

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  • Taking the Waters at Indian Springs Resort

    Since the early 1860s, the 17-acre geyser-fed Indian Springs Resort has welcomed people from near and far to come, relax and restore themselves. Located at the top end of the Napa Valley, in the City of Calistoga, the resort is surrounded by hills, trees and spewing geysers. Today, it occupies the exact spot chosen by the founder of Calistoga, the colorful Sam Brannan, when he came to the area in the mid-1800s and fell in love with the potential of the place.

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  • Healdsburg Then and Now

    On a bend in the Russian River with the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Chalk Hill American Viticulture Areas on its periphery, Healdsburg has much to offer. It’s a magnet for those seeking a Wine Country experience, but at the same time, residents treasure its small-town charm and quality of life. Those interests produce competing visions of what the town should be, and residents are often concerned that abundant visitors will impact the small-town ambiance.

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  • Made Local

    Despite an increase in online commerce, with customers comparing prices from around the world and buying from the convenience of their home, there is still a substantial market niche for local artisanal wares. Many customers are seeking those one-of-a-kind items, especially for gifts—unique products lovingly made with care and not found in the Amazon world.

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North Bay News and Stories

A Flavorful Life

When Chuck Ross started F.A. Nino’s Artisan Products, it was out of necessity. But Ross’ passion and authenticity is the driving force behind the company, leading to exponential growth that’s still coming to fruition.

El Coqui in Santa Rosa

The Puerto Rican coqui (pronounced ko-kee) is a small green frog, native of the island. When the sun goes down at dusk, the coquis sing ko-kee all night until dawn. It’s a popular creature, known to bring the tropical forests there to life. The coqui has been a cultural symbol of Puerto Rican history for years and an icon for all that’s Puerto Rican, which is why El Coqui is the perfect name for an authentic Latin restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa.

Rodney Strong Vineyards

On a mild autumn day in October, Rodney Strong Vineyards is humming with activity. The sky is wide and blue, leaves on the vines are turning brilliant shades of orange and yellow, the air smells of grapes, and a truck overflowing with Chardonnay fruit, freshly picked from a coastal vineyard, lumbers past the entrance to the winery on the way to the crush pad. It’s harvest time, once again, for the winery that was originally founded in 1959 by the late, celebrated American dancer, Rodney Strong.

Is Drinking Wine Good For the Heart?

Last week I met a lovely couple in their late fifties who came to establish their care with me at my office. They both had been diligent about keeping up with regular checkups and with preventive screening tests and lab work. During a routine physical exam with the husband, I noted that he had an irregular heartbeat, and a subsequent EKG showed atrial fibrillation. This is a cardiac rhythm that can lead to a stroke, if not treated. I discovered that for years, the couple shared a bottle of wine each day. This was part of their nightly, winding-down routine. When I mentioned that alcohol likely contributed to his arrhythmia and blood pressure elevation, he and his wife were shocked.

The Circus is Back in Town

When Trump surprised us with presidential victory, I had a short but poignant heart-to-heart with an ultra-educated person with degrees from Georgetown, Harvard and a Yale doctorate in political science. Whoa. My friend Kim is a person who’s dedicated her life to understanding the machinations of government, the power ordinary citizens can have upon them, and the incessant dance between the will of the people and the insatiable hunger for power from politicians.

Sangiacomo Vineyards

A road winding out of the city during the heat of fall guides both oenophile and casual wine lover to the heart of Sonoma Valley, the Sangiacomo family’s home since 1927. The winery is nestled in the valley with vast views of its encompassing vineyards, greeting any guest with the perfect atmosphere for wine tasting.

How Strong is Your Password?

I don’t think anyone really likes passwords, at least not with as many as we each have to carry around these days. A password is just a fairly unsophisticated way of telling a computer that you are who you say you are, a process known as “authentication.”

A Taxing Wine Industry

Wine is a pawn for world leaders when it comes to trade negotiations. In the last few months, China has ratcheted up its taxes on wines imported by the United States to 95 percent, while the Trump administration recently imposed 25 percent tariffs on French, German, Spanish and U.K. wines.

Sonoma Portworks: A Proven Original

Upon entering Sonoma Portworks—neatly situated in the eclectic Foundry Wharf neighborhood on the edge of Petaluma’s west side—one first notices the striking display of awards above the tasting room bar. There are quite a few of them. And Sonoma Portworks, founded by Bill and Caryn Reading, is as original as it is accomplished.

Perrys On Magnolia

If you’re from the Bay Area, chances are you’ve heard of Perry’s on Union Street, which has become something of a San Francisco landmark since opening in 1969. Perry’s vision was simple—good food, good drinks and good people. The restaurant was an instant hit and became one of the city’s most popular gathering places.

Power Plays

As I sat down to write this month’s column, it coincided with the two-year anniversary of the Napa and Sonoma Valley fires of 2017. Aptly, our power was out, alongside more than 32,000 Napa County residents who lost power, all in response to a red flag warning for high winds and potential wildfires. Schools closed, traffic signals ceased to illuminate, gas reserves were depleted and many rushed to buy generators.

Trump Barges into West Marin Ranching Controversy

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Jared Huffman and President Donald Trump on the same side of a divisive local issue? Politics truly do make for strange bedfellows.


From the local North Bay to nationwide, these are the leading business stories and statistics.

Todd Zapolski

Todd Zapolski’s original life plan didn’t involve real estate. Rather, as he took some time off as a young man, law school was in order. For the North Bay and Napa in particular—and for Todd, too—that extra time paid dividends. Zapolski switched gears, founding his first company in 1982, followed by a few partnership entities that led to the start of Zapolski Real Estate in 2007.


For the holiday season, learn eco friendly tips and how to conquer your end of the year office parties


From unique hand crafted plates to the perfect wine for gift giving, these are this months picks



In this Issue

Still Sonoma Strong

The firestorm was declared fully contained two weeks later on Nov. 6. In that time, nearly 78,000 acres were destroyed; 180,000 people were evacuated (including 300 inmates in the North County jail); ...

Healdsburg Then and Now

On a bend in the Russian River with the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Chalk Hill American Viticulture Areas on its periphery, Healdsburg has much to offer. It’s a magnet for those seeki...

Restoration Hardware

U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers are in retreat. Pier 1 Imports is planning on closing more than 140 stores and Z Gallery is shuttering 44 locations. Sears filed for bankruptcy, joining Gymboree and Pa...

See all...



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