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Live! From the [sodden] Napa Valley!


Napa is jammed with visitors. Fortunately the rains appear to be holding off today, Friday, but will return this evening, and tomorrow looks doubtful for the auction itself. I haven’t been there for years, but when I used to go, in the ’90s, Napa Valley actually experienced summertime. The ladies would stroll Meadowood’s green lawns in billowing white summery frocks, and if it got too hot there were umbrellas beneath which one could take shelter from the June sun. I don’t think heat will be a problem tomorrow. I ran into Heidi Peterson Barrett during dinner at Solage’s Solbar restaurant (she was with her hubbie, Bo), and we were talking about the weather which Heidi described as “wrong on every level.” I liked that. Not just “wrong.” We all know it’s “wrong.” But “wrong on every level”–meteorologically, viticulturally, spiritually, emotionally, historically, biologically, morally, intuitively. I think it’s even wrong theologically, although I can’t prove it.

On Wednesday I visited with Jayson Woodbridge, the owner of Hundred Acre, whom I’d never met before. I’m usually reluctant to say I’ve never met someone before, because I tend to be forgetful about these things, and if it turns out I actually did meet the person, it’s embarrassing. But I’m sure I’ve never met Jayson, because if I had, I wouldn’t have forgotten. Besides, we have a mutual admiration for Winston Churchill, after whom Jayson named one of his English bulldogs who does look remarkably like WSC without the cigar.

Now here I am sitting in the Oxbow Market, taking advantage of their free wi-fi. I’m early for lunch at Morimoto. I don’t know how much of an appetite I’ll have, because I got hungry as soon as I got to Oxbow (such a marvelous place, a sort of copy of Ferry Plaza but not as grand) and had a rather filling breakfast of huevos and chorizo with fried potatoes and tortillas at C Casa, the little Mexican place right next to Hog Island Oyster Co. That filled me up, especially following last night’s dinner (crispy poached lily egg with asparagus, piquillo peppers, prosciutto in a lemon garlic dressing for appetizer, followed by grilled ahi tuna stir fry of brown rice, snap peas, gingered carrots and black sesame and the most delicious green mystery sauce). Eating and drinking too much is one of the biggest challenges of being on the road, and of course you never have the time to do anything aerobic to burn it off, which is why you’ll see the occasional protruding tummy in the wine and food biz. When I finally get back home to Oakland after a couple days on the road, I can hardly wait to get to 24 Hour Fitness. Stairmaster, treadmill, ellipticals, recumbent bike, and then abs followed by upper or lower body–that’s the ticket to repair the damage done by the road. Bo Barrett, by the way, seemed in fantastic shape, trim and buffed. I bet he works out.

Anyhow, this weather really is evil. I know I keep harping on it, but really, this is getting ridiculous. Tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) forecast now calls for heavy rain. Not just showers; not just light to moderate, but heavy. Continuing into Monday. After that, the remainder of the week looks dry, but still unseasonably cool. At least we don’t have tornadoes.

  1. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi Steve…it was great to run into you at Oxbow. Hope the auction attendees rally under the tents, free from the rain!

  2. Nonfarming effects of the rain: I have four events to do this weekend, two have cancelled to be rescheduled on top of other events either next weekend or the following. One is an outdoor parade on sunday which hasn’t yet cancelled but that should be interesting. The schedules are a mess and one person from Ohio quipped: “I can’t believe you Californian’s canceling events because of a little rain!”

  3. Michaela Rodeno says:

    Nothing stops the auction – when I was chair in 1998 it threatened to rain (and hasn’t since until now) but the show went on, and the rain held off until the party was over. THEN it rained.

  4. Sao Anash says:

    Hard to imagine that rain could ever dampen the spirits at the Napa Valley Wine Auction……still the greatest wine auction in the nation, in my humble opinion.

    Thanks for the report (especially the culinary notes) from Napa. Love Oxbow too!

  5. Tom, it looks like the auction will not be rain free! Nice seeing you too, take care.

  6. Hi Sao, see you soon! Regards.

  7. So the Jayson Woodbridge exercise program isn’t working for you? I’m fond of the arm curls — if 5oz isn’t enough resistance, I say get a bigger glass.



  8. Glad to hear you got to C Casa…love their salads. Hope you have time to check out Ca’ Momi@ Oxbow…Fabulous Italian pastries and pizza!

  9. Janice Fuhrman says:

    Funny you recall women in “billowing white summery frocks.” What I recall from the 5-6 consecutive years I attended the auction were skimpy, low-cut numbers and women dripping in jewelry in the typically hot weather. The only time of the year that Napa Valley looked like Vegas!

  10. Janice, interesting how memory plays tricks. I probably last attended the auction (as opposed to the lead off events) 12 years ago and that’s my dream. Maybe I have blocked out the Vegas people.

  11. Nannnete, hah! I added an inch to my biceps after my dinner with Jayson.

  12. Sugarbowl just announced that it’s reopening for Fourth of July skiing this year.

  13. I can’t decide what’s worse: sportswriters who complain about the weather when the Super Bowl is in a cold weather city, or wine writers complaining about having rain in Napa Valley.

  14. Rogersworthe: sportswriters.

  15. Bright sun, blue sky, 75+ degrees here in Walla Walla. Maybe the Napa auction should be moved up here?

  16. John Roberts says:

    It’s the “wrong” weather that reminds one in California wine country how lucky they are year after year. Years like this are for wine-making.

  17. And then there’s the north Sierra Foothills, where everything is pretty much right. Yes, more rain and cold than normal, however our growing season typically starts a bit later than our “low land” neighbors anyway. No late frost this year (now THAT is becoming atypical). Just starting to get bloom, so the hail last week had no effect. Because our soils are thin and not very deep, irrigation is de rigueur during the summer…my water bill is going to be a lot smaller! The weather report indicates the rains stop today, and it will be low 80’s by end of week. After last season, I’m thrilled with how 2011 is progressing.

  18. Is evrybody in Napa and i’m the only one that didn’t go to Napa.

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