BottleRock Stages Feature Napa Bands


By Louisa Hufstader

Top acts from across the worlds of popular music are heading to the Napa Valley Exposition for BottleRock, May 30, May 31 and June 1: The Cure, Outkast, Heart, Railroad Earth, and De La Soul are just five of the 75 bands listed on the festival’s website.

Also in the line-up: More than a dozen Napa bands, playing almost as many different kinds of music, along with other Northern California groups on a special stage dedicated to regional performers.

“We had 142 submissions. Some amazing talent out there,” said Thea Witsil, owner of Wildcat Vintage Clothing in Napa and co-founder of Napa Porchfest, who is in her second year of managing the local and regional stage for BottleRock. “(I’m) so excited to help promote these awesome indie bands,” Witsil said.

The City Winery stage, also sponsored by Guitar Center, features several Napa bands that have been  favorites at the annual Porchfest. 

Cosmos Percussion Orchestra, May 30

Longtime Napa art and music teacher, John Hannaford, is a one of five percussionists in this eight-member, “world fusion” group, which draws on many musical cultures to create music that gets audiences dancing and even playing along.

The motto on the orchestra’s Facebook page reads, “Respecting the rich traditions of all forms of World Music; as well as the infinite possibilities of contemporary exploration.”

More information:

The Deadlies, May 31 

Napa’s own Deadlies have not only become the Bay Area’s preeminent, surf-rock band: They’ve established
a sound of their own, where classic surf meets country and punk.

Recently off a tour with Lisa Marie Presley and the Mavericks, the trio features founding members, James Patrick Regan and Bob St. Laurent — a.k.a. Good Morning Bob from KVYN and drummer, Tymber Cavasian.

More information:

The Graveyard Boots, May 31

American roots music inspires this five-man Napa group, whose influences range from vintage country music to funk and the blues.

Members are Scott Turnnidge on drums, Mike Hirby on guitar and vocals, Abe Newman on bass, Oliver Jacobson on violin and vocals, and Jesse Baldo on guitar.

More information:

Jealous Zelig, May 31

Jealous Zelig includes (in photo) Ross Rubin (on Vocals and Keys) and Les Violettes’ Colin Shipman (on Double-Bass).  The band also includes Orchestra Napa Valley Fellow Matt Boyles on Bass Clarinet, Pablo Escobar on Drums, Napa High School Director of Bands Mike Riendeau on Trombone and Multi-instrumentalist Chris Vibberts on Steel, Classical and Electric Guitars.

Their sound is like “a bit of Bowie, Bach, Baker, Bud Powell and the Beatles, bringing the late-night partiers into the kitchen with Nilsson, Wonder, Redding, Mercury and Kaufman already raiding the back of the fridge,” according to the Jealous Zelig Facebook page.

More information:

Grass Child, June 1

Originally called “Grass Child Gypsy,” this Napa supergroup features five music veterans combining their talents and influences to create a collaborative, high-energy sound, drawing on rock, funk and ska.

Sarah Madsen is the group’s “Songbird”; Brant Roscoe plays guitar, Jonny Tindall is the bassist, Barry Forsythe plays trap drums, and John Hannaford adds world percussion.

More information:

Ramblerz, June 1

Long known as the Napa Valley Ramblers, this seven-piece group plays bluegrass, Napa style, weaving in sounds from other American traditions including blues, folk and Puerto Rican music.

Along with the group’s packed Porchfest appearances on Randolph Street every July, members of Ramblerz can be found playing in front of Wildcat Vintage Clothing on Main Street, as well as at local events and parties.

More information:

Michael Thomason Band, June 1

This longtime Upvalley band also has a strong following overseas, with a #2 record on the European Country Music Association chart, and ECMA nominations for Band of the Year and Album of the year.

Thomason finds the soul of country with his intelligent original songs, the twang of his vocals with daughter Jessie, and powerful playing by guitarist Sean Allen, bassist Don Schmitt and drummer James Foster.

More information:

The Sorry Lot, June 1

Named after a disdainful comment by a British bartender, this seven-piece, Napa band describes its sound as “rowdy Irish drinking music from California’s wine country,” with a repertoire of traditional classics, along with “more modern, irreverent tunes.”

Instruments include banjo, fiddle, tin whistle,  accordion, guitar, bodhran (frame drum), mandolin, bass and bouzouki.

More information:

“Several acoustic/singer-songwriter acts from Napa are also appearing in the BottleRock VIP Lounge, an exclusive festival area open only to premium ticket-holders.” Witsil said.

Trevor Lyon, May 30

A perennial Porchfest favorite, Lyon plays contemporary reggae influenced by hip-hop, blues, jazz and rock. He’s also a songwriter with more than two dozen songs available on iTunes.

More information:

Kristen Van Dyke, May 30

Another Porchfest crowd-pleaser, singer-songwriter Kristin Van Dyke formed her band, the Bunnies, in 2010.

Van Dyke tells BottleRock that her influences include Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday.

More information:

Amber Snider Trio, June 1

She still calls Napa home, but Amber Snider is also an internationally-known performer, who is scheduled for a European tour in April and early May, followed by a string of Bay Area gigs leading up to BottleRock.

Called “super talented” by Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald, Snider has recorded five CDs and two singles, and describes her sound as “Folk-Rock, Country & Blues = Ambericana.”

More information:

Shelby Lanterman, June 1

Just 20 years old, Shelby Lanterman is already a well-known Napa singer-guitarist who has appeared multiple times at the Napa Valley Opera House and played Porchfest as part of the duo, Mirror Image, with Nadia Kako.

Lanterman’s songwriting and performing influences include classic rock bands such as Heart and
Led Zeppelin.

More information:

Sweet Burgundy, June 1

This all-female trio of Napa singer-songwriters has been together for eight years, playing for audiences from wine country to the Caribbean, with a repertoire of acoustic originals and covers spanning folk-rock, country and blues.

Their BottleRock appearance follows the May 1 release date for their third CD, “Tattooed Melodies.”

More information:

See the entire list of BottleRock performers at

Give Yourself a Pay Raise – Ride the Bus to Work

Buses at Transit Center IV cropped

A recent Auto Club study reported that the average cost to own and operate a car is between $8,000 and $11,000 a year.  Most people spend several hundred dollars a month on gasoline alone. Taking the bus to work several days a week can save you thousands of dollars a year in fuel and car maintenance – the equivalent of a healthy pay raise.

Getting around by bus is easy. The new VINE provides great connections around town and throughout the Bay area, including El Cerrito Del Norte BART, Vallejo Ferry, Amtrak, and Solano and Sonoma Counties.

According to Tom Roberts, Manager of Public Transit at the VINE, recent improvements in the bus service were made with commuters in mind. “We knew people wanted a system where buses would come frequently and get them to their destination quickly. Now, most routes run every 30 minutes and the average travel time to most Napa neighborhood destinations is under 15 minutes.”

People going to work or school represent over half of the VINE’s growing ridership base. Amy Garcia is one of those commuters.  She lives in Fairfield and rides the VINE’s Route 21 Express to her job in Napa. Amy explains, “I save money on gas, I don’t put as many miles on my car, and I am also compensated by my employer for using public transportation.”  Amy avoids the frustration and agony of commuting because her express bus has reclining seats, Wi-Fi, and limited stops so she can relax and enjoy the ride.

Chelsea Ford is a Napa resident who works downtown and has also discovered the convenience of taking the VINE to work. “It’s four miles from where I live to where I work,” says Chelsea. “It’s easy and it’s quick and it’s the best type of transportation for me.”

If you take the bus, the VINE can also guarantee you have a way to get home in an emergency. The VINE partners with Solano/Napa Commute Information, the “Emergency Ride Home” program which provides vouchers for taxis or rental cars if there is an emergency and you need to get home during the day, or if extenuating circumstances require that you stay late
at work.

The VINE also helps employers meet the requirements under Senate Bill 1339, the Regional Commuter Benefit Legislation. SB 1339 requires that employers with more than 50 employees offer commuter alternatives to their employees; paying for transit fares and passes, or providing a pre-tax program that deducts the cost of a transit pass before taxes are withheld. Either qualifies to meet the SB 1339 requirements.

Whether you are commuting out of town or within Napa, want to save money or help save the planet, the VINE’s new bus system has convenient and economical options.

Bus Facts

• The majority of VINE riders are commuters.

• Most VINE routes run every 30 minutes.

• It takes under 15 minutes by bus to most Napa neighborhood destinations.

• The VINE has exceptional on-time performance.

• Express buses have limited stops and Wi-Fi.

• You can buy your bus pass on-line.

If you have a bonafide emergency and have to leave work, the  guaranteed ride home program will cover your costs for a rental car or taxi.

The VINE provides bus service in every city in Napa County as well as express service with limited stops to Fairfield, Suisun, Sonoma, the Vallejo Ferry, and BART in the East Bay.

For more information, go to or call 707-251-2800

Walk, Run & Dance, To Raise Money For Teacher Grants – May 18th


by Michelle Kenyon

On May 18, 2014, Napafit and the Napa Valley Education Foundation will hold their 4th annual Race For Education. In three short years, this event has earned the reputation of a “must do” family and community fundraising party, so sign up now. The Race For Education begins at 4:00 p.m. at the Napa Valley College Campus with a 5k walk/run, and finishes with a fun-filled, post-race festival, with food, wine and live entertainment provided by the electrifying Wonderbread 5 dance band. ( “I dare anyone to sit still when Wonderbread 5 is in the house,” said Ines Donnelly-Bargenquast, owner of Napafit and one of the Race For Education founders. “Last year, parents and kids alike swarmed the stage during Wonderbread 5’s performance; they are such engaging performers and perfect for keeping the fun going at our post-Race festival. It is a great time for families to come out to support local education, get a walk or a run in together as a family, and then eat dinner and enjoy the live music.”

All proceeds from the Race are used to support the Napa Valley Education Foundation’s Teacher Grant Program. The NVEF Teacher Grant Program supports NVUSD students by giving teachers the tools they need to make their students more successful. Teacher grants have been used to purchase science lab materials, music and physical education program curriculum support, field trips, library resources, software, subscriptions, computers, play equipment, and much more. With over 1,200 participants in last year’s Race For Education, the Napa Valley Education Foundation was able to give $1,500 to each and every one of the thirty-two schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District. “This Race is not only an enjoyable afternoon for our community, it is crucial to the ongoing support and improvement of programs directly benefitting our students,” says Katie Aaron, a former Vintage high school teacher and coach. Katie told us, “The Foundation has a mantra, ‘Whole community, whole child, whole district,’ and this phrase captures the Foundation’s charge to seek ways for all parts of our community to have a well-rounded, educational experience.” As the founders of the Race For Education, Donnelly and Aaron have embraced that mantra and created an event that has provided the much-needed funds to enhance the educational experiences of all of the NVUSD students while incorporating physical fitness. Donnelly and Aaron met when Aaron was coaching the Vintage basketball team when Donnelly was a student player. Donnelly went on to graduate from UCLA and then spent a year in Saudi Arabia as a personal trainer to the royal family. When Donnelly returned to Napa, she started Napafit personal and group training and reconnected with her former high school basketball coach, Aaron, who joined one of her boot camp training sessions. Aaron had since joined the board of the Napa Valley Education Foundation, while raising her family. Donnelly and Aaron came up with the idea of the Race to incorporate the fitness activities they both loved and as an annual fundraiser for the Napa Valley Education Foundation. Now in its fourth year, the Race is a much-anticipated, community event and a unique source of funds for the Foundation.

One of the highlights of last year’s Race was the participation and enthusiasm for the Race engendered by teachers and staff members. The Race awards $1,000 grants to each of the elementary, middle and high schools with the most registrants. Some of the local schools did an exceptional job at rallying their students to participate in the Race and festival. The winner of the elementary school division in last year’s Race was Phillips Elementary School with nearly 150 runners. The students, their teachers and family members came together to raise awareness for Phillips Elementary and to show the community that, even in the face of adversity, if students work hard, focus on their education and goals and are kind and support their community, life will provide opportunities and benefits for them. Leslie Diakon, Phillips Elementary’s Physical Education teacher said, “Even though many of our Phillips’ family members were not able to participate on Race day because of financial constraints, our school community came together at the prize money presentation the following day during our school wide flag salute and the pride I saw in our student body was phenomenal. We plan to keep our title and the benefits that come with that win by bringing another strong showing of the Phillips’ community to the 2014 Race.”

Diakon told us that the majority of the prize money was used for much–needed, internet educational boards for every classroom and, while the money does not cover the full cost of that project, it made a measurable difference. A remaining portion of the prize money was earmarked for students who need proper shoes for physical education classes.

The Napa Valley Education Foundation has evolved significantly since its beginning three decades ago. “The District has established an innovative and nationally-recognized vision of technology-infused learning to equip our students for success in the 21st century, and the Foundation is pleased to support teachers and schools as they embrace new strategies to prepare our students for success,” Aaron stated. “The funds generated from the Race allow the NVEF to help teachers fund programs to enrich our students’ experiences and keep them engaged and moving forward. It’s a terrific event and lots of fun, but Ines and I remain focused on the ultimate objective of providing funds to get our teachers and students working at that next level, both scholastically and physically.”

2014 NVUSD School Competition

A $2,000 grant awarded to the High School or Middle School with the most registrants, as well as, one Elementary School.

When: Sunday, May 18, 2014 

Race Time:4 p.m.

Festival Time:5 – 8 p.m.

Where:  Napa Valley College Campus (free parking at Napa Valley College)

The 5k (3.1 miles) course begins and
ends on the college campus. 

(Price includes race registration & festival entry)

• Kids 4 and under – FREE

• Kids aged 5-18 – $25*

• Adults aged 19+ – $40*

*$5 more if tickets purchased on day of event

Festival Tickets ONLY:

• Kids 5 and under – FREE

• Kids aged 6-18 – $10

• Adults aged 19+ – $25

Sign up for the 4th Annual Race For
Education powered by Napafit, visit

Connolly Ranch Welcomes Kids to Discover Nature


by Stephen Ferry

The best thing about being a part of Connolly Ranch is opening the eyes of a child to our connections to the natural world,” says Michael Lauher, Education Director of Connolly Ranch.  “Whether it’s an infant toddler or an adult, it’s all about helping folks connect with Nature.”

For most of the twentieth century, Margaret “Peggy” Connolly liked to sit out on the front porch of her Browns Valley home at the corner of Thompson Avenue and Browns Valley Road, and enjoy the view of her gardens, her farm animals and, particularly, the local children passing by enjoying the little piece of natural paradise.

“When Mrs. Connolly passed away in 1991, she donated her property to the Napa Valley Land Trust,” said Jennifer Thacher-Fotherby, the new Executive Director of the Connolly Ranch.  “She donated the property with the stipulation that it be used to connect kids and their families with nature through farm-based education.”

The house remains to this day, and the surrounding twelve acres of paddocks, ponds, barns and outbuildings are used to stage a wide range of programs providing nature-based education for children of all ages.

“The education programs for kids started around 1994,” explained Thacher- Fotherby.  “Our Ranch Manager, Thom Arcadi, was one of our founding members, and between 1991-94 he was the one helping clean up the ranch to accomplish the transition from the Connolly family home to the Land Trust education-centered farm facility.  Today, Farmer Thom continues to oversee our maintenance program and our farm animal care.”

“For the past 20 years, we have been doing progressively more and more programs,” said Lauher, who also serves as property caretaker and lives in the former Connolly residence.  “Today we have dozens of offerings for individuals, small groups, and entire school classes that can be as brief as an hour or two, or as long as a full-day experience.”

“What we do on a full-time basis during the weekdays is offer educational field trip opportunities to schools,” said Thacher-Fotherby.  “Through our field trip program, we reach 70% of the Napa Unified School District.  The trips are coordinated through teachers at the schools.  Most of the field trips are for grades K-6, but there are also offerings for high school kids..”

Lauher continued, “During school hours on weekdays, groups of kids come and are presented with age-appropriate experiences.   We teach them about things such as growing food and raising farm animals at home, or preparing food in the kitchen, or environmental history, or early pioneer life.  The kids learn where their food comes from, and what “farm-to-table” is all about.

“We have a fascinating, Native American program for third graders.  The timing of this fits right in with the standard programs the kids get in school at that age.”

“During the last school year we hosted about 4,000 kids as part of  this program,” added Thacher-Fotherby.

“We also take kids into Westwood Hills City Park, which is located right behind us, up the hill,” said Lauher.  “We go for hikes and learn about oak, land ecology, native plants and animals, the importance of clean water, clean air, and clean soil.  We try to help the kids understand – on a personal level – how these things really do make a difference in each of our own personal lives.”

“When we host school classes for field trips, we usually get a class or two at a time, so it could be 60 kids in a day.  We also do small groups.  There can be numerous classes in a single day.”

Thacher-Fotherby said, “Many of the schools we host for field trips are Title One schools (where the children are on free or reduced lunch programs).  For these schools, we provide the field trip and, sometimes, the bus transportation, for free.  This is one tangible way we reach out to the community to make sure everybody can share in the opportunities for growth and learning that we are fortunate to be able to offer.  We raise money for these field trips through grants, foundation functions, individual donors, and our Connolly Ranch, fundraising events.”

“Connolly Ranch has so many long-established programs to offer,” Thacher-Fotherby continued.  “For preschoolers we have Summer Camps for kids 1st grade ready to 11 years, with themes that include Life on the Farm, Art Exploration, and Farm to Table Cooking.  We also have an Ecology Play Camp for kids 5 & 6 years old.”

“For infants up to two 2 years we have our ‘Sounds of Silence’ program each Tuesday from 9-10am,” Thacher-Fotherby said.  “This guided program is designed to be a time for parent and child to leave the noisy, often over-stimulated world and connect through gestures, body language and facial expressions.  The class moves slowly and calmly, creating a safe and relaxing environment for Very Little People to experience our ranch and the wonders of Mother Nature.  At the same time, for Big People it is always a source of wonder and inspiration to observe what each child is noticing, and how they are interacting with that plant, rock, animal or new friend.  You could find yourself experiencing our earth for what seems like the first time too!”

“Beginning this year, we want to make the Connolly Ranch more available to people,” said Lauher.  “We want to offer things besides the field trips and the camps, so we will be doing new things on Wednesdays and Saturdays.”

“One new thing this year will be ‘Walkabout Wednesday’.  Every Wednesday between 3-5pm Connolly Ranch will be open to the public.  It will be a way for people to come in and check it out for free.  People will be encouraged to make a donation, but it will be free for those who can’t afford a donation.   We will be offering tours and also allowing people to check out the Ranch in their own.”

“Wednesdays also will be a good time for people who are thinking about volunteering to come by and check out the possibilities for that.  We rely heavily on volunteers.   The time is totally unstructured.  Visitors can just come in and relax and explore,” said Lauher.

“And, Wednesday Walkabouts will also be an opportunity for adults who may have been in a program 20 years ago to come back and see how the Ranch has grown and evolved,” added Thacher-Fotherby.     The new, Saturday programs are going to be one-day offerings, which will make attendance more practical for parents who have to travel a little farther to get here.

“The new Saturday programs will start on April 12, and will continue the second Saturday of each month,” explained Thacher-Fotherby.  “There will be different activities as we go through the seasons.  We will start out with a ‘Mommy and Me,’ parent-child class from 9:00-10:00.   Then, from 10-2, we will have a drop-off session for kids between the ages of 4-13.  Having a wide age range allows siblings from the same family to be in the same group together, and also simplifies the drop-off/pickup logistics for parents with more than one child in the program.   This will be a great time for kids to connect with nature while the parents have a few hours to go off and do something locally.”

“We will continue to have ‘Fun Family Fridays’ for children/infant through five years old, accompanied by an adult,” said Lauher.  “Each Friday will start out with some free, play time in the barns, garden or grove.  Then we move into our project of the week.  These structured activities are designed for all ages to participate together, and include topics such as gardening, cooking, art and animal care.”

“Saturday is also when we have workshops for adults,” continued Lauher; “Master gardeners, tree pruning, beekeeping classes, plant propagation, backyard poultry, and eggs in the yard.  We run little workshops, give them some idea of what it is like to have six birds in your back yard.

“Saturday is a chance for the kids who have done a field trip during the week to bring Mom and Dad (who may be occupied with work M-F) out to the Ranch,” added Thacher Fotherby.

“People just need to come out here and visit,” said Lauher.  “The magic is here.  Once people get here on-site, they seem to find that they connect to more than they expected.”

Connolly Ranch is located at 3141 Browns Valley Road, Napa, California 94558, at the corner of Thompson Avenue, and is open to the general public for Family Farm Day in June, and Harvest Festival Day in October.

To find out more, the website is To become a community sponsor, send an email to:

Conversations with a Small Dog

dog lady

By ML Hilton

I consider myself a practical woman. I’m efficient, methodical, and logical. I believe that most things are explainable and I have a little bit of a “show me” attitude. A lot of that comes from my upbringing in the deep South.

A time and place, for example, where children were seen and not heard, hard work was hard currency, and “yoga” and “metaphysical” may have actually never been uttered. Everyone had laying hens in the yard and FRESH fried chicken for dinner.  Animals had their place — they were part of the family’s ecosystem — but the pets were definitely not considered on par with the children.  Even my spirituality is light on blind faith, and heavy on “do-unto-others.”

But no matter how practical and straightforward I’ve become, I suspect there is more to the natural world that can be easily defined. Things flit across the fabric of life that show a deeper, more ethereal connection. Like the time I moved a state away from my dearest friend. I called her a week later to tell her of a dream I had were we enjoyed the best adventure in a little blue Chevette. She listened in stunned silence, and when I finished my tale, she told me that she had purchased a new car the day before: a little blue Chevette.

And, that’s not the only story I have like that. So, I save my knee-jerk, deep doubts for national politicians and aging Lotharios. All others I will happily invite a listen, even if the “B S” meter starts twitching.

In late January, I had the opportunity to take my little Chihuahua, Bananas, to an Animal Intuitive. Animal intuitives, or “communicators,” as it was explained to me, is someone who has something like a telepathic conversation, heavily weighted with an intuitive sense and an open mind.  Bananas and I visited with Barbara Martin who offers her sessions in Napa, through The Spa at Napa River Inn.

Barbara calls herself the “animal communicator of the common man.”  She isn’t particularly gypsy-looking, or airy-fairy. In fact, she comes across as rather average, leaning heavily on the gentle and nice side of average. While Barbara is naturally sensitive, she studied many years under well-known, national Animal Communicators in order to learn her craft.

Typically, Barbara helps owners understand their animal’s health and behavior issues, fears, thoughts and feelings. She can sometimes help people stay “in touch” with animals after they go to the great backyard in
the sky.

My little dog easily took to her and climbed on her lap. The only questions she asked of me to start were how many other animals and people were in the house, and our names. Barbara gave me a pad to take notes while she conversed with my dog. And, I must confess, that I busied myself with the activity of note taking, in hopes of not giving off too many “clues.”

In the course of the conversation with my dog, she covered a lot of topics with Bananas, sometimes asking questions and sometimes listening. She checked in with me a few times, to clarify, but I didn’t feel like I was tuned into the conversation.

Let’s get to the best part. Was the reading accurate? There were a number of things that Barbara said that were hands-down true.

Barbara asked Bananas if she like to go to work with me (since we were at work that day). Banana’s answered “yes,” but that she used to go to work with me all the time, which was true. When I got Bananas from the pound 8 years ago, she went with me everywhere, including daily to my job.

Barbara asked Bananas how old she was. The answer? “She thinks she is 10.”  True.

When asked about her health, Bananas said, “I’m healthy, but my teeth are going to cost a fortune.” One of her last visits to vet, they suggested a dental cleaning that was estimated to cost more than $1,000. Could you guess that? Yes, Bananas has bad breath, but it still was right on.

We recently lost our old beagle, Milo, who died right before Christmas. Barbara asked Bananas about Milo and she said that she knew he had died, but she “was not there” when it happened. Also true. Milo died in our arms at the vet, when we ended his suffering. Bananas did say that Milo was still at the house, in spirit. We have not seen him, of course, but still feel his presence in our hearts daily.

When asked about her time at the animal shelter, Barbara asked Bananas if she “was a runaway, got lost, or if her people had died.” Banana’s said no. “She was so destructive,” they got tired of her and dropped her off.  I have no idea if Bananas was destructive; she certainly isn’t at our house. But, true, Bananas was surrendered.

Bananas also told Barbara that she (Bananas) is famous. And that she “has accessories.” Yes, we do put little bows on our dog. She did, however, answer that she had no clothes. Which is not true. There is a little sweater that she hates and rubs off in the dirt as fast as she can — like Houdini removing a straight jacket.

Bananas picked her name. We had trouble settling on the right one. She came from the shelter as Cream (which never seemed right to us or, apparently, Bananas). We tried Trixie for a while, but my daughter started calling her Bananas when she would dance madly around the house. That stuck, according to Barbara, because Bananas was communicating that was what she was to be called.

There were some aspects of the conversation that could have easily just been suggestions from someone very good with animals. I felt like the comments were constructive, however, and even gave me some good insight into our lovely little dog.

There were also parts of the conversation that were personal in nature, about the vibe of our home and comments on our emotional health.  Bananas is a fairly chatty little dog.

Barbara says that is not unusual. “Animals really want this to happen,” she said. “So, they help.” According to Barbara, what she does is just information. “Clear-eyed seeing beyond your eyes. It’s not hocus-pocus; it’s just being in tune.”

Interestingly enough, I felt a lot closer to my little dog than I had before. Maybe we should have these chats more often.

(ML Hilton is a long-time Napa resident. If you have comments on this story, or would like to suggest other story topics, please email her at:

Teaching to the Taste: Bringing Crops to Kids in Napa County Schools

edibles photowp

By Louisa Hufstader

In elementary schools from Yountville to American Canyon, thousands of little kids are eating their vegetables. Not only are these Napa Valley youngsters willingly choosing broccoli, kale and other wholesome produce not usually found in public school cafeterias, they are, through classroom “tasting kits,” meet-the-farmer videos and take-home bags of fresh food, learning how it’s grown and why it’s good for them as well as fun to eat.

Harvest of the Month

“The big idea is to get kids to know where their food comes from,” says Napa chef ,Elizabeth Skylar, whose Edible Education Napa Valley has partnered with the Napa County Farm Bureau to bring the “Harvest of the Month” program to more than 8,000 kids in all 19 elementary schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District.

After viewing a brief video profile; kale with “Farmer Thaddeus” of Capay Organics , the schoolchildren get a personal introduction to the crop-of-the-month: in this case, fresh kale salad prepared by Skylar They see it in my hand; they see me chop it up and make food with it,” Skylar says. And, then they eat it: You can see the smiling results in her snapshots on the Edible Education Napa Valley Facebook page.

Michelle Risso of the Farm Bureau’s, Agriculture in the Classroom program, which works with Skylar to present the monthly food spotlight at local schools, says the bureau’s goals include “increasing the intake of healthy fruits and vegetables by kids in the cafeterias” and finding markets for local growers.

State grant brings crops to cafeterias

Now, in its second year, Napa’s, Harvest of the Month is funded by a three-year, $250,000 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Risso says.

“We have many partners on this,” she added, naming the Napa County Office of Education, which wrote the grant application, as well as the county agricultural commissioner’s office and the Food Advisory Council.

The program got off to a strong start in its first year, “even … when we served broccoli,” Risso says.

“We gave tasting kits to teachers, and the cafeteria ran out of broccoli,” she said.

The task of cutting up and serving fresh fruits and veggies in the classroom has teachers “very excited,” Risso says.

“We’ve received tons of really good feedback on the tasting kits, which include bags of the month’s designated produce, newsletters with food information and nutrition facts and cutting boards and knives for the teachers,” Risso explains.

Most popular of all, she says, are the Farm Bureau’s Ag videos, which can also be viewed online at

“Kids just love those,” Risso says.

Last year, most of the Harvest of the Month fruits and vegetables came from the Central Valley breadbaskets of Salinas and Fresno, but now “we’re trying to find them within 100 miles of Napa.”

Along with classroom tastings, the Harvest of the Month is also served in the schools’ cafeterias.

Inspired by Alice Waters

In addition to preparing and presenting the Harvest of the Month, Skylar also contracts with local school groups to present after-school, “garden to table” food and cooking classes around the Napa Valley.

“Inspired by the work of Alice Waters, and the Edible Schoolyard, Chef Elizabeth Skylar creates Garden and Farm–based, Culinary Nutrition Education Programs,” reads the short description on her Edible Education Napa Valley, Facebook page.

Skylar discovered her calling after the high-profile failure of Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa.

“In the ill-fated year of 2008, I was senior culinary educator at Copia,” recalls Skylar, who has also taught at Ramekins and Silverado Cooking School.

After the bankrupt center closed its doors that November, she found herself “trying to figure out what was next,” before taking a subcontract to provide culinary, health education for children on Air Force bases in the United States.

“I liked doing it and, apparently, I have some aptitude in that area,” she says.

But, accustomed to life in Napa, where gastronomy is part of the ambient culture, Skylar wasn’t prepared for the scarcity of fresh, nutritious food for kids in the Air Force towns, where fast food and chain cuisine dominate the culinary landscape.

“We’re not feeding them very well and there are not a lot of options,” she says. “I didn’t realize how truly horrible it was.”

As she traveled from base to base, “the more I got involved, the more I realized what needed to be done, and it just took over,” Skylar says.

Back in Napa, “l went to Harvest Middle School and said ‘You have a garden and I’m a chef. Let’s talk,’” Skylar recalls.

Four years later, “I am still learning all the time,” she says. “I like to be in that position of constantly learning new stuff.”

In February, Skylar added another new skill to her toolkit: Crowdfunding. Inspired by Napa cyclist and open-space volunteer, Chino Yip’s “smoothie bike,” she mounted a donation campaign at and, within five days, had received pledges for 75 percent of the $1,500 cost to have a similar, pedal-powered blender built for Edible Education.

“My plan is to take it around to the schools and use it as another part of the program to get kids excited about food,” she says.

Find out more about Edible Education Napa Valley online at and on Facebook at Visit the Napa County Farm Bureau at

The Iconic Greystone Cellars

Greystone Campus

By Rebecca Yerger

Envisioned by William Bowers Bourn, Jr., the son of an Irishman, the visually impressive Greystone Cellars is the perfect historical subject for the month of March; the time to celebrate all things Irish.

With its solid, native-stone edifice rising from its terraced hillside site, Greystone has commanded notice and attention since its 1887 construction. While being physically solid, stately, and even formidable, Greenstone’s history has changed over time due to the influences of socio-economic changes.

Greystone began as a brain-child, business concept of William Bowers Bourn, Jr. who was the son of the late William Bowers Bourn, Sr. The elder Bourn had amassed a great fortune from his shipping company partnerships, and especially from his Empire Gold Mine during the mid-1800s. While both Bourns had many business interests and residences throughout California, they had strong ties to Napa County, and especially to St. Helena where Bourn, Jr. spent the summers of his youth.

Although an heir to his father’s estate, Bourn, Jr. was a savvy businessman in his own right and created an even greater financial dynasty. This entrepreneurial aptitude helped him recognize the opportunity and potential of a facility such as Greystone.

The genesis of Greystone was Bourn Jr.’s response to the autocratic, price-fixing conspiracies found throughout the Bay Area wine mercantiles. By imposing those unfair practices, wine dealers forced local grape growers and winemakers to take below-market prices for their commodities.

As a remedy to those underhanded tactics, the Greystone concept included creating a cooperative. In addition to building the one-million gallon winery, terms and options were drafted for those wanting to conduct their business with proposed Greystone. First off, it was emphatically stated, “NO Malvoisie, Mission, inferior grapes or grapes in bad condition will be received for winemaking.” As for the options, they were: 1) Greystone would produce wine, on shares, from anyone’s grapes, plus store the wine separately. 2) That wine, or any wine stored at Greystone, would be held until the highest price could be secured. Then, following the sale, the wine owner would be paid his share of the profits. 3) Any grower could sell their quality grapes directly to Greystone.

Bourn, Jr. began his Greystone campaign by first forging a business partnership with another young businessman, Everett Wise. Both of these men were in their early 30s. The next step was to find and/or rally support for the cooperative within the Napa County wine industry. To that end, Bourn, Jr. met with Henry Pellet, president of the St. Helena Vinicultural Club before meeting with the general membership. Pellet fully endorsed the idea and strongly encouraged his fellow associates to do the same.

After successfully gaining the backing of the local wine industry, Bourn, Jr. and Wise hired the San Francisco architectural firm of Percy and Hamilton to design Greystone Cellars. Some individuals believe Greystone was designed to resemble a castle in Ireland.

The final plans called for the use of cutting-edge materials and technology of that era, such as the brand-new, Portland cement. During the construction, that cement was used as mortar, as well as poured over the iron reinforcing rods built within the first and second floor elevations. The heavy timber construction of the third floor provided structural support for not only that floor’s cask, barrel and bottle aging space but also for the gravity-flow crushing area located within the floor above.

As for technology, Greystone was the first California winery to be operated and illuminated by electricity. A boiler and gas generator, located in a mechanical room below the central front wing of the building, produced the electricity. Another accolade garnered by Greystone was due to its massive dimensions. Greystone Cellars was the largest winery in California.

All that grandeur and state-of-the-art design came with an equally grand price tag, $250,000. That figure was an exorbitant amount of money in the late 19th century, even for the ultra-wealthy.

Then, within less than a decade of its completion, Greystone began its succession of property owners. By 1894, it was owned by Charles Carpy, and became the trademark for the CWA – California Wine Association. By late 1924, CWA had removed all of the 200,000 gallons of wine stored at Greystone. A year later the Bisceglia brothers of San Jose purchased Greystone, where they produced sacramental wines until 1930. Following a three-year hiatus, the Bisceglias restored operations at Greystone in October 1933.

Christian Brothers entered the picture in 1945 when they signed a lease agreement for the cellar. Five years later they bought Greystone. Decades later, faced with declining market shares and vineyard yields, as well as the very costly prospect of seismically retrofitting Greystone, Christian Brothers winery was sold to the Hueblein Company of Canada in 1991. A year later they sold Greystone to the Culinary Institute of America for $1.68 million. In three short years, after opening in August 1995, Greystone had been retrofitted and remodeled into the western CIA campus.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, Greystone Cellars is now enjoying a renaissance in purpose and popularity. However, it still lives up to the sentiments expressed in a circa-1900, CWA brochure. “Whoever visits Napa Valley…must inevitably have his attention called to ‘Greystone,’ our magnificent stone cellar which is a landmark for miles around, and which, for centuries to come, will be an enduring monument to its builders and owners…” and community.