Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” July 2007.
Ramblin’ On by the Napa Nomad, Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
Foster Road and Stanly Lane Marketplace
By Arvis Northrop
One of the best things about Napa is the rural look and feel it still has, even in the 21st Century. When I drive home from San Francisco, and finally get off 101 onto 37, I can feel the tension skim off of my car and me like vapor trails, as I pull away from “city life.” It’s the country back roads of Napa where you can experience our agricultural history and appreciate nature. From the downtown center, take the #5 Vine to the corner of Imola Avenue and Foster Road. It’s there that you start an easy walk along a country road, ending up at a great little market for a picnic lunch.
Start by going south on Foster Road. At the beginning are apartments and homes on either side. There isn’t much of a sidewalk after the last housing development, but the road is wide and lots of people use it for walking, jogging and dog walking. You can easily bike up and down this road too. The whole excursion is approximately 3.3 miles roundtrip.
In less than a 1/2 mile the road ascends an easy hill and toward the east you can see the pastures to Hwy 29 and the Skyline Park hillside. There are great grassy hills and knolls on either side of the road. As you arrive at the peak of the hill, Stewart Ranch is on the left. This ranch covers about 500 acres and is a working cattle and dairy ranch.
One of my favorite sightings right here on this road are the “Oreo Cows.”
The what? Oreo Cows? Well, that’s what lots of people call them. These cows have a black front end and black back end and then a wide white band around their middles. They look like an Oreo cookie from the side. In fact, these are Belted cows, imported from Denmark and Ireland. The Galloway Belted cattle are from Ireland; they have long hair and are prized for lean beef. The Dutch Belted cows produce a great quantity of milk. Rather than “Oreo,” this species is more commonly referred to as “Belties;” both very endearing names, I think.
Here’s a silly thing: the first time I saw these cows I was driving along Hwy 29 and they were way off in the distance. It was winter, very chilly. I looked at the black cows and wondered what was wrapped around their middles. I thought, “Maybe it’s a blanket, to keep the cows warmer, especially around the middle to protect their milk production.” It seemed like a good idea at the time. When I actually saw them up close and realized it was their fur and markings I felt justifiably ridiculous. You can share this story; I don’t care. It probably makes you feel smarter already, doesn’t it?
Back to Foster Road. As you stroll over the hill there is a view of vineyards and Eucalyptus trees to the right and beyond. When you get to the bottom of the hill, turn right on Golden Gate Drive and walk over to the Stanly Lane Marketplace.
This is a great place to hang out before heading back. The owner, Billy Wilcoxson, has expanded this market and surrounding property into a friendly roadside attraction. You can put together wine, cheese, snacks and beverages to enjoy at the picnic tables. The store is also a full mercantile of local artisan gifts, skin care products, pantry items, fresh produce and more. There are espresso drinks and an olive oil tasting bar featuring Augustino’s Olive Oil. Mr. Wilcoxson produces the olive oil in honor of his grandfather, Augustino Giovannoni, who came from Lucca, Italy to America in the early 1900’s. Stanly Lane Marketplace is open seven days a week. For more information call: 707-253-7512.
Outside, you’ll find used wine barrels for sale at a very good price, along with handcrafted barrel furniture and fountains for your home and patio. Enjoy your lunch at the tables with a view of majestic Eucalyptus trees lining the road.
Stanly Lane Marketplace features D&S Produce outdoors. D&S brings produce in from local farmers, within a 50-mile radius. The market is open Thursday through Sunday with fresh, in-season items throughout the summer. At the end of each week, D&S takes whatever usable produce is left over and donates it to local food banks and charities. Nothing goes to waste.
An “inconvenient truth” about some farmer’s markets is the produce and products are not as local as we’d like to think. Have you looked closely at your organic Fuji apple? Here in California, the little organic stickers on the apples tell you that a lot of the fruit is coming from Chile. South America? How odd. Apple orchards are all around us in the North Bay Area. I’d rather have a local apple.
Think of the savings on the environmental impact if my apple transits just 50 miles or less, doesn’t have to be shrink-wrapped in plastic and doesn’t sit around for weeks before I eat it. To learn more about eating locally and supporting your local farmers you can check out an extensive resource of local farmers and information at our local website: http://www.SustainableNapaValley.org. To learn about an international and nationwide effort to support local economies, go to http://www.SlowFoodUSA.org.
At Stanly Lane Marketplace eat as much as you like for lunch because you’ve got a bit of a challenge going back up the hill at Foster Road. I’ll admit, if I was biking, I’d be pushing mine up this hill. But it’s all part of the adventure, right? If you just can’t confront the hill, take the frontage street, Golden Gate Road. It’ll add about 1/4 mile to your journey, but it’s flat all the way, I promise.