Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” August 2010.
Back in the Old Country – Barn Tour 2010
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop
I was on the road again with my friend Wendy, bouncing along in her 1980-something Jeep with the close company of her very happy dogs. Wendy, in boots and blue jeans, scrutinized my strappy sandals and said, “I guess you’ll be alright.” We were headed out to visit a few of the treasures of our Carneros region: big ol’ barns.
Wendy is Wendy Ward, Executive Director for Preservation Napa Valley and those “big ol’ barns” will be open to explore during the second annual Barn Tour 2010, Sunday, August 29th from 9:00am to 2:00pm. Preservation Napa Valley, in partnership with the Napa County Farm Bureau, has created the Barn Tour as an opportunity for the public to connect with the living history of our agricultural heritage. Barn Tour 2010 provides a chance for the public to visit numerous historic barns and share memories and stories with the old timers of these hidden gems of the Carneros region.
Our first stop was Vine Village to view Peters Barn and explore the property of this working farm and non-profit organization. In 1972 George and Grace Kerson purchased this expansive, beautiful property to “provide people with special needs the same quality of life that should be the birthright of all citizens.” Many of the old buildings: a barn, vegetable gardens, an old prune drying shed and more have been repurposed to suit contemporary needs. There is an art studio for the residents and visiting students that will be opened during this year’s tour. I was amazed at the remarkable, unique and diverse paintings and sculptures from these talented artists. We were escorted around the serene landscape of Vine Village by Executive Director, Mike Kerson; second generation in this organization. Vine Village has been a labor of love for this family for over 35 years. To get the story of the Peters Barn, we talked with 86 year old Bob Brown; one of the “old timers” who will be available during the Barn Tour. This big, red barn is an old hay barn, originally to stable the “fancy horses” owned by Ernie Peters in the 1940’s. With saddles adorned in silver, the Peters’ horses would strut their stuff in all the seasonal parades, including the Pasadena Rose Parade.
Back in the Jeep we headed into the “back country” of the Carneros region to visit Glen Bauder’s property that is home to the Sciligo Barn. Bauder raises Black Angus on his property, but back in the day, the Sciligo Barn was a huge milking barn for dairy cows up until about 1936. It also contained 14 foot stacks of hay. Not a fancy barn, but formidable and authoritative with rough, bare wood walls and cushy hay strewn about the floor. Dusty hay floors to be exact, and maybe my strappy sandals were not the best idea; but I didn’t mind getting some velvety, unpretentious Napa Valley dust between my toes.
All around the property is evidence of the natural sandstone rock that was quarried for the foundations of homes and the horse barn. These ranches and farms were run by “horse power” as our old timer, Bob, pointed out. “Horse power is how everything got done”, says Bob. “My granddad did it, Dad did it and I did it…and now I wonder how the heck did we do it!”
Next we ventured from the north side of Hwy 121 to the south and into the wine country of Carneros to view the Raven Barn at Adastra Vineyards, a certified organic vineyard. The Raven family emigrated from Denmark in the late 1800’s, purchasing 40 acres with $1000 in gold coins! Originally the land was farmed for hay and vineyards before prohibition. Adastra owner, Chris Thorpe, has graciously offered his property to be the hub of the event for check-in on the Barn Tour. Begin your tour at Adastra and enjoy “Brunch in a Barn” with acoustic Appalachian music by the Cobb Stompers. Try your hand at making garden fresh tomato juice and stroll the gardens on the Adastra property. A presentation about the tour will be given by Wendy Ward of Preservation Napa Valley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (http://www.preservationnation.org)
For our final barn visit we traversed deep into the foothills of Milliken Peak. A hundred year old wood-plank fence borders the road that leads to Henry Ranch. Stepping out of the Jeep the scene reminded me of an old movie back lot and we were surrounded by a Wild West ghost town. The Henry Ranch was self-sufficient with chickens, horses and cows for milk and churning butter. It was also the long-time home of Herbie Henry (who will be on-site during the Barn Tour), the great great grandson of the original pioneer, Elisha Henry, who purchased the property in 1850. Each building on the property was erected by a Henry family member and their names and dates are etched in the concrete foundations. The property was purchased in 1993 by V. Sattui winery and is in use for their vineyard management team.
Preservation Napa Valley’s Barn Tour 2010 will once again delight and enlighten anyone who is curious about our hidden Napa Valley agricultural heritage. The present owners of each property have an inherent commitment to keep this history alive; by adaptive reuse of structures, organic farming, and sustainable practices. I am inspired by their generosity; welcoming us on their properties to tour these significant buildings and share the captivating stories of the pioneers of Napa County.
The Barn Tour 2010 is a self-guided auto tour taking place on back roads, small lanes and in old buildings. Once again, there will be a limited edition of the annual, collectable Barn Tour poster available for sale. Go to http://www.preservationnapavalley.org for this year’s design (artist Mike Gray will be onsite to sign).
Tickets are limited! This event sold out last year. Tickets are $45/person, includes site visits, map/guide/histories, Brunch in a Barn, docents at each barn site, music and art show. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/110714, or call 707-258-9286.