Aureole Ranch Horse Rescue

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by Laird Durham

When Anne Houghton, CEO of Aureole Ranch Horse Rescue, was three years old, her mother bought her a pony. So began a 35-year love affair with horses. Today, Anne cares for 16 horses, a mule, a donkey, and two goats — all of them rescued while on their way to a slaughter house.

Anne told me that some 20,000 horses are sent from California each year to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico where they are butchered and exported as food to countries in Asia and Europe. The horses come from thoroughbred breeders and racing stables, drug production operations, riding academies, trek outfitters, cattle ranches, and private owners. Most of those horses are purchased at livestock auctions where they are bid on by “kill buyers,” fattened up in feed lots, and illegally transported to Canada or Mexico.

Aureole Ranch is a “virtual” ranch. Anne doesn’t own any land. Her horses are scattered from Southern California to Washington, where they are maintained by fosterers, and by Anne and her husband, James, who personally care for most of them at three locations in Calistoga, Petaluma, and St. Helena. Volunteers lend a hand from time to time, to feed, groom, exercise, and clean up after them. Cleaning up is a big job. A

horse puts out an average of 30 pounds of manure a day.

Anne and James have full-time day jobs. She is the tasting-room manager for the Maldonado Family Winery in Calistoga, and he is a chef for the Trinchero Estate winery in St. Helena. Much of their income goes to pay for the horse-rescue operation – literally eating up about $30,000 a year at $3 for a bale of hay. It costs $200 per month or more to board some of their horses.

Aureole Ranch Horse Rescue achieved Federal, non-profit status last year, so Anne now can offer tax deductions for foster care. They are actively seeking people to foster horses, to adopt them, to volunteer to help care for them, to provide grazing and stable facilities and, of course, to donate money for

the operation.

A Horse For Kelly To Ride

Monique Beal of Santa Rosa is one of Anne’s horse fosterers, whose daughter, Kelly, 16, is the care giver. Kelly has been riding horses since she was 5. When the Beals moved here from San Diego about a year ago, they began looking for a horse for Kelly. They met Anne through her winery job, and became fosterers for a 15-year old Saddlebred gelding named Chance, rescued from an auction. The Beals pay to board Chance at Cloverleaf Ranch, and are responsible for veterinary care and bi-monthly shoeing done by a professional farrier.

Kelly provides the care: grooming, companionship, and bathing.

Whoa! Bathing? A horse gets baths?

“Oh, yes, Kelly,” says. “Horses get dirty just like dogs, and have to be bathed. Of course, right after I give Chance a bath he goes out and rolls in dirt.”

Kelly rides Chance 3-4 days a week, so fostering is a better alternative than a riding academy. Her preference is English riding, which makes Chance’s background as a show horse a good match. Kelly does both trail riding and ring work, and has bonded well with the horse. Chance usually is in pasture when Kelly arrives at the ranch. When the horse sees her he whinnies and runs up to her at the gate.

Monique believes fostering a horse and caring for it teaches young people patience, discipline,

and respect.

It has taught Kelly a love for animals that she expects to carry over into an adult occupation: she wants to become a veterinarian. If she goes away to college in another 2 years, the Beals will return Chance to Aureole Ranch.

“If we have to give up fostering Chance I think we would continue to pay for his care,” Monique says.

Horses Are Just Big Pets

When most people think about horses they think of them for riding, racing, or working cows, along with pick-up trucks and horse trailers. But for many horse fosterers and adopters, horses are pets and companions, rarely ridden. That’s how Stacey Windbigler, 44, thinks of them. She says she spends more time telling her troubles to her big Percheron, Samson, than she does riding him. At 6 feet 2 inches tall at the shoulder, Samson towers 14 inches over Stacey. Stacey says he is the biggest horse she could find.

“I’m not the only one who thinks of horses first as pets,” Stacey says. “I see a lot of women with hay bales on their SUVs.”

As many animal owners have found, Stacey thinks owning an animal develops a bond and mutual respect. “I have learned as much about myself as I have about my horses,” Stacey says.

Stacey became a fosterer for Aureole Ranch when she was looking for a companion for Samson. She began fostering a Thoroughbred mare, Megan, rescued from an auction in Washington. Stacey and Samson became so attached to Megan that Stacey adopted her.

What is the difference between fostering and adopting? According to Stacey it is the level of commitment.

“It would be a good idea to start by fostering a horse, and then adopting later if a bond develops, and the finances work out”, she explains. It costs about $700 a month to foster or adopt a horse, including boarding charges, feed, and care from vets and farriers. Stacey spends more than that by giving her horses a lot of herbs, both Chinese and domestic.

Stacey has a deep love for animals of all kinds, developed from the time she was young in the remote mountains of Northern California where there were few kids her age. When she was 7 years old she rode steers in a rodeo, and always had dogs and cats, but never a horse. Now, besides her two horses, she has two dogs, two cats, three mini-burros, and a pond full of turtles. Stacey has two grown daughters and a ten-year-old son. Stacey and her husband are looking for 4-5 acres of land where they can build their dream house and pasture their animals.

Anne Houghton is eager to find adopters for her horses as well as fosterers. “Every horse that is adopted gives us another spot for a rescue.” she says.

Happy 50th Anniversary Yountville!

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by Lisa Adams Walter

This year brought on a celebration in the Napa Valley that’s set to last throughout 2015: the Town of Yountville is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Similar to the world-class hospitality for which the village is known, Yountville is set to celebrate in inimitable Napa Valley!

When pioneer George C. Yount settled in what is now Napa County nearly 185 years ago, it is doubtful that he realized what his legacy would be. One of the first white settlers in the area, he was the first U.S. citizen to obtain a Spanish land grant in Northern California, and what is now Napa County, from the Mexican government. Respectful of the Native Americans who originally inhabited his land, Yount named his parcel Caymus Rancho after the tribe.

Among other firsts, Yount was the first to plant grapevines in the Napa Valley. He also built a large, water-powered flour mill that was called the “Star of the Pacific Premium Mill.” Originally, Yount named the tiny settlement within his grant “Sebastopol.” However, because there was another town with that name not too far away, soon after he passed away in 1865, the townspeople renamed the place he founded “Yountville” in 1867. Later in the 1860s, when a railroad was built in the Napa Valley, an increasing number of people became aware of Yountville. The site was very attractive to Gottleib Groezinger who bought a 20-acre parcel from the Yount estate and built a large complex that included a winery and distillery. The buildings remain as V-Marketplace (locals refer to it as Vintage 1870) which is still the bustling centerpiece of the town.

In 1884, right around the time of the peace agreement that ended the Civil War, the Veterans Home of California (now the largest in the state) was founded in Yountville on land adjacent to what was originally Yount’s grant.

A full century passed after Yount’s death, before the town was officially incorporated on February 4, 1965, fifty years ago. I spent many days of my childhood exploring Yountville with one of my best friends, who lived on Yount Street. There were more local bars than restaurants, we’d peruse Vintage 1870 and sample tastes from The Chutney Kitchen, I don’t recall a winery tasting room within the limits of the town.

“Yountville was a just a roadside collection of taverns supporting the Veterans Home until the locals decided to incorporate. That decision and subsequent improvements marked the beginning of the lovely town we, and thousands of tourists, enjoy each year,” said John Holt, an Anniversary Celebration Committee Member.

Still, with the rapid changes of the last twenty to thirty years, Yountville has maintained a sense of authenticity, and definitely its own charm. Today, less than 3,000 residents, many of whom live at the Veterans Home, inhabit the town which is quite likely one of the friendliest and happiest places on the planet. As the Napa Valley has evolved into a world-class destination, Yountville has been on the forefront of that evolution creating a peaceful, and elegant place to live, work and explore.

Yountville Town Council Member Margie Mohler and Anniversary Celebration Committee Member who moved to the town in 1999 said, “What is special to me about Yountville is the community spirit and the common feelings that we all live in a special place where neighbors are more like family and care for each other.”

Another celebration committee member, Napa Valley Museum Executive Director Kristie Sheppard added, “The 50th anniversary is a huge milestone for the town and a reminder that our rich history isn’t that old. It’s amazing to see how Yountville has changed over the past 50 years, more than 150 years since the town was first settled by Americans.”

The Yountville 50th Anniversary Celebration kicks off on February 4 at 5:00 p.m. with a free event at the intersection of Washington and Yount Streets that will feature an aerial photograph of locals that live and work in the town, as well as a celebratory toast and treats.

Other festivities planned for the year include a theatrical presentation of Yountville’s history by students of Yountville Elementary School during Yountville Days, a summertime White August Night, the installation of a pair of one-ton, quartz grindstones from George Yount’s mill near the Yountville Community Center and a historical film series.

“The significance of our 50th anniversary is that a group of people came together fifty years ago and wanted a better place to live – a place safe for the children and a place of which everyone could be proud,” Mohler added, “I think somehow we all continue to be part of Yount’s spirit – he was referred to as the ‘kindly host of Caymus Rancho’ – and we kindly welcome friends, new neighbors, and guests who come to visit our town.”

As a resident of Yountville, I agree. Indeed, George Yount would be proud.

Weddings in Napa Valley – Locking in the Love

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by Lisa Adams Walter

With Valentine’s Day on the calendar later in the month, February has traditionally become associated with romance and love. The three hundred sixty degree outdoor beauty, pleasant weather for the majority of the year, countless picturesque vistas, many traditional churches, several vineyard settings, and the fame for generous hospitality and romantic escapes…have naturally made the Napa Valley a prime location for the most “love-filled” days of all time: weddings.

Those with a unique perspective of the wedding experience include officiants who marry couples. Current trends reveal that wedding officiants vary widely. Many are religious or spiritual, while many are not. Close friends and relatives are increasingly popular to serve as an officiant for brides and grooms.

Wedding officiants in Napa typically marry people from outside the region, as destination weddings represent another trend that has long been on the rise. Those that have married locals usually know
the couple in some other capacity outside of the wedding.

Pastor Todd Bertani, a Lutheran pastor who performs anywhere from five to ten weddings a year, enjoys the experience of officiating. “I have done a few for local couples, but the majority are from out of state. I have done some for couples from San Francisco, but they are in the minority and usually are transplants from somewhere else. The local couples I have married in the Napa Valley have for the most part been done in the backyard of someone’s home.”

Napa City Councilmember, and former Napa City Firefighter, Scott Sedgley is a lifelong Napan who has officiated at several weddings at the request of several local brides, all of whom were friends of his grown children. “I believe firefighters have earned a position of trust in their communities, and as such are often asked do things and help friends,” said Sedgley.

Isn’t It Romantic?

Of the most romantic weddings in which Bertani participated, he notes was at Napa’s Andretti Winery, “It was a very private wedding of about six people not including the couple. They had been together for about five years, had gone through many ups and downs, and in fact right before they traveled from Florida to come to Napa for the wedding, the groom was in a serious car accident. He somehow decided rather than canceling the trip, to go ahead and follow through with the plans.” Bertani recalls that the beautiful location and the fact that the entire wedding guest list included only their mothers and few others made it a very romantic and meaningful wedding.

Local wine industry veteran, Tim McDonald, has been officiating weddings, mostly for people that he knew prior, for years. With more than twenty weddings on his roster, McDonald has officiated in the Napa Valley, as well as other locations such as Mexico, Laguna Beach, Milwaukee and Salzburg, Austria.

The most romantic wedding that McDonald immediately references was his experience marrying Tony and LeighAnn Torres at Trinchero, the groom’s family winery in St. Helena. “It was the most romantic and special ceremony I’ve performed.”

“I believe it is who is present, genuine love and the appreciation of being part of something that has so much potential that makes a wedding romantic,” added Sedgley.

Location, Location, Location

Bertani credits the local aesthetics for heightening an already glorious occasion, “There are so many amazing places to get married in Napa. Whether a winery, an inn or in a hot air balloon over Calistoga, the setting is breathtaking. Whether it’s in a vineyard or in a forest heading toward the hills…it’s just God’s country.”

McDonald cites the gardens at Beaulieu Vineyards as one of his favorite wedding spots, yet the natural features of the setting stand out, “Napa for me is simply perfect. With its stunning beauty, especially the sunsets, and then moon later if you’re lucky.”

For the local brides, Sedgley states that, “Growing up in Napa, the brides appreciate the natural beauty and small town atmosphere of their home town.”

Why Lock In the Love

February and weddings, are all about the love. McDonald serves as an officiant for very personal reasons. For him it’s not religious, it is a meaningful role that is fun for the couple and fun for him too.

For Bertani, as a member of the clergy, there are larger reasons for ministering to a couple uniting their life, “I have done a handful of weddings for same sex couples. Those have been especially poignant due to the pain and struggle that goes along with fighting against the current of homophobia, still so prevalent in our society, and believing so strongly in their love for one another that they go forward with their love. That to them is a blessing.”

A Capella Extravaganza

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Dave Ruane is on a mission – a mission to ensure that the Napa High Vocal Music Workshop can continue at the school for decades to come. Educational funding sources, particularly those focused upon the arts, have become increasingly slim. Therefore, Ruane, who grew up in Napa and attended local public schools, has taken another Napa High School tradition, the annual A Cappella Extravaganza, and pumped it up into a vibrant, entertaining, evening-long fundraiser for the Vocal Music Workshop program.

The 10th annual, A Cappella Extravaganza is set for Saturday, January 31, at 7:00 p.m. at Lincoln Theater in Yountville. This year, the concert boasts a one-of-a-kind line-up of high school, collegiate and professional groups. Recent Napa High alumni and alumnae will be “coming home” to perform as members of their respective collegiate groups: the all-female sensation, Vocal Motion (UC Santa Barbara), the Stanford Fleet Street Singers (Stanford University), That’s the Key (Cal Poly), the co-ed groups Cloud 9 (UC Santa Cruz), and the Deviant Voices (UCLA) and, also returning this year is the ever-popular, Men’s Octet (UC Berkeley).

In addition to Napa High’s Vocal Music Workshop, Napa County High School a cappella groups scheduled to perform include: PDA / Public Display of A Cappella (American Canyon High School) and The Vocalettes (Vintage High School).

Continuing another tradition, the community will welcome back to the stage this year, Napa High School alumni and alumnae, including Emily Duncan and Kelty Kauffmann (Vocal Motion), Madi Lippmann (Cloud 9), Eddie Ruane and Jeffrey Hanton (Deviant Voices), Jeremy Raven (The Stanford Fleet Street Singers) and Liv Macler and Jonathon Woodward (That’s the Key).

“The first Extravaganza probably had about 60 attendees. Its popularity has grown exponentially each year,” reports Ruane, “The last three sold out. It originally formed as a forum for sharing the somewhat-new genre of modern, a cappella music. It was Jamie Butler, who is now the Choral Director at American Canyon High School, who transformed Napa High’s Vocal Music Workshop from a 1980s, show choir into a modern, a cappella group.” Ruane credits Butler for making “Vocal” what it has evolved into today.

It is Ruane (along with a small group of students and volunteers), however, that has made “Extravaganza” what it is today. Last year, the appropriate-for-all-ages event, sold out the 1,200 seat, Lincoln Theater. This year, a sell-out is likely once again. “Headlining this year’s concert is MO5AIC, a 5-man vocal supernova that leaves listeners wondering where ‘the band’ is,” says Ruane. MO5AIC has been featured with Jay Leno, Prince and Tony Bennett.

A professional musician and educator, Ruane (whose two children are Napa High School graduates and former music-department participants) volunteered to direct the Vocal Music Workshop three years ago. “Along with our Music Office Manager, Gina DeLuca, the success of Extravaganza, and the support of Travis Rogers, we were able to keep the program alive,” Ruane, since hired as director added, “The A Cappella Extravaganza is our most important fundraiser, as we receive zero dollars from the school district for this class. Everyone who buys a ticket helps support Vocal Music Workshop.”

What can the audience expect? “Wow! The word extravaganza sums it up,” exclaims Ruane, “From the traditional style of the Cal Men, to the brazen riffs from many of the other collegiate groups, to our own local, talented, high-school groups, to an internationally-acclaimed headliner that will inspire…Everyone who has attended an Extravaganza for the first time walks away saying they had no idea how great the music was. This is a must-see-and-hear event that benefits our kids.”

Tickets to the 10th Annual, A Capella Extravaganza are on sale now for $25 per person ($20 for students with ID). Normally, a ticket to such a performance would be two to three times the price. To purchase tickets visit the Lincoln Theater Box Office in person at 100 California Drive in Yountville, go to, or call 944-9900.


Napa Valley’s New Years Resolutions

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by Lisa Adams Walter

Giving back to, connecting with others, and making both personal and

professional improvements top the 2015 New Year’s resolution list for
Napa Valley locals.

Every year, I undergo a period of post-holiday blues. Sometimes it hits between Christmas and the New Year celebration. Most often, it fully sets in during the cold, winter period following New Year’s Day. Usually my case of the blues fully manifests itself when I realize that there’s a very, VERY long stretch of time until the next, big, celebratory holiday: Independence Day.

Therefore, a few years ago, I searched for a cure for my post-holiday blues. As it turns out, making New Year’s resolutions pulls me out of my slump. A mini retreat with myself does the trick. At the beginning of January, I purposefully set aside a time to look both forward and backward. A walk during your lunch hour, or that time early in the morning before anyone else in the house gets up, or even a quiet, no-radio-allowed period while you commute to work, could each work well for your mini retreat. Open up your mind and focus on YOU!

For me, a designated effort at the beginning of each year provides a much-needed sense of peace. It is a simple and purposeful way to take care of yourself and those around you. Stop in the midst of the craziness and simply think about where you have been, where you are going, and where you want to be. It is only then that you can resolve to change something, try something new, or leave things alone.

Several Napa Valley locals have shared their resolutions for 2015. Many of the people that I spoke with stated that they don’t usually make resolutions. Once asked, however, they had some meaningful things to share. Perhaps being literally and figuratively shaken by the Napa Earthquake of 2014 has made all of us realize, individually and as a community, that certain things truly matter.

Being better to others, particularly to those we serve,
or to whom we are close, tops the New Year’s
resolution list.

Bob  McClenahan  Napa Valley Photographer, resolves to better serve his clients by bolstering his photographic skills, and his family by being a better husband and father. Along those lines, quality time with those that we love is key.

Kathy Briggs
Napa Valley Esthetician, resolves to improve her family time two ways. “First, by not spending so much time on the phone and computer searching the endless web!” Briggs said, “I will spend that priceless time, time I can’t get back, by enjoying what’s right in front of me; my three children.” To take full advantage of that family time, Briggs is taking it a step further, “The second thing sounds much easier than it is – which is to say YES more often! Yes, we can go to the park. Yes, we can play. Yes, you can have that cookie!” For Briggs, this will improve her life in 2015 and for years to come. “I know this is the perfect resolution!,” she added.

C.C. Commander
  Interestingly, another local family is all set to improve its lives by saying, “No!” C.C. Commander of Napa said, “One of my New Year’s resolutions for this year is to work harder on saying, ‘No’ without feeling guilty. This will allow me the free time to say, ‘Yes’ for the things that truly matter.” Commander is focusing upon the simple things, the things that matter; her two children who are rapidly growing up, and creating projects with her husband, in which the entire family can participate, learn and grow. She is committed to getting back to the basics, and lives by this mantra, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Myles Davis   “Last year, due to my fiftieth birthday, I believe that the year was all about me,” recalls Myles Davis of Napa who planned a solo adventure to Thailand and worked on his personal life in 2014, “So, this year, my resolution will be all about my daughters. Spending more time with them, helping  them more and doing more things for them. I love my three girls and don’t think I’ve spent enough time doing things for them.”

Doug Bridewell   Recently retired Napa City Firefighter has a lot to look forward to in 2015, “With the new chapter beginning in my life, my New Year’s resolution is to focus only on the things that make me happy in life: family, friends, travel, volunteering, outdoor activities, food and wine.” Happiness is contagious, so it sounds like a good idea to me. “I should also include exercise, so I can stay healthy to do all of these things!” Bridewell added.

Julie Perez  Health, self-improvement and gratitude are also popular resolutions. More exercise and cleaner eating, which are obtainable with our moderate climate and agricultural community top the list for Julie Perez of Napa, “Generic perhaps, but I haven’t exercised in year and just started back… I feel great.”

Paul Stokey  of Tesoro Flowers resolves to have more reasonable expectations and, fittingly, plans to remain thankful for the joy and bounty that surrounds him daily.

Anna Carminito  of Napa declares that she will, “Worry less, and be more attentive to other’s needs. I resolve to be more of an asset than a drain, to give more than take.” Many of my own New Year’s resolutions for 2015 have already been mentioned. Living a healthy lifestyle, slowing down to enjoy the moments, practicing daily gratitude and, most importantly, making time for, and paying attention to, those close to me.

Denise Campbell   of Yountville sums it up nicely, “New Year’s resolutions are about working on something in your life that you’d like to change or improve. My current life path is my most favorite path yet. I’ve got a wonderful husband, great kids, an awesome job with great co-workers, a lovely family, and fantastic friends. So, my New Year’s resolution is to be true to myself and continue on this path; Loving life!”

BurgerFi – Great Burgers & Fries…


By John & Dorothy Salmon

We took our very-sophisticated 10 and 13 year old granddaughters to BurgerFi for dinner to check out where their “burger palates” would take them and to help us review Napa’s newest burger joint. Our foray into BurgerFi was the “Kid Test” for burgers and, most of all, the fries, since that’s how they typically judge greatness in a restaurant.

Gracie and Arden were as excited as we were to dine inside the huge, metal two story box on the Napa River Walk. Finding parking in downtown Napa is always an adventure, but we were lucky enough to find a friendly soul who was just leaving as we arrived and happily gave us his parking place right in front of BurgerFi.  We couldn’t wait to check out the view as we climbed to the upstairs deck. You can’t miss BurgerFi, since it shines like a giant, square box of aluminum foil next to the Napa River on First Street between Soscol and Main Streets. Both girls said they liked the open feel of the building with the very cool deck to look out at the River. They were also impressed with the gigantic, eco-friendly fan, the light fixtures, the cool Coke machine, the burgers with BurgerFi stamped on the bun and the Rolling Stones music playing nonstop. Of course, they are always impressed when their grandparents can sing along without missing a word! Although, we must report that the Stones are even older than we are! BurgerFi does have a kind of 50’s and 60’s burger-joint feel, housed inside a 60’s, Lost in Space, George Jetson building.

For those of you who travel up and down the east coast, Florida, the Midwest and, more recently, Denver, and Mesa, Arizona, you might be long-standing fans of BurgerFi, which is a franchise operation headquartered in south Florida. They believe in being eco-friendly and they follow their philosophy by creating chairs from recycled Coke bottles and indoor tables made from recycled milk jugs. Instead of relying exclusively on air conditioning, much of their cooling comes from special, oversize ceiling fans that use 66% less electricity. Gracie really loved the big fan. Fitting right into the California scene, BurgerFi maintains a low carbon footprint and follows strict recycling programs for oil, cardboard, bottles and cans. They get to be on the “Good list” in Napa since we pride ourselves on being sustainable and as green as possible.

Napa’s BurgerFi is their 64th location, so all your east coast or south Florida relatives can feel right at home when they visit you this summer. Everything will be the same as home, except for the humidity. BurgerFi wants to create the “Burgerfication of the Nation” with all-natural Angus beef from cattle that are raised in the most stringent, free-range standards and burgers that are never frozen, never cooked in a microwave, have no hormones, no antibiotics and are guaranteed fresh, juicy and delicious!

The Napa BurgerFi menu offers burgers from $5.87, to their Brisket Burger for $9.97. You can build your own burger with a single, double or triple burger patty, add a fried egg, Blue Cheese, white cheese, Peter Luger Steak Sauce, grilled diced onions, Jalapeno Peppers, A-1 Sauce, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, or their special BurgerFi sauce! You might need to study the menu online at and make your choices before you get there! The servers are well trained, friendly and patient, as first time customers stand in awe and try to figure out what they want to order. We did it the easy way, with four cheeseburgers and the large bucket of fries. If you are not a burger fan, you can order all-natural hot dogs, chicken-apple hot dogs, Wagyu Kobe Beef hot dogs and lots of toppings, such as cheese and kraut, BurgerFi Chili and Hickory Bacon. We saw our pal, Cathy Holmes, that night and she told us that the hot dogs are really good too.  So, next time we will give those a try.

BurgerFi fries range from $3.27 for a pretty good size regular to their big bucket for $5.97 that can feed an army of people. You can get onions rings from $4.27 to $5.57 or do the very-hip cry & fries; an order of half fries and half onion rings for $5.57.  Add salt and vinegar, Parmesan cheese, hot Cajun sauce, cheese sauce, chili or chili and cheese sauce for a nominal fee. Now you can understand why we suggested that you consider your order before you get there!

The milk shakes are terrific, the floats and cows are really good and they serve ice cream in cups, cones or Sundays from $3.47 to $5.47 with a choice of toppings…if you have room to eat ice cream after ordering their burgers and fries. They have take-home ice cream in their Pints on The Run for $6.97.

They even have a “Secret Menu.” If you don’t want a meat burger, you can order a Hippie Veggie made with two, grilled, quinoa burgers served on a potato bun with a side of neon relish.  They also serve their fries well done and extra crispy or limp. We are not sure who might want limp fries, but if you do, this is the place for you. They serve cool craft beers and a moderate selection of wines, along with standard soft drinks, lemonade and Evian bottled water.

Business during the traditional off- peak hours is supplemented by custard sales as well as being a great place to meet for a craft beer or wine. Hey, we are in Napa, so they have to have wine and craft beer!  Custards, however, are pretty east coast.

The girls’ comments included: “Great views, nice ambiance, nice photos, the logos stamped on the burgers are VERY cool” and they loved the very hip, hard- plastic order trackers that light up when your order is about to be brought to you at your table. THAT is definitely something that rarely happens at burger joints. Gracie loved the Mexican coke bottle and ordered that right away. Arden and Dorothy ordered root beer floats and Papa John had a beer.

We had a great time. If you are a boater, kayaker or stand-up paddler, you can tie up at the downtown dock and walk to BurgerFi on the Napa River Walk. BurgerFi will be the go-to place with a great view for the 4th of July fireworks.

There are no salads, no chicken dishes, no sweet-potato fries, but its lot’s of fun and a throw- back experience for all of us who remember the 60’s.  BurgerFi has free Wi-Fi, which was especially important for 13 year-old Gracie. Dogs are also allowed. They cater meals if you want to buy burgers for your party and, best of all, there is no TV to distract you while you enjoy the view.

We will be there again for sure.  Now that Napa is the foodie place to go, there are many options for great burgers up and down the streets of downtown Napa and up and down the Valley…none in a structure like this however!

967 First Street | Napa, CA | (707) 927-5373 |

Open Sun. – Thurs. 11a.m. – 11p.m. | Fri. & Sat. 11a.m. to midnight


Fun things to Do Downtown for the Holidays

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By Craig Smith

While it is hard to believe that another year has gone by, the good news is that it’s almost Christmas.  Who doesn’t love the return of Santa Claus?

There are lots of ways to enjoy time with the family during the month of December.  This year, include checking out all the decorated windows in Downtown Napa.  In fact, cast your vote for what you think is the best of the best.  Most stores will have ballots on-hand for you to fill out.  It’s simple – write down the store name of the window you like the most, and put it in the ballot box.  Winners will be selected on December 15th and will be posted on by the 20th.  Even if you don’t make it down in time to vote, you can still stroll the streets and enjoy the sites.

Here are some other Holiday activities
to enjoy. Merry Christmas!

Carriage Rides

Bring the family for  free horse drawn carriage rides through downtown Napa. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the Holiday lights on all the buildings, see what the Christmas windows look like in the stores, and just snuggle with the family.  One carriage leaves the Historic Napa Mill on each of the scheduled nights, a second one departs from Coombs Plaza at First and Coombs Street during the same time.  Ride either or both – there are two separate routes, with each route lasting about twenty minutes.  Spend the time between rides shopping and dining in beautiful downtown Napa.  If you enjoy it, come back the following week with your neighbors.  Thursdays, December 4th, 11th and 18th, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Holiday Trolley

Thanks in part to Beau Tours, who helped make the Holiday Wine Trolley available, everyone will be able to enjoy a free Trolley ride downtown.  Bring the family, friends or anybody else you’d like. The Christmas decorated trolley will be playing music of the season as it travels between five regular stops – at the Oxbow Public Market, Historic Napa Mill, Coombs Street at Second, First near Randolph, and at Main & Pearl Streets.  Signage will show you exactly where to get off and on.  Enjoy the whole loop at one time, or get on and off as you wish.  The trolley runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from December 5th through the 21st, from 3 to 6 p.m.

Ice Skating

Now through  January 11th, children of all ages and those young at heart will be able to ice skate in
downtown Napa. The 6300 sq ft outdoor rink has
stainless steel railings, a quality ice surface, a real Zamboni, hot chocolate, and your favorite Christmas music. Situated in the parking lot at the north east
corner of Coombs and Second streets, the rink will be open until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 8 p.m. on Sundays. It opens at 12 noon when school is out, 2 p.m. when students are in class. Skating is
only $12 per person, which includes skate rentals.
More information is available at

Christmas is
a magic time of year.  Join your family and friends in Downtown Napa to shop, dine and enjoy the season.