EarthDay – Celebrate at at the Oxbow Commons

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Come join in the festivities at this year’s Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 23rd! Bring the whole family to join in the celebration and learn about our local environment. Earth Day attendees will discover many environmental exhibitor booths featuring products, services, games, and fun children’s activities. Great information will be available on a host of topics, including alternative energy, supporting local agriculture, watershed health, pollution prevention, conservation, local stewardship opportunities, and much more. This year the event has a great new location- the Oxbow Commons! So, come join the fun in their new location beside the Napa River from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.!

In addition to educational booths from local groups and businesses, there will be entertainment for the whole family. Great local bands and dancers will perform throughout the day.

Delicious local food, beer, and wine will be sold. Proceeds from beverage sales at Earth Day fund field-trip bus grants offered every year by the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County (EECNC), the event host. EECNC funds field trips for Napa County students to visit sites such as Connolly Ranch, Bothe State Park, Lake Hennessey, and the Napa River Eco reserve where they can gain an appreciation of the local environment.  

Proceeds from beverage sales also support the Darcy Aston Environmental Advocacy Scholarship, which is awarded to a local student intending to pursue a career in the sciences.

Be a friend to the Earth and ride your bike to the event where the Napa County Bicycle Coalition will offer free valet bike parking! Attendees are encouraged to bring their own water bottle and stop by our “Water Bar” filling station.

If you want to start the day lending a hand to clean up our local environment,

they have the perfect opportunity for you! Join the Napa RCD and Spring Clean at several sites throughout downtown Napa to pick up litter in the creeks, river, and on our streets. The cleanup runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. visit naparcd.org for more information.

The fun doesn’t stop when the Earth Day festival ends! If you want more music, dancing, food, movement classes, nature hikes, stargazing, and great aerial and fire performances, head to Earth Night at Connolly Ranch from 5pm to 10pm!  Visit connollyranch.org for more information and to buy tickets.

Sustaining sponsors of the Earth Day celebration are the Napa Green Certified Land & Winery Programs, Healthy Buildings USA and Latitude 38 Entertainment. For a complete list of additional sponsors, exhibitors, food and beverage vendors, and entertainment, or to learn how to participate in this year’s Earth Day celebration, visit EarthDayNapa.com.

Napa Palisades Saloon – Business Review

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By Craig Smith

Chuck Meyer, one of the four friends who teamed up to open Napa Palisades Saloon, has been in the restaurant business for over twenty years. “In this crazy business,” he said, “it’s almost shocking when the plan comes together and the business is what you wanted it to be. This is absolutely closer to what I had in mind in concept than any restaurant I’ve
ever opened.”

What he and his partners, Kevin Sprenger, John Lohman and Charlie Crebs, wanted was a modern day saloon to support their fledgling brewery. “We’re a group of local guys that live here in Napa. We built a place that our friends and neighbors would feel at home in,” said Meyer. While lots of businesses say they are for locals, these guys mean it. “We didn’t want anything pretentious. If tourists want to come here, that’s great, but we want the place to be full of locals every night.”

Chef Tim Brown, whose twenty years in restaurants include everything from soup kitchens to James Beard award-winning restaurants, is on the same page. “This is a gathering place where people feel comfortable. It feels like your living room.”

While multiple TV screens covering different sporting events hang on the walls, this isn’t really a sports bar. The beer and the food are too good for that moniker.

“With all the great craft beers that are around here, there’s been a big void in the market,” said Crebs. “You can drive twenty five miles in any direction from Napa and taste some of the best beers in the country.” Palisades has thirty two of them on tap, including 101 North Golden Naked Ale, Lagunitas Czech Pils and Drake’s Hefeweizen, as well as hard to find offerings like Heretic Brewery Gramarye and Carneros Brewing Negra IPA. Another dozen taps dispense wine and ciders.

They even brew their own beer, with Napa Palisades 24/7 Session IPA and Napa Palisades 1849 Gold Rush Red currently on tap. Their beers are currently brewed off-site, but will soon be made at the Saloon. Brewing on-site will allow them to get a mixed drink license, at which time they will showcase several whiskys.

The current trend in restaurants is to brew beer as a way of being allowed to sell mixed drinks, but these guys are serious beer guys. “We are doing this so we can brew beer, not just to get the license,” said Crebs. “We’ll also have the best R&D you can get – we can make a beer and find out instantly if people like it.”

Chef Brown has created a menu that far outstrips most pub food. The eight appetizers include a soup or two of the day, Shrimp and Grits with Bacon, Mushrooms and Smoked Chili Butter, and Reuben Croquettes, with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss and 1,000 Island. On the Between Breads menu is the Saloon Burger with White Cheddar, Stout Braised Onions, Grandma’s Brown Pickles and The Sauce. There’s also a Lamb Burger, Chicken BLT and Falafel Burger, all served with tantalizing ingredients. The six Plates & Bowls include Pot Roast, Braised Niman Ranch Tri-Tip, Potatoes, Winter Vegetables and Gold Rush Red Jus. As you would expect, the sides tie everything together.

1000 Main Street, Suite 100, Napa  |  (707) 296-1552   |  napapalisades.com

Mon. – Thurs. 11:30am to 11pm | Fri. 11:30am – Midnight | Sat. 9:30am – Midnight | Sun. 9:30am – 10pm

Napa Oktoberfest

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Sat., Sept. 19 | Noon to 6:00 | First Street in Downtown Napa

Oktoberfest has a 200 year history of celebrating beer, and Napa’s Oktoberfest will try and live up to that, with a beer garden that runs the length of the event. But it will also be a fun day of celebration and games that the whole family will enjoy.

“Laughter is a big part of Oktoberfest celebrations,” said Julie Morales, events manager for the Downtown Napa Association and the brains behind this first-ever Napa event.  “We’ll have the elements that people expect, plus some surprises to keep them smiling.”

The music line-up includes good, German music performed by the groups Edelweiss and Karl Lebherz Band, but also and unexpected twist with “Tubas at Large,” an ad hoc group of tuba players organized by local musician and music teacher Alan Parks.

“I’ve been part of organized Christmas tuba concerts for years now. They are lots of fun and I’ve wanted to do something similar, but I don’t want to do Christmas music.”  Oktoberfest is the perfect venue for Parks vision. “We’ll do some of the light classical songs you’d expect, but will also throw in a few tunes from Pirates of the Caribbean and the theme from the Andy Griffith Show. “

And his inspiration for those selections? “It appeals to my sense of humor to hear songs played on the tuba.”

Morales said there will be plenty of beer drinking with “Prosts” (German drinking toasts) throughout the day, with all beer drinkers in attendance joining in. There will also be yodeling contests, Chicken Dances, Fun Photo Booths that will be manned by the Napa 20/30 Club, Corn Hole mini-tournaments and lots of other activities, just for the kids.

Oktoberfest wouldn’t be Oktoberfest without Bratwurst, Strudel and more, and it will all be there.

Oktoberfest began as a Bavarian celebration, and still runs for over two weeks there, drawing six million visitors between mid September and the first few days of October. “We aren’t expecting quite that many people,” said Morales with a smile. “It will be a fun day though, and will grow throughout the years.”

Free parking and admission. Sponsored by Blue Moon and Heineken beers, Team Superstores, Bank of Napa, Napa Valley Marketplace, The North Bay Bohemian and KVON/KVYN.  Without their generous support, the show would not be possible.

Pasta Prego – Back after five years and better than ever!

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

We recently had the pleasure of dining with our wonderful friend, Lauren Ackerman of Ackerman Family Vineyards, at Pasta Prego in their new restaurant at 1502 Main Street, in the space formerly occupied by Biscuits.  For long-time locals, thinking of Pasta Prego and Marco Ruiz, its Chef, always makes us smile and remember his fantastic dishes such as Pasta Diablo, Chicken Marsala, and other warm thoughts of great food at reasonable prices, served with a smile and genuine friendship.

For those who frequented Pasta Prego when it was on Jefferson Street five years ago, the new and exciting Pasta Prego on Main Street is such a gift!  Pasta Prego’s owner, Matthew Miersch, is a third generation Napan, who knows a good thing when he sees it and clearly did a great job turning the former Biscuits space into a lovely, classy and well-designed dinner house for 58 guests.

We were greeted at the door by Matthew Miersch, who was upbeat, friendly and very proud of the new and upscale Pasta Prego. Matthew always loved Marco Ruiz and Pasta Prego’s food, so it is like a family reunion to enter the new Pasta Prego. The interior of Pasta Prego on Main Street is done in soft, brown and tan tones and, interestingly, separates diners from each other with lovely half-drapes, soft lighting, an open bar at the end of the dining room and lovely tables that, as we learned over dinner, were handmade with love by the staff when the tables ordered from a restaurant supply company were delayed. Home Depot and teamwork to the
rescue once again!

Soft Italian music plays in the background and, as you walk in, there is a big Pasta Prego Welcome Mat in front of the buffet that holds a large vase of freshly-cut grapevines. Pasta Prego is currently open only for dinner.  We hope that changes soon. The black and white photos on the walls are courtesy of Laura Norcia Vitale, a freelance film photographer. They are beautiful, and for sale as well.

Back in the kitchen, preparing some of the best food you will ever taste, are the three amigos…Chef Marco Ruiz, Benjamin Salgado and Pasqual Villanueva. All three have been together on and off for years and make heavenly food! We
got to give Marco Ruiz a hug and congratulate him on his latest venture on Main Street.

We were served by Vianney, a lovely woman from American Canyon and a graduate of Vintage High School. There are LOTS of locals at Pasta Prego. In fact, most of the folks in the restaurant that night were locals who were all happy to see Pasta Prego back in the “hood.” We had fun talking to Vianney about Napa and the changes in the past few years, and finally got to ordering our dinner. We ordered a bottle of Hall 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($36) and then were treated to the Smoked Salmon antipasti with capers & red onion, all placed on a bed of sweet-corn pancake with lemon aioli ($12) and Marco’s famous Pan Roasted Polenta with wild mushrooms in a brandy sauce ($10). Both were amazing and disappeared very quickly! John then tried the Bruschetta ($8), which he loved. We were all delighted to be reunited with Marco’s food!

For dinner, Lauren ordered the Golden and Red Beet Salad, with baby greens, goat cheese, roasted almonds, and red wine vinaigrette ($10) and the Penne Pasta, with smoked chicken, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella, and a basil marinara sauce ($20). She thought the Penne Pasta and the salad both wonderful. John had the long–honored, Pasta Diablo, with large grilled prawns wrapped with pancetta, on a bed of spaghetti, with broccoli, garlic, chili flakes and olive oil ($23). We laughed about earlier times that we had Marco make the Pasta Diablo for dinner parties because nobody makes it like he does. Of course, John’s Pasta Diablo was the best! Dorothy ordered the Rock Shrimp Salad, served on baby greens with red onions, tomatoes, cucumber and a citrus vinaigrette ($14) and the Risotto, made with parmesan cheese, marinated tomatoes,  mushrooms and Sicilian sausage ($22), which was amazing!

Pasta Prego’s wine list is almost all Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices to please any local or visitor.  If you bring your own wine into Pasta Prego, there is a $15 corkage fee. However; the fee is waived for each 750 ml bottle purchased there. All in all, a great deal for a dinner out with fabulous food, great ambiance, a beloved chef and a lot of your friends and neighbors sitting nearby.

After hugging Marco and telling him how much we love the new rendition of Pasta Prego, Vianney “forced us” to try the Tiramisu ($8) which, of course, melted in our mouths as three forks attacked it, before we waddled out of the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed if you try Pasta Prego on Main Street. March Ruiz’s famous Margherita Pizza is
on the menu along with hishomemade Ravioli filled with spinach, ricotta, and parmesan cheese, served with citrus cream and marinara sauce ($19), his Fettuccine with sautéed chicken breast, prosciutto, fresh peas and a white wine garlic sauce ($20), just to name a couple of the all-time favorites that locals love and visitors will fall in love with too.

It was so great to see Marco in the kitchen again after a five year hiatus. His story is one of the great American success stories. Marco emigrated from Guatemala in the 1980’s. He began his culinary career as a dishwasher and quickly was in the kitchen with Donna Scala at Piatti’s in Yountville, and then worked with Greg Cole and other well-known chefs in the Napa Valley.

Pasta Prego is back, better than ever. We love it and you will too!

1502 Main Street | Napa, CA | (707) 492-8026

Open daily for dinner 5:00 to 9:30 p.m.

RECIPE:

Chicken Marsala

Ingredients:

1 double boneless chicken breast

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon chopped garlic

3 tablespoon bread crumbs

¼ cup Marsala cooking wine

¼ cup veal stock

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 ounces of cooked spaghetti

1 cup sliced mushrooms

Cut the chicken in half. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add the chicken and sauté over medium heat until it’s a golden brown on both sides. Put the chicken in the oven for about 5 minutes, and then add the mushrooms, sautéed until they are soft. Add the garlic, Marsala, veal stock and butter reduced down for 30 seconds. Add more veal stock,
if necessary.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water and drain well. In a large skillet add the olive oil, bread crumbs, and garlic, sautéed over medium heat for about 5 seconds. Finally, toss the spaghetti with all the ingredients.

Serve the spaghetti on the plate first, then place the chicken on top and add the sauce on top of the chicken.

Hundreds of Vintage Cars – Twice!

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Getting to see the cars of yesteryear, restored to pristine condition, continue to delight the thousands of Napans who attend Main Street Reunion Car Show every year. Now in its 12th year, the show has grown into two events, spread out over Friday and Saturday.

The 400, pre-1976, vintage cars that display at the Main Street Reunion Car Show come primarily from Northern California, but as the show has grown in popularity, entries have come from Southern California, Nevada, and even Arizona. A surprising number of entries are local. “I’m always impressed to see how many really great cars there are that I don’t know about, right here in Napa,” said Mike Phillips, who is organizing the show for the third year. Phillips is a member of the Napa Valley Cruisers, the car club that has hosted the show with the Downtown Napa Association (DNA) since the beginning. It’s been a great partnership, according to Craig Smith with the DNA.

“The Cruisers wanted to do a car show for years, but had trouble navigating through the red tape to pull it off,” said Smith. “When they first approached our organization, they challenged me to help get it off the ground. Later, I got a ribbing for being in charge of securing the Three P’s: permits, police and porta-potties.”

The crowds that come out to see the cars get bigger every year, but it’s never too crowded. “The show covers eight blocks and four parking lots, which spreads things out nicely,” said Smith.

Three years ago, Dennis Gage, host of Speed TV’s “My Classic Car,” visited Main Street Reunion, and made the car show the subject of an episode.  “I know Main Street is a beautiful show,” said Phillips, “but seeing it on TV made me appreciate it in a whole new way.”  Hoteliers say they are now booking rooms from people visiting specifically to see the car show.

For the third year, the weekend begins with a Friday night Show & Shine, to be held at the Copia parking lot, next to the Oxbow Public Market. “A Show & Shine event the night before the car show gives everybody another chance to see the cars in more of a party atmosphere,” said Tammy Robinette, president of the Cruisers, and the brains behind Show & Shine. “People can check out all the great cars, enjoy something to eat and drink, plus listen to good music. How great is that?”   

Show & Shine features live music performed by the Evan Thomas Blues Band which will definitely have people dancing. Enjoy the food from the Oxbow Public Market or any downtown restaurant before, or during, and you’ve got a great Friday Night.

Trophies are a part of every show. Two will be awarded at Show & Shine, and more than forty will be given at Saturday’s Main Street Reunion. The cost to register a car for Main Street Reunion is $35 ($40 after August 8th). Show & Shine is limited to 150 cars, and pre-registration is required. A portion of registration fees will be donated to the Pathway Home. Applications are available at DoNapa.com, or by calling 257-0322.

Sponsored by Blue Moon and Heineken beers, Team Superstores, Bank of Napa, Napa Valley Marketplace, The North Bay Bohemian, and KVON/KVYN. Without their generous support, the show would not be possible. Visit DoNapa.com for full details.

Show & Shine Car Show Preview

August 14th – 5 to 8:30pm

Main Street Reunion Car Show

August 15th – 10am to 3pm

Napa’s Hippest Jam: Hooping

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By Lisa Adams Walter         

Photos by Allison Andres

What do a still–thriving, ’90s-era band, high-end, circus performers a Native-American dance, and an unparalleled, 1950’s toy-turned-fad have in common? You guessed it: hoops!

Four years ago, a few, local women founded Napa Hoopers, a play group for hoop dance, exercise, body flow and circus–arts-enthusiasts, as well as an easy and joyful place for anyone who is interested in enjoyable, healthy, body movement. The group meets regularly, and hosts monthly hoop jams.

“Hoops have an accessibility that many forms of exercise lack. Hooping makes you feel like a kid – again! It’s hard to not laugh and smile while you’re hooping. Many hoopers, and even newcomers that participate in our monthly jams, have fond memories of hooping as a child, and it’s great to bring those back to the surface,” said Lilea Duran, Napa Hoopers Co-founder, hoop dance instructor, and performer.

Many of us remember hula hoops from our childhood; others may recall the intricate and purposeful hoop dances of some Native American tribes; more recently, the independent band, The String Cheese Incident threw hoops into their crowded, live-concert audiences

in the mid-90’s, sparking a more–recent, hooping trend. Eventually, hooping at large music festivals, such as Burning Man and Coachella, and also recently spotted at BottleRock ensued. “Hoops are inexpensive to make or to purchase; they’re portable, so you can hoop at home, at a friend’s house, or at a local park,” reports Duran. Hoops are obviously appropriate for the live music scene too.

When asked about the history of hoops, Duran said that the history of the hoop would really be a story of its own, “There is evidence that Egyptian children used to play games with hoops made out of dried grapevines; ancient Greeks used hoops for exercise and you can find many depictions of Ganymede holding a hoop. Hoop dancing is a form of storytelling with the Native Americans dating back to the 1400s. Many will be familiar with the story of Wham-O popularizing hula hoops in the US in the 1950s!”

Duran, who helps organize the free, monthly, Hoop Jams in Downtown Napa is completely dialed in about the benefits of hooping. “Lots of people hoop for health, myself included. It is a low-impact, fun way to exercise. It’s a great ab workout, but it is also a great, full-body workout. Hooping uses up to 30 different muscles.” The American Council on Exercise has even published a study about the benefits of effective hooping which found that hooping burns an average of seven calories per minute for a total of about 210 calories during a 30-minute, hooping workout.

“Hooping is great for spine flexibility and strength, works on balance and hand-eye coordination and, maybe my favorite benefit, hooping makes us feel happy! We get a wonderful burst of endorphins, while having fun and staying active,” Duran added.

In regard to the multiple benefits of hooping, others agree. Napa County included the Napa Hoopers Hoop

Jams as part of their obesity-prevention program and the Napa Hoopers have participated in multiple, community events, such as the Earth Day Celebration, the Napa 4th of July Parade and Public Health Week.

There are some famous and hip hoopers out there too, or “hoopsters,” as I like to call them. “There are lots of hoop stars in the world,” reports Duran, who cites Cirque du Soleil with staging hoop contortion acts, a hooper named Karis who has appeared with Christina Aguilera, hooping in several, well-known, music videos, with artists such as Pink and other public figures, such as First Lady Michelle Obama and actress and singer Zooey Deschanel who have simply fallen in love with hooping!

The most evident hoops development that Duran has seen is in regard to how modern hoops are produced, “Technology plays a big role in modern hooping. Some people dance with fire hoops, which have several
lighted wicks attached. Others use hoops filled with LEDs that create incredible visual patterns.”

Duran reports that you don’t have to commit to a huge investment of time to begin to feel the results of hooping; even seven to eight minutes a day can begin to make a change. Every monthly jam begins with a 15-minute, warm-up session, and plenty of experienced hoopers around to help anyone get started.

As a Hoop Instructor at Wine Country CrossFit, Duran believes that the best way to begin is to take a class, “An instructor can provide instant feedback and correction to help you find success. A class also helps you find a community through hooping. It’s easy to make friends when you’re both struggling with a move and the triumph is literally audible when students find breakthroughs together. There hasn’t been a single
hoop class I’ve taken part in where there weren’t
cheers and encouragement heard among participants.” Sounds easy, sounds fun! Get out there and hoop!

Visit and “Like” the Napa Hoopers Facebook page at facebook.com/Napa-Hoopers
where you can also click on the “Events” tab to find a list of upcoming hooper events.

For information about hooping classes visit: facebook.com/SunglowHoopDance/events

Napa Hoopers Monthly Hoop Jam

Third Wednesday of the Month: 6–7:30pm

Veterans Park Downtown Napa

Napa Valley Arts in April

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by Kristin Ranuio

What do Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, and the Calistoga Camera Club student have in common? You can see work by all of them, and much, much, more, at the fifth annual, Napa Valley Arts in April, featuring works that span artistic disciplines, mediums, genres, and decades.

During the entire month of April, there are dozens of special shows, exhibits, openings, and events celebrating the arts and artists. Events are being held throughout the Valley, from American Canyon to Calistoga, with offerings in American Canyon, Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Many of the events are free to attend; less than thirty percent will be charging an entry fee, and most of those are under twenty dollars.

The month begins with the “Kick off Arts in April” reception at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville on April 2, 2015. Events that follow include Art, Sip, and Stroll in Yountville, a behind- the-scenes tour of the 15,000 sq. ft. studio of renowned local artist, Gordon Huether, anonymous urban art at a preview tour of the Napa Valley Ruins & Gardens, and an Art, Antique & Collectible Appraisal Day at the Napa Valley Museum. Visitors may bring in their goods to get a verbal,      

auction, market value for a donation of ten dollars per item; up to five items per person may be evaluated.

Also included is the month–long, Inspiration Station, an exhibition showcasing the original works of Heidi Barrett at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station, The Art of Life presented by Festival del Sole and The Hess Collection, iPhonic Art: Astonishing iPhotography at Markham Vineyards in partnership with Knox Production of Pixels and long-time friend of the winery, Rolling Stone Magazine’s first chief photographer, Baron Wolman, a behind the scenes tour of internationally-renowned artist, Carlo Marchiori’s Villa Ca’Toga, and so many more. There are exhibits, interactive tours, private collections open to the public for the event, artist meet-and-greets, and dozens of other offerings to help quench your cultural thirst.

Participating wineries offer a wide range of events and exhibits, including tours of permanent, and rotating, collections. It offers the opportunity to see wineries you may have been to before in a new way, and to explore new ones, while viewing art and meeting artists. Rather than traveling to Italy or New York to see great works, we have the chance to see them right in our own backyard.

New to Napa Valley Arts in April is the Creative Change Program, launched in conjunction with Arts Council Napa Valley. Throughout the month, partnering businesses and wineries have committed to donate a percentage of their proceeds, or offering an easy way to guests to contribute to help the Arts Council Napa Valley reach their goal of $20,000 by the end of June. Funds collected stay in the community, including helping to keep arts and music alive and well in local schools. This means a chance to do something worthwhile, while having a good time. Creative Change Partners include Andaz Napa, Cairdean Estate, Gordon Huether Studio, Engage Art Fair, Humanitas (sister label to Jessup Cellars, part of Good Life Wine Collective), and the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Napa Valley Wine Train Proprietor and Director of Marketing, Kira Devitt, says,“We are delighted to give back to the local community and thank them for their ongoing support of the Napa Valley Wine Train. As the Wine Train is considered a rolling museum and a treasure in the valley, and the Arts Council Napa Valley strives to enrich the lives of the greater Napa community through arts and culture, we are honored to call the organization a partner.”

The month culminates in the final event of the celebration, Engage Art Festival, at the Napa County Fairgrounds, April 25 and 26.  This two-day, indoor, immersive-art exhibition offers the opportunity to experience the Napa Valley art culture in a dynamic environment, with gallery booths mixed in with active artists’ stations. Here you will have the opportunity to engage with the artists while sampling boutique wines, paired with the culinary artistry of local chefs. Arts in

April Producer, Danielle Smith, says this one is a must-do, with art ranging from classic to outrageous, and everything in between.

A complete listing of all exhibits, activities, special lodging packages and events can be found at VisitNapaValley.com/artsinapril.

Brix Restaurant & Gardens

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

We recently had a lovely dinner with our pals, Ron and Teri Kuhn, at Brix to celebrate our good fortune, our children, grandchildren and the Kuhns’ incredible Pillar Rock Cabernet. We laughed through most of the dinner, while commenting on how lovely the setting is at Brix, with its warm interior and a rock-star garden, enjoyed from the outdoor dining area when the weather is good. Ron and Teri headquarter at their primary home in Chicago, but get to enjoy Napa, Florida and Arizona when they visit their other homes. Fortunately for us, they are planning to spend more time in Napa, especially in the winter when Chicago is freezing, windy and covered in snow. Their kids and grandkids live in Chicago, so that’s where their hearts are when they are not in Napa making sure their Pillar Rock wines are doing well across the United States.

Brix has been a staple on Highway 29 since 1996. The Kelleher Family has made Brix a top-notch restaurant and magical place for weddings, receptions, meetings, celebrations of any kind and a great place to be for romantic occasions or simply dining out with friends. Brix Restaurant and Gardens is a classic pairing of unique, contemporary cuisine with a French accent. With 16 perfect Napa Valley acres of beautiful gardens and vineyards, you will always find just-picked vegetables and a great wine selection from its list of more than 800 labels.

When we arrived, we were met by General Manager, Michael Cope, who has vast experience in the restaurant business with years at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. Since we were with Ron and Teri, we of course, enjoyed their Pillar Rock 2007 Stags Leap Cabernet ($170). Needless to say, it was a good thing we were with them! The wine is amazing as are Ron and Teri, who are consistently generous donors at Auction Napa Valley and the V Foundation, as well as spreading their philanthropy across the country. Teri was the V Foundation, 2010 Fund-A-Need Honoree as a Leukemia survivor, generously supporting Leukemia Research through the V Foundation.

After Notre Dame alum, John and USC alum, Ron dispensed with their usual banter recalling the rivalries of the two schools and which has the better football team, we started our evening with Roasted Pedrone Peppers, topped with aged balsamic ($10) and the Crispy Fried Green Beans, served with spicy mustard sauce ($10). We also indulged in the special flat–bread, with cherry tomatoes, arugula, crème fraiche, rib-eye caps, feta, fontina and a drizzle of balsamic ($15), which Teri said was the best flat bread she had ever eaten.  Our server, John Adams, was very attentive, lots of fun and made great suggestions all evening.

For our main course, Ron ordered the Roasted Colorado Lamb, served with black mission figs, fennel bulb, blue cheese, toasted pistachios and fig chocolate-sauce ($38). Teri ordered the Salad of Baby Field Greens and poached summer peaches, honey-whipped ricotta, spiced hazelnuts and peach vinaigrette ($10) and the Sicilian Casserole with grilled octopus, beef bone marrow, tomato-braised beef tripe and herbed Parmesan bread crumbs ($12). John enjoyed the Grilled Atlantic Salmon with broccoli rabe, Italian-seafood tomato sauce, green olives, speck ham with roasted eggplant puree and oregano bread crumbs ($27) and Dorothy was delighted with the Caramelized Sea Scallops served with a medley of toasted almonds, snap peas, mint, chili peppers and sweet corn, with a truffle vinaigrette ($33).

Since we knew that the meal would lead to this review, we HAD to order desserts! So, we shared the Grilled Summer Peach, served with an almond streusel, whipped brie, saffron honey and peach lavender sorbet ($10) and the Triple Chocolate Snicker Sundae with chocolate polenta cake, caramel sauce, curry-roasted peanuts, caramelized banana with chocolate ice cream ($10).

The dinner menu at Brix is extensive and interesting; the bar is lots of fun; the wine list is wonderful and Brix is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Brix is a favorite partner and a featured restaurant at Hands Across the Valley, The V Foundation, Flavor Napa Valley and many more local events. The menu changes daily, drawing inspiration from the restaurant’s extensive gardens and traditions of the winemaking regions of Southern France and Northern Italy. The flower and vegetable gardens contain both raised-beds and in-ground beds in which crops grow year round. Tiny salad greens, fava beans and strawberries in the spring; French beans, eggplant, tomatoes, berries and melons in the summer; apples and pears, hard squash, potatoes, and fresh onions in the fall, and Meyer lemons and sweet limes, sweet peas, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower Romenesco and butter lettuce in the winter.

In the Lounge and Wine Bar, you can sit by the fire
and enjoy a glass of wine, with wine tastings by
appointment, featuring the Kelleher Family Vineyard wines grown in the Oakville Appellation.

A few weeks after our dinner we were back at Brix speaking with Matt Guyot, their talented Special Events Manager about a possible rehearsal dinner for our daughter. I guess that is the best recommendation
that we could make!

Fun things to Do Downtown for the Holidays

xmas skating wp

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 DoNapa.com 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 Napaonice.com.

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

DoNapa.com

Dan & Marguerite Capp’s – Capp Heritage Vineyards and Tasting Room

SONY DSC

By Craig Smith

Dan Capp, a fifth generation Napan and owner of Capp Heritage Tasting Room at the corner of First and Randolph Street in downtown Napa, drove a tractor on the family farm, as he says, “as soon as my legs were long enough to reach the pedals.”   Until he reached that height, he lugged boxes of peaches and apricots, some weighing almost as much as he did, to customer’s cars.  Farming is basically all he’s ever done, planting his first vineyard in 1973.  He and wife Marguerite have produced award winning wines, but it’s hard work.  That’s okay though – Capp comes from hearty stock.

Capp’s great-great grandmother, Frances Griffith, came to the Napa Valley at 13 years of age, on what may have been the first wagon train party to successfully make it over the Sierras, in 1845.  Her family had been living in Missouri, where times were tough.  The family sold everything they had, purchasing plows, seed, clothes and tools to start a new life in Oregon.  The oxen that pulled the wagons would pull the plows at their new home.  One hundred and thirty-five wagons started the trip to Oregon Territory.  Along the way, some of the group decided to come to the Napa Valley instead, and thirty wagons broke away and headed out on their own.

The trip took six months.  When the smaller party reached the Sierras, they fashioned pulleys out of lumber and rope, and hoisted the wagons, one by one, over the mountains.  Fording rivers meant cutting lumber to build rafts.  It was brutally hard, and not everyone, or the wagons, made it. One of the travelers was David Hudson, age twenty-five, whose sister gave birth to twins en-route. One of them died in the desert. 

The small group settled in Calistoga, which was still Mexican territory.  The ruling Mexican government considered the newcomers to be illegal aliens and would not rent or sell them land.  Fearing war with the US, officials decided strip the group of their supplies an expel them. The former Missourians had not traveled that far to move again without belongings, and a small group, including Hudson, formed the Bear Flag Republic.  Their flag was sewed, in part, from the petticoat of Capp’s great-great aunt.  A few weeks later, US troops claimed the territory, raising the American flag in Sonoma, where Frances Griffith and her parents now lived.  Over a year after leaving Missouri, the surviving wagon party members now had a permanent home.

Capp’s relatives mined for gold before the Gold Rush even started, and were able to purchase property from Dr. Bale that included everything from the Napa River in St. Helena to the Sonoma County line.   Hudson and Griffith were married in the Sonoma Square in 1847 by the new governor of California.  Griffith, then 15, was the first American woman to get married in the State.  One of their sons, Capp’s great uncle, was Rodney Hudson, the first person born in St. Helena.  David Hudson planted vineyards there in 1852, after building a large house, where they raised their five children, including two who survived the Donner Party. In the late 1860s, he sold his property to his vineyard foreman, Jacob Beringer.  The now-famous Hudson House still stands on the property.

Capp’s paternal grandmother married Giuseppi Antonio Caporicci.  A strong woman, she insisted that her new husband become a US citizen and anglicize his name to Joe Capp.  The family stayed in farming. Their youngest son, Robert Lee Capp, took over the business after WWll.  Robert Lee had two children, Dan Capp being the oldest.

Some of Dan’s earliest memories are of working on the farm.  In 1963, he joined and spent four years in the Navy.  After leaving the service, Capp finished college at Cal Poly with a degree in agricultural engineering.  He met Marguerite a month after she turned 17, and it was love at first sight.  He handed her a glass of water, and both felt a spark when their hands touched.  Ironically, neither knew the other had the same electric experience until five years ago.  He took her to her high school prom, and married her a year after she graduated.  The Capps have two children, a son and their daughter-who got married in the new tasting room several months ago.

Dan Capp was the first person to be hired at Franciscan Vineyards, and planted all of their first vineyards.  He and a partner planted their own vineyard in 1973. Sixteen years later, Capp bought his partner out, and has been independent since.   The wine business has changed since Capp first got involved over forty years ago.  It’s big business now, with many small wineries having been swallowed up by large corporations.   While he and Marguerite agreed that it was time for them to start making their own wine, the business model dictated by the corporations made entry into selling it prohibitive.  Capp figured he had three options, travel the country extensively and set up independent distributors, wade through years of the permitting process and then spend millions to build a winery, or open a tasting room.  Option three, which Capp said wouldn’t have made sense ten years ago to open a tasting room in downtown Napa, is today the most logical.

“Opening a tasting room,” means different things to different people, but to the Capps, it meant designing a room that reflects Dan’s heritage as well as their wines.  The space they wanted had the dark, wooden bar from the old Carriage House at the Noyes Mansion in one of the two rooms.  Dan was inspired to design that room the way the lobby of an 1880’s San Francisco hotel would look, an homage to his great-great grandfather.  The room features a pulley system of ceiling fans that conjure up images from a Jules Verne novel.  The second room is done in art deco, a tribute to his mother’s family, and utilizes curves and more feminine colors.  While in the service in Monterey, Capp spent evenings listening to ad hoc musical groups playing in Cannery Row.  Performing on sawdust floors, it was magical, and he wants to recreate that magic in the art deco room.  Music is low key, so that people can talk or focus on the
players, as they wish.  The commercial kitchen in
the building will be increasingly used to produce small plates.

The Capps have built their lives and farms methodically, and intend to let their tasting room   develop at its own pace.  They are much more concerned with organic quality than immediate profits.  Their cabs are terrific, but Marguerite said that if someone was to try only one of their wines, she would suggest the Barbera.  She describes it as “medium to full bodied.  A rich wine with high but not excessive acidity that works well with Italian food.  It is not a wimpy wine.”  The Capps currently produce 2000 cases a year for their labels and sell bulk wine, plus grapes, to others wineries.  Marguerite said that they don’t make cult wines, but good, upper end wines that anyone can drink, any day.  “Our wine is made to be enjoyed with good food,” she said.  “Drink it slowly, and enjoy life.”  The Capps are committed to following her excellent advice.