Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First month report from Napa

Wow, It's hard to believe that I've already been here in Napa for a month...and what a month it has been. I have visited numerous wineries, businesses, parties and tastings, along with hitting the streets on the business front feeling my way through the myriad of connections and referrals.

As I sit here with almost 100 various personal and business cards I've gathered splayed across my desk, I quickly realize this is definitely a town of who you know more than what you know. Once you discover the right 'who', the 'what' definitely helps. But, this is a social town (go figure) and people love their events or parties. You've heard the term 'six degrees of separation'...? Well, here, it is more like two degrees of separation and you never know who is sitting next to you or listening in. Better mind my 'P's and Q's' as they say. Also, the old adage, "work hard, play hard" could not be more appropriate than it is here in Napa...and they do both very well.

Anyway, my highlights so far are as follows:

Comp Wine Tastings - if you are in the "trade" out here with a business card, all wine tastings are complimentary for you and a guest. Not only that, but often you get to taste the stuff under the counter that most never see. Huge perk.

Vintners event at SF City Hall - through a referral and connection I met at a wine bar, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) trade event where they showcase all of their premium wines. Talk about a kid in a candy store...eeesh, that was fun. In addition, they asked me to work the consumer charity event that evening as the host Sommelier to assist guiding everyone around the event. A full day of wine and high-society social activity.

St. Patrick's Day private party - from an wine estate owner I met at the NVV event (Bart O'Brien of O'Brien Estate Wines), he invited me to their annual holiday event featuring traditional Irish food and fare. Not only were the wines phenomenal, but the entire experience was a blast. Made some additional key connections as well.

Wineries less traveled - there is no substitute for being here learning the locals' ropes. There are so many great wines being made that you'll never hear of because there do NOT want to be on the tourist trail. Many of these are by appointment only and/or by trade reference only and not open to the general public. This is going to be a lot of fun pursuing.

Touring around the back roads - I have had and absolute blast in my little coupe sports car zipping around the hills and back roads exploring new areas. Not only do you discover some remote wineries, but the drives in general are just spectacular. Open spaces, hills, mountains, tree-lined windy roads...all a treat. I do this once every few days just to get out and about.

Taylor's Refresher restaurant - little did I know what an icon this was. Originally from St. Helena up north a bit, Taylor's has been a landmark since 1949 serving specialty greasy spoon 'diner' type dishes. They just opened one up in downtown Napa and it is jammed packed every hour of the day. Burgers, chicken, fish, fries, shakes, sandwiches, fish tacos, etc. and a good selection of wines and beer to boot...I eat there about twice a week.

The weather and lack of major freeways - what's not to like...sunny and warm in the day and cool clear evenings. With no major highways, all you have to do is know when to stay off the single busy roads during their "rush hours" and it is a piece of cake. I know during 'high-season' things change, but a far cry from I-5 or 405 when down south.

That about wraps the first month for me. Now all I have to do is find the right work that can keep me here to fully enjoy it. I hate when work and money get in the way of my fun. Oh well, time to hit the streets again. I'll report back in April.

Till the next sip, swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino