Another day in Napa Valley Paradise

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By M.L. Hilton (NAPA, CA) — It was just average beautiful this morning on the way to work. The cool morning air lay in still pockets and a gentle mist hugged the hills like a veil obscuring the world outside the valley. There are some days you can look to the south over the Southern Crossing and see vestiges of San Francisco, but today we are in a world all our own. The morning cadre of hot air balloons crowds the sky, floating like large Christmas ornaments against the grey blue. Lately they have been under attack by neighbors who wish to restrict the launch of the gentle giants. It never ceases to surprise me how restraining we have become in today’s society. I am a big proponent of if you are worried about something, buy more insurance. It pays for damages inflicted, and life goes on – in a much less boring way. Last night, Napa’s historic Opera House ( featured Jason Petty in a retrospective of Hank Williams. Who would have known that wine and honky tonk went together? While the crowd was definitely leaning to the gray-haired set the seats were filled, and stompin’ n’ clappin’ rang through the air. I drug my pre-teen guitar-strummin’ son to the performance, but the sound of early American folk music does not yet have resonance with him. As for myself, growing up a child in the south, this music is inescapably tied to my youth. Before the performance, my co-workers and I stayed late at the office and sampled a few wines. The original four poured were all Dashe Cellars (Sonoma County, CA) 2002 Zinfandels. We picked four different vineyards to sample: Todd Brothers Ranch, Alexander Valley Big River Vineyard, Alexander Valley Louvau Vineyard, Old Vines, Dry Creek Valley; and Dry Creek Valley. It is always great fun to sit around in a group and listen to the discourse on taste, smell, and of course, to partake. Michael Chiarello, our famed chef, TV personality, vintner and neighbor, dropped by for a minute and we were able to taste two of his fabulous and exclusive Chiarello Family Vineyards Zinfandels ( He is probably heavy into harvest work right now so it was doubly special to see him. Celebrity drop-bys, part of what makes this just another day in paradise.



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