Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marin Institute, Family Wine Myth and “Big Alcohol.”

By John Olney e-mail jjolneytwcc1@aol.com
December 13, 2009,
Copyright - all rights reserved
Wine Country Marketing & Promotions
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558   Phone: 707-299-9548


When I first read about this organization it was in the piece, “Watchdog group has no cheers for wine industry,” by Andrew S. Ross which was published in Wine Business Daily on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. Then, the next day I accessed the full paper as written by the Marin Institute (MI).   I must say, I was amazed at what I would have to call either the naivety or the outright arrogance of the MI writer(s) who prepared the report they titled, “The Myth of the Family Winery - Global Corporations Behind California Wine.”

The use of the word “Family” in company literature - small or large -is not restricted to the wine industry. It can be found in many business industries as a “friendly, loving nurturing, etc. ” attitude descriptor to the consumer. The term as used in business literature is not necessarily descriptive of the people owning the company but rather the way the company likes to think it operates or at least what it wants its consumer audience to think. MI cites the following:  Trinchero Family Estates and Jackson Family Wines even use the word “family” in their corporate names.” This is not a bad or even a misleading descriptor when you consider who is top management and ownership in these organizations -- because they are family.

The consumer who bought R. Mondavi wines before it went public, then after it became a traded winery stock and still bought it after being gobbled up by Constellation, understood the use of the term “family” throughout all the transitions. The consumer who buys Dunn, Forman, Spottswoode, Caymus, Screaming Eagle, and many more similar small, mid and family owned and produced wines does not necessarily read the ads of Constellation, Foster’s, Gallo, Sutter Home and other such giants. Two entirely different audiences.

Both the Wine Institute and The Family Winemakers of California claim that membership is based on one vote per membership payment and thus their leadership is not based on just the size production of their winery. Like any other organization, this does not preclude the joining together of common interests to vote in a block on matters that pertain to that voting block. This can be seen in our Congress where there are special interest caucuses. It can be seen in the voting stock of all corporations where proxy’s are solicited to be voted for one candidate of the board over another. There has been and always will be such legal solicitations of support for one person or issue over another.

Production, marketing and sales programs for a company with millions of cases of wine to sell are greatly different than what a “cult” winery with under 1,000 cases of wine production has to cope with. And, this is not bad! No large corporation is going to let such a small producer “talk” or negotiate for them because the very little guy does not necessaily really hold a  true understanding of what even a few percent of a  cent tax means on a giant producer with a Board of Directors caring fudiciary duties to its stockholders.

As to lobbyists, I can only say tha MI is either na├»ve or refuses to consider the truth about what  all trade association advocacy organizations such as the Wine Institute do in Sacramento and Washington D.C. -- THEY LOBBY for the interest of their group members. Does MI think that lobbying against taxing wine is any different than taxing alfalfa? The farmers in the latter group are surely going to protest and fight against being taxed any further than they are already

MI states.” Wine producers’ success in gaining authorization to ship their product directly to consumers sets a precedent for beer and distilled spirits producers to circumvent the three-tier system as well.”  Wow!  Where did this come from? MI offers absolutely no background laying the foundation for making such a scare tactic statement as they have made. MI should do some very important historical background research as to why alcohol after Prohibition, was the only commodity allowed to be controlled independently by each State while all others were allowed free transport across State lines.

MI says that it cannot discover the composition of the membership in the Congressional Wine Caucus. MI says Rep. Radanovich declined to give them a list of the members. Did Senator Thompson also decline? I wonder if MI has tried the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the list of members?

My Conclusion:

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophism , I quote the following: (bold emphasis by john Olney, or me )

In modern usage, sophism, sophist, and sophistry are derogatory terms, due to the influence of many past philosophers.

A sophism is taken as a specious argument used for deceiving someone.

It might be crafted to seem logical while actually being wrong, or it might use difficult words and complicated sentences to intimidate the audience into agreeing, or it might appeal to the audience's prejudices and emotions rather than logic, i.e. raising doubts towards the one asserting, rather than his assertion.

The goal of a sophism is often to make the audience believe the writer or speaker to be smarter than he or she actually is, e.g., accusing another of sophistry for using persuasion techniques.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

California Vintner’s Hall of Fame - Class of 2010

The California Vintner’s Hall of Fame (CVHOF) -- click here for abstracts on the inductees -- http://www.ciaprochef.com/winestudies/vhf.html/  -- sponsored by and located in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), St. Helena, CA, has announced it’s five inductees for the 4th class -- the Class of 2010.

I am very honored to be a member of the Nominating Committee of eight that prepared the list of candidates for the full CIA Electoral College of wine writers and previous CVHOF inductees to vote upon. The remaining members of the Nominating Committee are:

W. Blake Gray, chaired by noted wine journalist:
http://wblakegray.blogspot.com/

Charles Sullivan, well noted wine historian and published author

Jim Gordon, Wines and Vines Publications:
www.winesandvines.com/

Sara Schneider, Sunset Magazine:
www.sunset.com/food-wine/

Alder Yarrow, well noted wine blogger at http://www.vinography.com/

Darrell Corti, Corti Brothers, Inducted CVHOF in 2008:   www.cortibros.biz/WEBSITE/About%20Us/Aboutus.asp

Carole Meredith, UC Davis Professor Emerita and Lagier-Meredith Winery, Inducted CVHOF in 2009:   www.lagiermeredith.com/scripts/historyPg.cfm.

2010 California Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees include the following:

Special “Pioneer” inductee

Leon Adams (1905-1995)
 Leon Adams was a founder of the Wine Institute, a public policy and advocacy group for California wineries.

Books by Mr. Adams:
The Commonsense Book of Wine (1958)
The Commonsense Book of Wine, 2nd Edition (1964)
The Wines of America (1973)
Leon D. Adams’ Commonsense Book of Wine, 3rd Edition, revised and expanded (1975)
The Wines of America, Second Edition, Revised (1978)
Striped Bass Fishing In California and Oregon
The Commonsense Book of Drinking
The Wine Study Course

The Bancroft Library - Regional Oral History Office - California Wine Industry
http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/food_wine/wine.htmlLeon
Leon D. Adams - Revitalizing the California Wine Industry, 1974, 154 pp. Transcription
All Other Inductees
Andy Beckstoffer - www.beckstoffervineyards.com/
Back in 1968, he began his career in the wine industry when he convinced the Chairman of the Board of Heublein, Inc., headquarter in Conneticuttet to enter the wine business by purchasing a majority interest in United Vintner’s which had previously purchased the former Inglenook Winery of Gustav Neibaum/John Daniel (now know as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Rubicon.”). Shortly after this purchase, and now as a Heublein executive heading up the wine oriented division, he negotiated the purchase of the Beaulieu Vineyards which also dated back to the late 1880s. The purchases of these two old family prestigious wineries sent shock waves throughout the wine world. In 1973, Heublein’s Board of Director’s no longer could support the slow growth, low yield business of wine and began it’s withdrawal from the business.

During the 1968-1973 timeframe, Beckstoffer had become quite well informed in vineyard development and management, and the potential of the industry when held in private versus corporate ownership. He was only 33 when he conceived a financing plan that would allow him to purchase much of the Heublein vineyard property. The finance plan included contracts for the purchase of the grapes. He was off and running on his spectacular career in the California wine industry.

Since that time, Beckstoffer Vineyards has become one of three of the largest privately held vineyard ownership and management services companies in the North Bay wine country. He has been instrumental in organizing and developing agricultural, land and river preservation practices and ordinances in Napa County.

Beckstoffer devised a grape value, or suggested price method, that is tied to the value of the finished wine product. His most recent and ambitious project is the mapping of the history of Napa County vineyards.

In September of this year, I had the privilege of interviewing him for my draft book tentatively titled “The Innovators and Pacesetters of the Modern Napa Valley Wine Industry.” Click here for a synopsis
http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-new-book-innovators-of-modern-nv.html
The Bancroft Library - Regional Oral History Office - California Wine Industry
http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/food_wine/wine.html
Andy Beckstoffer - Premium California Vineyardist, Entrepreneur, 1960s to 2000s, 200 pp.
Al Brounstein - http://www.diamondcreekvineyards.com/
Established Diamond Creek vineyard in 1968, Brounstein's Diamond Creek Vineyards was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon only in the three distinct soil types located on his property. He named each soil type with the names Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow, and Volcanic Hill. He became one of the first wineries to grow and produce different Cabernet Sauvignons wines designating them as single vineyard products. The 1978 Lake Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was reportedly the first preimum wine carrying a suggested retail price of $100 a bottle. Before the term “Cult Wine“ became popular, he was already respected as such..
The Bancroft Library - Regional Oral History Office - California Wine Industry
http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/food_wine/wine.htm
Al Brounstein - Diamond Creek Vineyards: The Significance of Terroior in the Vineyard, 2000, 82 pp.
Randall Grahm - https://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/
Randall Grahm known for bringing back the good name of Rhone varietials. He, his web site and writings are zany, interesting and outside of the “normal” characterisation of winemakers but wines, and his contributions are very well received.. He is already the recipient of a number of prestigious awards further justifying his nomination and induction into the CVHOF.

Zelma Long - http://www.vilafonte.com/framework/zelmalong.asp?M=ThePartners&CPage=zelmalong
She  studied enology and viticulture at UC Davis in the late 1960s, She became  chief enologist at Robert Mondavi Winery, while establishing Long Vineyards. Following her stint at Mondavi, she went to Simi Winery as winemaker and CEO. She was one of the first modern day women to perform both the winemaking and business management duties of winery. She has been inducted to the James Beard Hall of Fame (1996) and receiving The James Beard Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year(1997). Zelma and her husband, Phillip Freese, are producing wine (Vilafonte label) in South Africa.


The Bancroft Library - Regional Oral History Office - California Wine Industry
http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/food_wine/wine.html  
Zelma Long - The Past is the Beginning of the Future: Simi Winery in its Second Century, 1992, 103 pp.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Olney Returns to Swim at UOP Alumni Meet

Wow!

Waiting 45 years to once again compete in a swimming race may just have been a little too long! I attended then College of the Pacific from 1961-1964, now a college of the University of the Pacific, on a full ride for swimming and water polo.

I had not returned to the campus for an alumni event until October 24, 2009. On this date, the UOP swimming program held a three-way swim meet consisting of the current varsity men’s and women’s teams divided into black and orange teams, and UOP graduates being the alumni team. Click here for the Pacific Swim Program write-up of the event: http://pacifictigers.cstv.com/sports/m-swimonly/spec-rel/102709aaa.html


Pictured here are the oldest of the alumni participants . From left to right are )Bob Hayes (class of '73), Joe Dietrich ('74), ), Rick Ingraham ('73) and John "Kip" Olney ('64),

Head swimming coach, Adam Kennedy,, organized and coordinated the fun day event. Earlier in the morning I had a chance to talk to him about his program. He indicated that he has 43 swimmers between the men’s and women’s teams with five full athletic aid rides for men and ten for women. Compare this to the team size in 1964 at 13 men only with something like three full and five half and quarter rides dished out.

I broke out my 1964 Senior yearbook which listed some times that John Ostrom and I established as records. I compared them to the times listed on the UOP web site . John Ostrom, who I learned from my old polo/swim team mate, Clay Clement (dropped by but didn‘t swim), sadly passed away in the early 1980’s,. Back in 1964 he established the NCAA 100 yard butterfly record at 53.3 The record today at UOP is 47..84 set in 2005, while the 2009 NCAA winning time was 44.18.

Olstrom won just about every event he swam and along with winning the 1964 NCAA 100 yard butterfly while establishing the NCAA record time and taking 3rd in the 200 yard butterfly, I hope the Athletic Department nominates and elects him to the Pacific Athletes Hall of Fame at UOP.
1964 was my senior year and I had met qualifying times to compete at the NCAA’s, but then it was discovered that there was an error in the male student body enrollment count when I swam varsity as a Freshmen which meant I wasn’t red shirted and thus was not eligible to swim in the NCAA’s my Senior year. Oh well, I loved my four years at COP and wouldn’t have changed a thing!
My records, were established between 1961 and 1964 and which still stood when I finished that senior year, were in the 200 yd butterfly (205.9), 500 free (5:24.3), 1650 (19:58.3) and 400 individual medley (5.04.2). That year, I was also President of the Block P Letterman’s Society and was awarded the Kris Kjeldsen Trophy.

Oh by the way, our '64 water polo team finished the year ranked #7 in the nation.

The 2009 NCAA finals listed winning time was 1:40.75 almost 25 seconds better than my time for the butterfly and 4:08.92 for the 500 free, or a minute and 16 seconds better. Darn, these kids have gotten good!
But, for the 1650 free, the 2009 winning time was 14:30.91 or almost 5 and a half minutes better than my time. Heck, everybody could have gotten out of the pool after they finished, had a cup of coffee or soda and then come back to see me finally finish!
My 400 IM was almost a minute and a half slower than the 2009 winning time at the NCAA’s (3:35.98).

At the UOP alumni swim meet I swam only the 50 yard free -- and I wasn’t even sure that I could complete just two laps without getting sick! It did take me a long time 42.13 seconds ! Please notice that all the others are relaxed and rested while I’m dying to get air!

Then those other “old alumni” talked me into being on the relay team swimming the same distance as part of the 200 freestyle relay. My best time was during the first leg of the relay when I hit 38 seconds flat. My best time when I was at Pacific was about 27.5. I was never a sprinter; all long distance.

I have an excuse or two. I am now 67 and 40 plus size pounds heavier!

Now, I'm going back next year tp redeem myself with much better 50 yard times. Who knows, if I get in shape, I might try eight laps---the feared 200 yard freestyle!!!

Thanks Mr. Kennedy and all you young swimmers for letting me have so much fun with you all.

Good luck this coming year.

And thanks for all the encouraging yells-I heard you pushing me on along the sidelines!

SWIM WELL
\\
\\

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Territory of American Samoa Revisited by Internet

<THIS IS A DRAFT ARTICLE UNDER COMPLETE REVISION BECAUSE OF THE RECENT TSUNAMI AND ITS DESTRUCTIVE WAYS TO MUCH OF WHAT I WAS GOING TO WRITE ABOUT. I SHOULD HAVE THE ARTICLE READY BY ABOUT OCTOBER 20, 2009

I have started to add pix from the late 1970's/early 1980's when we were
contracted to manage the implmentation of the grant. Just scroll on down.

Back in the mid-1970’s, along with two partners, I formed Action Resources, Inc.,(ARI) based in Honolulu, Hawaii . I was President, CEO and Chairman of the Board and my partners were the VP’s.

All three partners had been formerly employed at Pacific Analysis Corporation, also of Honolulu, where I was Executive Vice President and my partners were Senior Analysts conducting operation and systems analysis on Naval contracts. All three of us wanted to expand into private enterprise commercial work and local government consulting while the owners of PAC wished to focus only on military work and thus we pulled away and formed our own entity.

The U.S. Congress enacted the National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978, which in part, created grants for each state and all the territorial possessions of the U.S. to form a continuing program to implement conservation techniques through public awareness campaigns. As this was new field, almost none of the state and territorial governments possessed on-board talent to draft the grant application required to be completed in order to receive the grants. At ARI we had sufficient expertise to bid for the grant writing of the State of Hawaii’s application for the funding of Energy Conservation and Public Awareness grant unde the above cited act.. We won request for proposals issued by the state and subsequently were successful in writing the grant which was awarded to Hawaii in the sum of approximately $2 million (1979 dollars). ARI was subsequently contracted to implement the grant while searching for candidates to fill state governmental positions to continue the implementation of the grant.

The Territory of American Samoa also qualified for grant funds under this act if they could produce an acceptable grant application to Washington D.C. They had used two different consulting firms who attempted to draft the grant application but each failed to produce an acceptable product. The deadline to submit a successful grant application was approaching the expiration date when they leaned that we had been successful in drafting Hawaii’s grant and thus they contacted us to see if we could help them. We responded that we thought we could and advised the Governor’s office that we could send our team down for an estimated initial cost of about $6,000 (1979 dollars) to commence the initial draft. They replied saying they did not have that kind of money on hand but they would find it later to reimburse our expenses. We negotiated over a couple of days with the Governor’s office but upfront money for us would not be available. If we wanted to attempt the grant application using our own money they promised to find a way to reimburse us at a later date. My partners and I agreed that we would take the risk of completing the grant application on their terms.

The Rainmaker Hotel is set alongside a small beach overlooking Pago Pago Harbor. The hotel offered standard rooms and bungalows for guests, had a restaurant with full bar, a neat swim pool and deck and fabulous small beach area looking out at the mouth of the bay. It was built in the 1960's; The hotel had a long wing of standard hotel rooms running west from the main lobby area and towards the stairwell across the road that lead up to the Governor’s mansion. It is here in nthis wing of the hotel that we established the first Territory Energy Office (TEO). Pictured below from left to right are AS Gov't rep High Chief Brownie Tuiasosopo,and then ARI exec's Jim Merrill and John Olney.



In the photo's below you will see how thr Rainmaker looked when were routinely visiting and working on the Energy projects in Pago Pago.
















Today, photographs show that the hotel in a complete state of degredation caused by the decision to not repair the facility. Scavangers have had their way with the rooms. There are doors hanging off hinges, broken roof slates sliding off the roof and laying broken on the ground and pool formerly green from algae is cracked and chipped.

Below are the principal facts about the complex which the government hopes to lease to entrepreneurs.




(Extracted from the government’s Web site info is couple years old)


Subject Property: The Rainmaker
Hotel, Utulei Village, Island of Tutuila, U.S. Territory of American Samoa.
Geographic Location: In the South Pacific, 14 deg. South, 170 deg. West approximately 2,300 miles SW of Hawaii and 1,800 miles NE of New Zealand
Land Area: 5.03 acres
Improvements: Rainmaker Hotel including 140 guest
rooms in two attached buildings plus detached fale
(cottages) as well as
related improvements.
Age: Thirty to forty (30-40) years
Condition:
Unfurnished, unoccupied, and in disrepair; requires major renovation or to be
razed and rebuilt
Utilities: All major public utilities serve the property
Fee Owner: American Samoa Government
Leasehold Owner: American Samoa
Development Corporation
Zoning: H, Hotel
Offering Price
The American Samoa Development Corporation (ASDC) wishes to lease the Rainmaker Hotel property at a minimum lease rate of twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) and 2.5% of gross revenues per month up to year 2050 on an “as is” basis. The investors can utilize the property for hotel or any other suitable commercial purpose with prior concurrence from ASDC.



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maria Sophie Kitzmiller - My best friend since 1986 passed away

Maria Sophie Kitzmiller (maiden name: is Soldavini), born in San Rafael in 1935, passed away in her sleep (cardiac arrest) on Friday morning, September 18, 2009, at her residence in Concord, California. She is survived by her two daughters, Liz Murray (Arizona) and Mary Key (Concord), her son-in-law, John Murray (Arizona) and her long time friend and companion, John Olney (Napa). Maria was buried on Thursday, September 24, 2009 in Tulocay Cemetery where her eternal soul mate since high school and husband, Glenn Kitzmiller (1934 - 1984), is buried. Burial was completed among immediate family members and her best friend.

The Kitzmiller’s moved from San Rafael to Napa in the early 1980’s . Her many friends and associates will remember her best from her retail sales position in the jewelry Department at the former Mervyn’s store in downtown Napa, She was also a co-founder of the former Napa County Junior Golf Club where she provided many volunteer hours along with her co-founders, Bob Ellis and John Olney. Maria was also an instrumental participant in the Napa Valley Wine Label Poster-maps conceived and marketed by John Olney in the late 1980’s.

Maria moved to her Concord residence in 2001 where she became a member of the local home association’s Southend Hookers Club, which is a social knitting group donating their finished products to local hospitals and other organizations. She was also an active member of the weekly Pleasant Hill Senior Dance group. Maria totally enjoyed gardening and growing vegetables at her home. She loved taking extends rides along the back roads throughout the Bay Area.

Plans are being completed for a Celebration of Life social in Napa and at Maria’s housing association in Concord. Please watch for an announcement at http://www.jolney.blogspot.com/

Burial arrangements were completed through Tulocay Funeral Directors. Please feel free to sign the on-line guestbook for her at www.tulocaycemetery.org

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Tasting in the Garden of Spottswoode Estate

Story and photo’s by John Olney, August 22,2009Web site: http://www.jolney.blogspot.com/ E-mail: jjolneytwcc1@aol.com

***Copyright, all rights reserved by Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558 Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: http://www.twccwcmp.blogspot.com/ E-mail: winecountrypromo@aol.com
***
[You can click on the pix's to see an enlargement]

***

It had been years since I last visited the graceful estate of the Spottswoode vineyards and winery estate.Click here for Web site>> (http://www.spottswoode.com/content/home.html ) My initial visit was back in the mid-1980’s when I was busily producing wine label poster-maps of Napa Valley wineries. My intention was to include their label on my third poster but I stopped after the second was released and marketed in 1989 amidst much controversy over my presentation of certain wine labels on the same product containing the Napa Valley Wine Train. Anyway, that’s another story under development at this time.
















Site Background
The Spottswoode Estate dates back to the very early days of Napa’s development into one of the already most respected wine producing regions in the world of the wine industry. The estate was established in 1882 by George Schoenwald. He named the property “ Esmeralda.”

According to Irene W. Haynes, as she wriote in her photo-book, “Ghost Wineries of Napa Valley,” (1980) Schoenwald sold his wines to the Palace Hotel located in San Francisco. It was built in 1875, by William Chapman Ralston and William Sharon, wealthy bankers, and was described by others as “the largest, most luxurious and costly hotel in the world.”

Historian/Author, Lin Weber, in her book, “Old Napa Valley - The History to 1900,” Schoenwald was a San Francisco-based real estate developer who promoted the Del Monte holdings in Monterey, in 1880. It was said to be the” most elegant seaside resort in the world.” It burned down in 1887 and again 1924. It is now the site of the U.S. Navy Post Graduate School.

Frank Kraft purchased a northern piece of the original 31 acres of Schoenwald property in 1884, upon which he built a farmhouse and sandstone wine cellar known as the “Kraft Winery“. It operated until the 1890s.

Starting in 1906, the Victorian-style home estate property was sold to three succeeding parties: Schoenwald to a Joseph Bliss, who renamed the estate Stonehurst, Bliss to Dr. George Allen who named it Lindenhurst , then Dr. Allen sold to Mrs. Albert Spotts, who renamed it Spottswoode and finally in 1972, Mary and Jack Novak bought it. They moved their family from southern California onto the estate property. Her husband passed away before all the dreams could be realized but Mary Novak decided to go on and with her five children, built the elegant winery estate that is such a pleasure to visit today.

Winemaking
The Novak’s first winemaker was Tony Soter (1982-1991), who produced such fabulous wines that before the word “Cult” winery existed, Spottswoode “was, and remains cult “producing outstanding wines. It was during his tenure that Mary Novak and family reunited (1990) the original two parcels of the original Schoenwald estate when they acquired the former Kraft property. Today that property functions as the operations center for wine production, barrel storage, marketing and distribution.


Soter is acclaimed as one of great modern day consulting winemakers with a list of clients to be envied and are considered “cult” Cabernet Sauvignon producers: Araujo, Dalla Valle, Rubicon Estate, Shafer, Spottswoode and Viader. His own Napa Valley brand is Etude , located in the Carneros District and Beacon Hill winery represents his Willamette Valley, Oregon, production. Soter was followed by excellent winemakers such as Pam Starr (1992-1996), now of Crocker & Starr Wines and consultant to others, Rosemary Cakebread (1997-2005), now consulting Spottswoode, and Jennifer Williams (began in 2006) who is the current winemaker

Late Summer Garden Party, Saturday, August 22, 2009On a beautiful Saturday, in the heart of Napa Valley’s Wine County, with my associate, Maria Kitzmiller we walked under the entry gate and on to the 1882 estate of the Novak family to experience what would become one of my fondest tasting experiences to date.

After registering at the entry table, receiving our tasting menu and our complimentary Reidel etched wine glass, we immediately stepped to Table 1 where members of the Novak family (pictured here) greeted the guests and poured the first of six Spottswoode wines being served this day; the Spottswoode 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. That’s the matriarch, Mary Novak shown to the far right.

I am current writing a book tentatively titled “The Innovators of the Modern Napa Valley Wine Industry,” and Mary Novak is one of my 20 selected candidates to be interviewed. She has accepted to participate in my project. I have already interviewed Michael Mondavi and Andy Beckstoffer. 11 others have also agreed to participate and I wait for the remaining six to make their final decision.

This Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps the best my palate has tasted to date. Just enough grassy aroma to the nose and fruit forward taste, and slipping over my tongue with a very refreshing finish as I swallowed. There was no way this wine would be spat out!
I must confess, I actually went back for a second small taste just to be sure my first assessment was not a fluke. It wasn’t! As I finished off this second taste , the garden filled rapidly with guests. As I would later discovery, their office received over 650 RSVP’s confirming their desire to attend this event. This picture gives you an example of the crowd size about noon. An hour later there was barely elbow row to get by and go to a table to experience the next offering.

Because I enjoyed this wine so much, as soon as I got home and on my computer, I went to the Spottswoode Web site to look up its tasting notes. It is 67% SB, 24% Sauvignon Musque and 9% Semillion. I don’t recall having tasted such a blend before so I looked up the Sauv. Musque and found it to be a clone of SB that tends to provide a richer fruit taste to a wine. Well, I guess that is probably why I found the wine so good. I am now seeking out yet other wineries with such blends so I can verify that it is indeed the Musque that captured my taste buds.

Next up at Table 2 was the Spottswoode 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. After my first sip of this wine, I wrote in my real time notes the following: “It is no wonder their wines were so difficult to get!” This wine was simply so smooth and balanced I just wanted to sip it all afternoon, but I still had four more wines to taste. Could it just keep getting better, I wondered? As I would discover, yes it could.

Table three contained the Field Book 2007 Rhone Style Syrah Grenache. It was very smooth but stayed on my palate until my next small sip. I confess I have not much experience with this varietal so when I got home, I checked their Web site to read about it. It was only released on August 1, and only 179 cases were bottled. It is a blend of 19% Grenache and 81% Syrah. I’m afraid I’m going to develop a strong liking to this wine, darn it!


It was time to experience some food so Maria went over to the first food table which offered cheesy duck pizza slices that were a piece of heaven. The pizza’s were made right there on site as shown here. This device was a center of attraction as many guests went up to the pizza makers wanting to know who manufactured the oven and where they might be able to purchase one. I think I heard the gentleman in black, who was the primary cooker of the pizza’s, say that he made the device but he only made it for his purpose. He didn’t want to be in the business of manufacturing them. I’m sure that on the Monday following the event, the Spottswoode office received many calls to find out which of the catering firms this guy and his oven belonged to and he’ll get lots of pressure to build more!

The pizza got us in the mood for some more food so I wandered over to look over the main station while Maria surveyed the desert area.

I took this picture where I crossed the garden to the long tables . It looked like the line was reasonable so I went back to our table to wait for my Associate. Bad move, indeed!

By the time we finally decided that we would go fill a small plate, the crowd had at least doubled and the line for the food represented about a 20 minute wait minimum. Obviously the food was great because so many were so willing to wait out the line to get to it. We are sure we missed out on some fabulous foods to go with the wines

We scurried over to the pizza table with a shorter line and snatched a couple of pieces which would hold over through the tasting of the remaining three wines, the next of which was the Lyndenhurst 2007 Cab. This wine was bigger than the previous Cab displaying more oak and tannin influence and was quite good. There were two ladies at our table who came in from out of county who stressed that the Lyndenhurst was their very favorite Spottswoode wine and I could see why they liked it so much..

The last two wines to taste were on the opposite side of the garden from our table so I started my walk to taste the Spottswoode 2006 Cab. I thought I heard the pourer say it was 100% Cab but a later check on their Web site shows a pinch of Cabernet Franc was blended in (1.5%), but I can tell you that I honestly would not have been able to tell you that at the time I tasted the wine. All, I can say is, “Wow!” These wine just keep getting better tasting to my palate which prefers smooth reds but bold enough to remain on your tongue until the next anticipate sip. Spottswoode reds certainly accomplish this.

Now I was ready to leap at the Spottswoode 2007 cab which was being spotlighted as a pre-release offering. It will undoubtedly be a popular wine for all Spottswoode patrons.

Here’s my problem! I’m blogger, a freelance writer, published only in a couple of resources and mostly not paid, just earning publishing inches. What do I go and do? I fall in love with wines that are currently out of reach but I’m confident I will eventually sell one of my books and I have a list of wines that will immediately be placed in my cellar. You can rest assured that all of the products of Spottswoode will be at the head of the list of my first purchases.

Thanks to the Novak team for a fabulous day with great wines and in a perfect setting.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Downtown Redevelopment: “Cha ching, thank you, very much!”

June 21, 2009

I’m tired of all the bitter comments written about landlords of downtown buildings containing vacant space. One such landlord in particular, appears to be the “whipping boy” of many of these Internet and printed media commentators as well as those speaking at the recent public and Steering Committee workshops. I have heard such comments as, “tax him into submission,” or “use eminent domain and take his property from him for the benefit of its economic potential if it were rented out,” and other such comments. That sounds pretty Socialistic to me!

If I’m not mistaken, we are suppose to be a Democracy operating in a capitalistic society which rewards those who worked hard and achieved financial success so they could own things and enjoy the profits of their endeavors. Such a person can own a home, or two, or three or a dozen and we don’t make him live in them all or we say they must lease/rent them out because “we feel” it is in the best interest of “the masses.” Car collectors may own 20, 50, 75 or more cars and we don’t make them drive them or else we say they must lease/rent them out for “the good of the masses.”

But, now so many want such “visionaries” who had the hard earned capital sufficient enough to buy land with buildings on them that when bought by those visionaries nobody else was making a bid for them. Back then many wondered what in the heck this visionary was thinking to make such questionable purchases?

Well, along came flood relief money and a new awareness to beautify the riverfront property while fixing the previous flooding problems. Then developers, seeing such migrating and costly infrastructure improvements while also being locked out from doing such projects up valley because of Ag Preservation and townships unwilling to grow and adapt, settled on available land in the boundaries of the City of Napa and found their dreams actually welcomed.

This was followed by the California State mandated Downtown Specific Plan and its associated public workshops and appointment of a community based “Steering Committee,” the latter two of which are suppose to be major inputs to the Specific Plan.

In view of the above future planning efforts, the “blight of empty store front building space” has now suddenly caught the eye of a number of vehemently protesting citizens of our community appearing to place all the blame for the trials, tribulations, pain and suffering of the downtown area on the visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords who I described previously and their investments in downtown land and buildings when nobody else wanted them.

I suspect these “visionaries” knew that that land and its associated buildings were not economically viable to totally remodel to today’s building code requirements which would have resulted in the requirement to charge a square foot rent price they could not get in the economy of the times.

Their plan was to wait out time until the economy improved and demand for their stale, unattractive and rundown buildings and thus the land they stood upon, would suddenly become valuable to a stimulated economy and developers who saw opportunity to redevelop downtown Napa. That time is upon us now. To wit, the tear down of the old and the building of the bigger, taller and modern new office, lodging, residential and retail mixed use buildings - The Avia, The Riverfront, Zeller, Napa Square, and more!

Why do you think these so called “slum landlords” have not routinely responded to all those who, in their anger, so malign these property owners? The reason is simply: why stop those who are now routinely proving that the “slum landlord’s” earlier decisions to buy these rundown buildings means that these visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords are about to reap the benefits of making the city and thus the people and/or the new developers pay them much more money than it originally cost these landlords to buy the property. In other words, in order to get the land for the new planned developments and thus “get rid of those darn slum landlords” it’s going to cost the new owners.

My hat is tipped to the visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords! They saw the future and where monitory reward would come to them if they had patience and let the damning fools do their marketing for them to increase the value of their holdings. Ever time the complaining commentators belittle, run down or complain about the “Slum Landlord,” the latter silently grins and says to him/herself, “Cha ching, thank you, very much!”

Downtown Napa: right mix of stores needed

Published NVR Editorial page
Other recent related articles/opinionsDowntown Napa coverage
June 24, 2009
Altamuras ready to shake up downtown
June 21st, 2009
OK, sometimes I'm a little slow
June 11th, 2009
Residents, groups consider future of downtown Napa
June 7th, 2009
Welcome to the neighborhood


June 24th, 2009

Downtown Napa: right mix of stores needed
By John Olney
When is it news reporting or is it editorial?

Sunday’s (June 14) Napa Valley Register donated many column inches to the downtown Napa area with the primary focus on all the new office, retail and lodging facilities that have recently opened and/or are about to be open. When first I read the articles, I had a hard time accepting them as “news” when they read like a press release from a building owners’ trade association.

Everything was so cheery and full of exhilaration about great expectations of customers dashing to the streets to shop, the restaurants to eat and lodging facilities to sleep. There was even the expectation that the office and retail store workers would be a major boon to shop owners.

Unfortunately, where are these folks going to shop? I have yet to hear of any new-name stores signing up in either the old or new building street level stores, except for the Subway and two to three yet-to-be-named restaurants.

I seriously doubt anybody will be flying from Boston, New York, Paris or Vienna to eagerly shop at McCaulou’s or the soon-to-be-Kohl’s department store. None of the small shops along the major downtown streets are the shops associated to Rodeo Drive-Beverly Hills, Santana Row-San Jose, downtown Walnut Creek or even Union Square in San Francisco; you know, big-name, upscale art, jewelry, pottery, wood, glass and china studios, designer fashions and other such top-of-the-line shopping amenities. I have driven and walked around downtown Napa for years and have always wondered why so many local shops are closed on Sunday. Obviously, they don’t need the visitor dollars.

Another Register article on Sunday was about why the Beaded Nomad moved to Petaluma; it illustrates the dilemma of downtown commercial buildings.

There are many downtown fine-dining restaurant facilities that are certainly very good, but with the exception of less than a handful they are very much less known by travelers than those of Yountville and St. Helena. Locals already know about and use these Napa restaurants. Of course, it must be recognized that there are no full bar service night clubs, etc., to excite both locals and visitors.

Then we come to the lodging facilities. In the true meaning of a “downtown lodging and immediate shopping district,” there are only three, of which one is new and just now opening. Counting the more distant two on the other side of the wide Soscol Avenue, and located along the banks of the Napa River Oxbow, that brings the total to five lodging facilities in real proximity to the downtown retail shopping store streets.

I suspect that there is probably a relatively small percentage of these lodgers shopping downtown at any given time. Then of course, this number is driven by whatever the occupancy rate is at the time at these establishments.

If the lodgers go Upvalley for wine tasting, they most likely left to start at about 10 a.m. and by the time they return to Napa (5-6 p.m.), most of the shops are closed for the day.

Few shops are open for extended evening shopping, except during the holidays.

Now we come to all the office space that suddenly opened in the new buildings added to all the vacant older building office space. But, the articles point out that there is a large volume of both new and old office space which is vacant. I cannot help but wonder why the office rental space in new buildings really means new customers, unless it was businesses that were previously located in different towns. From what I see, it is businesses that were in different Napa buildings that opted to move to the new building. Thus the workers were already familiar with the shopping available in downtown Napa and that means they are not new customers.

I do not want all thinking that I’m raining on the parade of downtown Napa. I personally think that all the new buildings are very good-looking and give a refreshing breath to the “skyline.” However, realistically speaking, building architecture and newness alone are not going to reel in the shopper.

With the new buildings comes higher rent and that means the owners have to isolate what products to offer the consumer so that that consumer will come and buy them. When they accomplish this, the retail store can afford to pay the higher rent.

Consumers do not follow buildings, they chase products; and that is why Rodeo Drive, Santana Row, Union Square and Walnut Creek are such magnets to consumers. That is also why the Napa outlet stores are the next busiest consumer attraction — local and visitor alike — after the wineries!

(Olney lives in Napa.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

City Planning Goals and State Mandates

By John Olney, June 21, 2009

Cities and Counties Trying to Satisfy State Mandates

Napa City Passes Housing Plan to Guide Through 2014
But Downtown Specific Plan Still in Development

I have been following the Downtown Napa Redevelopment discussions and City Council actions with much interest. The URL below will take you to the City Web site dealing specifically with this subject.
http://www.downtownnapaspecificplan.org/Content/10001/THEPLAN.html

The site describes the efforts being made as cited below:
“A specific plan is a policy and regulatory tool used by local governments in the State of California as a complement to a General Plan. Specific plans implement a city or county's General Plan through the development of policies,programs and regulations for a localized area and in greater detail.
A Specific Plan must address, at the minimum, land use, transportation and circulation, utilities and infrastructure, public facilities, development standards, and implementation and financing. Once adopted, the Downtown NapaSpecific Plan will guide all new development in the Planning Area both in the public and private realms.”

One of the major points made at the workshops related to the above plan is downtown housing and living in the downtown Napa area. The AMCAN Eagle newspaper, Sunday, June 21, 2001 carried an editorial on state mandated housing:

Napa County is once again grappling with ways to set aside as much land for new homes as the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development requires.

This is a regular task, one that must be completed every seven years. Yet it is a requirement in need of reform if California is maintain the quality of life we have come to cherish.

The way things work is that state officials calculate job growth, population growth and other factors to determine how many new homes may be needed in the state, focusing especially on homes that will be affordable to most families. They then deal out to cities and counties their allotments to be absorbed.

Cities and counties than draw up planning documents saying that so many new homes can go here or there. If they meet the magic number, they are approved. If not, they risk lawsuits and loss of control of their own growth because they are out of compliance with state law.

In her letter dated June 3, 2009 to the members of the select 15-person Downtown Napa Specific Development Plan committee, Mayor Jill Techel said,”…Our intent is provide a community-based, feasible plan!” The Mayor also said in this letter, “You will be helping to shape Downtown’s future over the next 15 years--an effort that will have long lasting benefits for all City residents, businesses, workers and visitors.” On Wednesday, June 17,2009, the City appointed 15-Person Downtown Steering Committee were first introduced to the public by name and face, and held its first of many planned workshops.

On Wednesday, June 9, the City of Napa sponsored the first of two public workshops designed to provide a platform for the residents and business persons of the community to express their concerns about the present and contribute to the rebuilding process of the future of the city. The City’s Web site set up for this work is http://www.downtownnapaspecificplan.org/ and as of June 21 continues to indicate that the workshop results will soon be on this site but they are not yet. One component of the Workshop as reported in the “Workshop Summary” which I first saw on the evening of June 17 at the Steering Committee meeting and includes the following statements about downtown housing.

“Promote a mix of housing options to support a lively and vibrant Downtown.
o Plan for a range of family-friendly housing types
o Increase residential densities
o Create more mixed-use developments
o Downtown Napa should have housing for the local resident workforce.”

On Tuesday, June 14, 2009, the Napa City Council adopted a new housing plan to guide the city through 2014. The adopted plan includes the following numbers and I quote from the NVR article dated Saturday, June 20, 2009:

The new housing plan would add 88 units to growth expected by 2020 — 7,928 units instead of 7,840 units, staff said. The environmental effect of 88 units is not significant, they said.

In fact, the city has been growing at a slower rate than the General Plan envisioned. New housing is running 700 fewer units than anticipated, Jean Hasser, the city’s principal planner, said.

These numbers are set for the entire city limits of Napa, not just an allotment for the Downtown Redevelopment sector! Then there were the followings statements in the NVR article:

The city intends to raise densities on eight multi-family housing sites in three parts of town as its primary strategy for bringing down the cost of new housing, Hasser said.

The three areas are the south side of First Street, west of Highway 29; the Byway East-El Centro Avenue area and Soscol Avenue south of Trancas Street.

Please note that none of these density allowances include the Downtown Napa sector. Based on all the differing requirements for “Plans,” and the decision process of the city planners and council, I'm just wondering if the public workshops and Steering Committee workshops are really going to result in any meaningful inputs for changes to the redevelopment of the downtown Napa sector?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Downtown Napa Specific Plan - Redevelopment

June 10, 2009 8:30 am -- update 1:June 11 5pm

Last night I attended the first workshop session of the Napa Downtown Specific Plan on the future development desires for the downtown Napa area. (Click here to go to the City's website: >> http://www.downtownnapaspecificplan.org/ ) I was surprised and disappointed by the fact that not all of the City Council members or Planning board members were in attendance. They could have at least showed face for a quick introduction and then thanked those many citizens in attendance for taking the time to care enough about Napa’s future.

The “no shows“, in my opinion, are basically telling the masses that they really are not very interested in what the regular citizens and businesspersons have to say about what they think for the future of Napa.

While on this subject, I have not seen or heard who was selected to sit on the 15-person steering committee, and certainly none were introduced last night. WELL, ON JUNE 11 IT WAS ANNOUNCED THEY WOULD BE INTRODUCED ON Wed., JUNE 17 AT THE FIRST MEETING OF THE GROUP.

Kevin Courtney, Napa Valley Register, provided his summary of the work group sessions in his recent article. Click here: >>>> http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2009/06/11/news/local/doc4a30996309969919425609.txt

I previously presented many of my thoughts for the future of downtown Napa. Click here for the executive summary and the URL's following that are the various parts of my paper.>>>>>>> http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/04/executive-summary-questions-about.html . You can also just continue to scroll down to read the three parts to my observations.

PART 1: http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/04/downtown-napa-redevelopment-and-growth.html

PART 2: http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/04/downtown-napa-redevelopment-growth-part_25.html

PART 3: http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/04/downtown-napa-redevelopment-growth-part.html.

I also have generated some thoughts about the future of Napa County in terms of "locals" versus "tourists/Outsiders" Click here to read these thoughts >>> http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/05/redevelopment-and-growth-for-napa.html

--- EXECUTIVE SUMMARY --

Questions About the Future
of
Downtown Napa
Redevelopment and Growth
By John M. Olney.
Copyright April 22, 2009, all rights reserved by
Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: http://www.twccwcmp.blogspot.com/
E-mail: winecntrypromo@aol.com

Recently I got interested in just how much empty retail and office space exists in downtown Napa so I went out and photographed all the buildings that are advertised as available to lease/rent, along with those that are obviously empty even if no signage indicated there was space available.

Then right after I did that the NV Register published an article dated April 9, 2009, on the downtown area, The article discussed the City of Napa’s announcement that it was increasing the amount of money it has committed to develop a “Downtown Specific Plan.” The increased fees will add a “15-person Steering Committee” to the plan’s development that is supposed to be available in late 2010.

I decided to make comment about what I found and to make some observations about what I believe would significantly enhance the appearance of the downtown area, and thus, bring back customers -- both locals as well as visitors.

I have written a couple of article that relate to what I am suggesting in this newest article:
My article of January 2, 2009, “A magnificent Emporium From COPIA Ashes,” which was titled not by me but by the Napa Valley Register (NVR), offered the opinion that the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment area on the east side of Soscol is the “Park Place and Boardwalk” area of Napa because it already contains elements of high end lodging, dining and to a limited extent shopping, plus the attraction of the railroad train passenger depot, all of which are fundamentally and primarily of interest to visitors of the county whether a friend of a resident, a business traveler or a tourist. In addition, yes, some residents do use the facilities that are available.

http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/03/hotel-summit-and-essence-of-valley.html
My second article, again, titled by the NVR, "Hotel Summit and Essence of the Valley,"calls for the locals and the planning officials to look at ALL future building types to be allowed and not just hotels as one county supervisor is proposing. The supervisor stressed traffic caused by hotels. Instead of blaming hotels one should applaud then because they spread out traffic. They decrease day-visit-only traffic loads which is two trips a day instead of an entry trip one day and an exit another day. In essence, hotels are a form of staggered traffic flow. They are also a boon to dollars spent in the local economy.

I prepared my newest comments in three parts as briefly described below. There are plenty of photographs to support my contentions.

Part 1: Click here >>> Mixed Building Use -Office, Retail and Residential -- Problems of, and with, downtown Napa

If I was a potential business requiring storefront window visibility for my products, I would definitely not chose many of the older buildings because of their drab appearance or setback, which I believe, would not encourage buyer entrance of the store. As I walked around, I could not help but notice all the second floor space above older buildings that was obviously not being used. In fact, from the looks of it when I studied the windows, it appeared the upstairs areas have not been used for sometime.

Within the last year, there were five buildings either opened or are still under construction in the downtown area. Looking at the new buildings, I would have to consider how much I’m going to have to pay per sq ft to gain their new slick appearance which I believe will attract potential customers. Therefore, I would have “looks” versus “lease/rent cost “determinations to make.

Part 2: Click here >>> Visitor & Tourist Overnight Lodging

I also looked at existing, under construction and future plans for the development of hotel-type lodging facilities for guests of local residents, business travels and tourists wanting to stay in the immediate downtown Napa area.

I have difficulty understanding the recent comments of many about how the growth of hotels is causing so many problems for local Napan’s in terms of bringing too much “tourism” to downtown Napa and making it a shopping area not particularly friendly to locals.

The Napa Valley Hotel & Suites (formerly Travel Lodge), the oldest and formerly only downtown lodging facility in recent years, and the new Napa River Inn are the only real downtown open hotel facilities with easy walking distance of the immediate downtown shopping area. They represent only about 100 plus rooms and assuming double occupancy, that is only an average of about 200 possible shoppers in the downtown area per day assuming 100% occupancy.

The Avia-Boutique is not even open, and the Westin only just recently opened but it is across the wide street of Soscol away from the immediate downtown shopping area, as is the River Terrace Inn. Both of the latter are within reasonable walking distance of the immediate downtown shopping area but only under nice weather conditions.

I just do not see how these five facilities, only these five, could have changed the retail shop composition or offered products in the downtown area except for the addition of wine tasting rooms.

Part 3: Click here>>> Attracting Resident and Visitor Consumers to Downtown Napa

What brings Visitors to Napa County?
Obviously, the wineries are by far the largest attraction of visitors to the county and because there are so few lodging facilities in the mid to low price range, the vast majority of visitors are here only for the day before they retreat to surrounding cities. The other large attractions are the fine dining facilities, quality golf courses and the Outlet stores. However, all of the latter remain a single day visit with the exception of the resort type golf complexes of Meadowood and Silverado.

Lack of Quality City Guides
Although the city government web site invites people to visit “historical Napa,” it goes no further to explain why it is a historical place to visit. The City of Napa does not offer a pamphlet or booklet available to locals or tourists that features historical moments and places that made Napa the first and major city of the county back in the 1830’s all the way through time up to today. There should be statues and plaques located at the significant historical sites and near residencies of famous events and individuals associated to the history of Napa.

Where no original buildings exist at such sites today, there should be photo/artist renditions of what the area/site looked like when the moment/event occurred. These displays would be like what you see when you visit a bird/animal sanctuary or marsh or a vista area area showing and describing the residing species, plants, hills, valley's, etc.

Traffic Flow
The existing mix of the narrow one-way street traffic flow mixed with on-street parking and the centralized bus system passenger transfer depot must be replaced with a much better routing system for traffic and the transit system must be relocated to a downtown fringe area in order to make the downtown area easily accessible to both local and visitor shoppers.

Modernization of Store Fronts and Awnings/Overhangs
Development of a plan and funding resources to assist needy property owners remodel their street front space to give the downtown area a “clean and theme look” so locals as well as visitors can casually stroll and shop once again in the downtown area while looking at vibrant, alive buildings rather than cold and drab storefronts.

Consequences of Downtown Redevelopment

A famous old physics statement applies here: “For every action there is an equal reaction”

In order to redevelop the downtown area, the residents, businesspersons and government officials are going to have to accept the fact that office/retail and lodging developers are not going to build structures that cannot earn them reasonable return on their investment.

These developers/business owners are going to demand a road traffic routing system that makes it easy for clients/consumers to access their buildings. This includes sufficient parking both on and off street.

The cleanliness and amenities of new, modern buildings will far out pace the appearances and utility of old time buildings.

Residential housing development is likely only going to come in the form of multi resident buildings - condominium, townhouses, lofts and apartments. Single-family new housing is not likely to occur on any large scale.

The new housing is going to be fairly expense and not likely to be attractive to the older generations reaching the end of their lifespan. They are not going to want to worry about paying off a mortgage again at their ages and lifestyles.

The majority of the heirs of the latter group are not likely to move into their parent’s home; rather they will probably seek developer purchase of the property and just be happy with the inheritance and their modern suburban homes.

Amenities: There is going to be consumer demand that these developers provide the type of mini parks, shops, stores, restaurants, lounges, clubs, etc., that these consumers find attractive or they will not come.

CONCLUSION

The bottom line is that the downtown area cannot go back to what older residents once perceived it was. Instead, it must modernize through change to today’s designs, technologies and consumers desires.

This will require a stiff spine in planning departments and city councils. It will require downtown merchants to accept, indeed, join in the remodeling and redevelopment process.

To fail to accept and/or do these things will doom the downtown area to a very long and painful, but inevitable, decline into a skid row neighborhood.

Questions About the Future of Downtown Napa Redevelopment and Growth Part 1

By John M. Olney,
Copyright April 22, 2009, all rights reserved by
Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: http://www.twccwcmp.blogspot.com/
E-mail: winecntrypromo@aol.com

- Part 1 -

Mixed Building Use -Office, Retail and Residential


Recently I got interested in just how much empty retail and office space exists in downtown Napa so I went out and photographed all the buildings that are advertised as available to lease/rent, along with those that are obviously empty even if no signage indicated there was space available.

Then right after I did that the NV Register published an article dated April 9, 2009, on the downtown area, The article discussed the City of Napa’s announcement that it was increasing the amount of money it has committed to develop a “Downtown Specific Plan.” The increased fees will add a “15-person Steering Committee” to the plan’s development that is supposed to be available in late 2010.

Old Downtown Napa

The Immediate Downtown Napa Area
I looked at the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment area, plus, from fifth & Main Street to the south, to Clinton & Main Street to the north, as well as going east and west along 1st, 2nd and 3rd between Soscol and Jefferson Streets, and Clinton and Pearl streets. I also looked along all the side streets perpendicular to first through third streets. Therefore, what I was looking at is all the new construction as well as the old town buildings.

If I was a potential business requiring storefront window visibility for my products, I would definitely not chose many of the older buildings because of their drab appearance or setback, which I believe, would not encourage buyer entrance of the store.

The entire properties located northeast corner at the intersection of first and Coombs - part of the downtown square - is empty as well as two adjacent storefront properties immediately to the east.

(YOU CAN CLICK ON ANY OF THE PHOTO'S TO OBTAIN AN ENLARGEMENT)



Additional First Street empty sites are shown below:




More vacant building borering the Square and First Avenue



On Main Street, to north of The Riverfront and the intersection of Third & Main are these three empty buildings. Immediately around the block on Coombs is this bordered up office.


There are plenty more on primary streets plus a number within the Sqare itself as shown below:







As I walked around, I could not help but notice all the second floor space above older buildings that was obviously not being used. In fact, from the looks of it when I studied the windows, it appeared the upstairs areas have not been used for sometime.

Cost to Upgrade Unused Space
My guess is they would have to be extensively remodeled and brought up to today’s building codes in order to be rented out. Such repairs are probably the greatest hindrance to the building owners refurbishing these upper floor-building spaces.

Then I started thinking about the unused upper floor areas being converted into residential units. Obvious such conversions would be expensive just in terms of bringing the floor space up to today’s building codes but also the owner and/or developer would be looking at major sewage, water and power, etc. hook-up fees to convert the space to residential units. Nevertheless, there are other serious problems with conversion to residential units.

Lack of Parking
Perhaps the greatest impasse would be co-located assigned parking per residential unit. Where do they park and carry their groceries, etc to their home? Perhaps the only way parking could be managed would be to condemn property in strategic blocks and build small, covered parking facilities to service the immediately adjacent surrounding new loft type/ second floor residential units.

Traffic Congestion
New resident parking also begs the question of additional traffic impact in an already hugely complicated and congested one-way road traffic flow plan among narrow streets in the core downtown area mixed with the “stop and go flow” of the mass transit bus system.

Existing Outlets for Food and other Essential Items
The existing Safeway store and the Oxbow Public Market Place are probably just out of most of the walking range for potential downtown residential clients, particular under poor-to- foul weather conditions. Co-located, food & beverage “neighborhood markets” are not currently in existence in the immediate downtown area and thus any potential residents would be faced with too long of a walk to go shopping for daily needs. That is, unless there are some risk takers willing to open such businesses if residential housing is promised to come in. This factor could represent a major obstacle to the growth of mixed housing & business co-location in the core downtown area.

New Existing and Under Construction Office/Retail Buildings Space

Looking at the new buildings, I would have to consider how much I’m going to have to pay per sq ft to gain their new slick appearance which I believe will attract potential customers. Therefore, I would have “looks” versus “lease/rent cost “determinations to make.

Within the last year, the following buildings either were opened or are still under construction in the downtown area.

27,000 sq-ft Main Street West at Main and Clinton
The corner first floor street level space is occupied by a restaurant facility. A recent local newspaper article quoted the manager of the property as saying that less than 10,000 sq ft remai8n to be leased out.
(Picture)

40,000 sq-ft Riverfront at first and Main streets (under construction) A recent newspaper article reported that none of the first floor retail space is leased as of mid April 2009.


7,400 sq-ft Zeller Building on 1st St.


The two street level, store front spaces show signs of renters coming and the interiors are being built at this time.


66,000 sq-ft Napa Square at 1st and Franklin streets (Under construction) A recent local newspaper article reported that at least two thirds of the building is leased out.


2,500 sq-ft Avia's Boutique Inn on at 1st and Franklin streets (Under construction)

Downtown Napa Redevelopment & Growth Part 2

By John M. Olney, April 22, 2009
Copyright April 22, 2009, all rights reserved by
Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: http://www.twccwcmp.blogspot.com/

Part 2
Visitor & Tourist Overnight Lodging

I also looked at existing, under construction and future plans for the development of hotel-type lodging facilities for guests of local residents, business travels and tourists wanting to stay in the immediate downtown Napa area.

“Downtown Hotel Quantity”
I have difficulty understanding the recent comment of many about how the growth of hotels is causing so many problems for local Napan’s in terms of bringing too much “tourism” to downtown Napa and making it a shopping area not particularly friendly to locals.

Older Lodging
Napa River Inn (66 rooms)
Napa Valley Hotel & Suites [Formerly known as the Travel Lodge] ( 40 rooms)
River Terrace Inn (166 rooms)
Numerous B&B’s
New /Under Construction lodging
Westin (161 rooms)
The Boutique Inn, an Avia Hotel (36 rooms)
Future Construction I have not yet found evidence of any planned for the immediate downtown area. The proposed Ritz-Carlton in the Oxbow is on economic hold for at least 2-3 years.


The Napa Valley Hotel & Suites (formerly known as the Travel Lodge) the oldest and formerly only downtown lodging facility in recent years, and the relatively new Napa River Inn are the only real downtown open hotel facilities within easy walking distance of the immediate downtown shopping area. They represent only 106 rooms and assuming double occupancy, that is only an average of just over 200 possible shoppers in the downtown area per day at full occupancy.

Personally, I do not feel that either or both of these facilities could possibly have caused such product type changes to downtown shopping outlets except for the addition of wine tasting rooms.

The Avia-Boutique is not even open, and the Westin only just recently opened but it is across the wide street of Soscol away from the immediate downtown shopping area, as is the River Terrace Inn. Both of the latter are within reasonable walking distance of the immediate downtown shopping area but only under nice weather conditions.

Again, I do not see how these facilities could have changed the retail shop composition or offered products in the downtown area except for the addition of wine tasting rooms.

Combined, all these facilities represent well under a 1000 possible shoppers per day.

They traveled from all over the world or USA to shop at the “large anchor stores” of the former Mervyns (soon to be Kohl’s) and McCaulous? I don’t think so!

There are no Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Tiffany’s, Armani’s, or stores comparable to Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills, Santana Row of San Jose, Union Square of San Francisco, etc., to excite tourist type shopping spree’s

“Outer Downtown Hotel Lodging Facilities"I also looked at those facilities in close proximity to the core downtown area. I considered these those located no further away than Silverado Trail to the east, vicinity of Hwy 29 to the west, Imola to the south and Trancas to the north. A list of these facilities is below.

NORTH
Lincoln Ave

River Pointe (___ cottages)

Near Trancas/Redwood
Chablis (34 rooms)
Napa Valley Redwood Inn [Budget Inns] (58 rooms)
Marriot (274 rooms)
Hilton Garden (80 rooms)

WEST
Jefferson

Chardonnay Inn (19 rooms)

Hwy 29, California Blvd, 1st Street
Embassy Suites (205 rooms)

Best Western-Elms (22 rooms)

EAST
Silverado Trail
Discovery Inn (15 rooms)

SOUTH
Soscol

Hawthorn (60 rooms)

Soscol-Imola
Best Western-Vines (68 rooms)

Soscol-Coombs
Wine Valley Inn (54 rooms)

Once again, I cannot imagine how these facilities could possibly have changed the composition of downtown Napa shopping trends in terms of the type of store products being offered except for the addition of wine tasting rooms.

POSSIBLE CAUSES FOR

CHANGES IN THE DOWNTOWN AREA

Transportation, Suburbs and alls
So what has changed the type of store and product available in the downtown area?

All across America smaller cities like Napa are suffering the same problem of their downtown area being vacated for outlaying suburban housing and strip malls. In my opinion it is the development of individualized transportation - the automobile, suburban housing tracks and massive “all-in-one shopping malls." One no longer had to live in the congested downtown area; one could have a garden,and move around to see things-they could get away.

Home Design/layout
Another often-overlooked factor about the private residences of the old downtown area streets is the limit on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Modern suburban homes are minimum 3-4 bedroom 2 to 2&1/2 baths whereas downtown residential homes are mostly 2-3 bedrooms 1 to 1 &1/2 bath. The latter are not a modern look so younger buyers are not as interested in purchasing them.

Parking
Additionally, the downtown houses only have single and narrow garages and most of our population now prefers 2-3 garage homes as both mom and pop are probably working and don’t have time to keep washing cars, cleaning frost of windows, etc.

Shopping
In Napa’s case, instead of classic Mall’s, we have large strip malls, located on the corner of Trancas-Hwy 29 to the north, and corner of Imola-Soscol to the south.

Visitor Lodging
As with the large/tall, office/retail buildings, the primary reason that tourist are at the hotels of the city of Napa is because such structures cannot be built in the agricultural preservation land and because the other larger communities to the north of Napa denied them access within their city limits.

Hotel and Office Development
Because of all the above arguments large hotel and office/retail building growth is defaulted to the economic benefit of the cities of American Canyon and Napa -- if they are clever enough to recognize this fact!

The Key to Attracting Consumers to Downtown
Those involved in the redevelopment of Downtown Napa cannot just consider the type and mix of buildings to allow; rather the citizens, merchants, developers and planning officials must rethink the core downtown Napa area’s future by concentrating on attracting the type of products that could be sold in the downtown area -- because it is products that attract buyers, not buildings. COPIA is a good modern day example of my statement!

Why are the restaurants full but the street stores empty? Why did the Chef’s Market draw so many while the stores were empty?

I have written a couple of article that relate to what I am suggesting in this three part article:

My article of January 2, 2009, “A magnificent Emporium From COPIA Ashes,” (http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/02/magnificent-emporium-from-copias-ashes.html ) which was titled not by me but by the Napa Valley Register (NVR), offered the opinion that the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment area on the east side of Soscol is the “Park Place and Boardwalk” area of Napa because it already contains elements of high end lodging, dining and to a limited extent shopping, plus the attraction of the railroad train passenger depot, all of which are fundamentally and primarily of interest to visitors of the county whether a friend of a resident, a business traveler or a tourist. In addition, yes, some residents do use the facilities that are available.

My second article, again, titled by the NVR, “Hotel Summit and Essence of the Valley,” (http://jolney.blogspot.com/2009/03/hotel-summit-and-essence-of-valley.html
). My article calls for the locals and the planning officials to look at ALL future building types to be allowed and not just hotels as one county supervisor is proposing. The supervisor stressed traffic caused by hotels. Instead of blaming hotels one should applaud them because they spread out traffic. They decrease day-visit-only traffic loads which is two trips a day instead of an entry trip one day and an exit another day. In essence, hotels are a form of staggered traffic flow. They are also a boon to dollars spent in the local economy.