The biggest news this month is the approval of the Calistoga AVA. This is a huge win for the wineries that garner their grapes from the Calistoga area. Wineries like Chateau Montelena who have vineyards in Calistoga will benefit and be able to use Calistoga on their wine label, provided that 75% of grapes come from the that AVA. Biggest loser is Calistoga Cellars. This winery has been in existence for ten years and has a tasting room in Calistoga but their wines are made from Central Valley vines. The Feds will give them three years to change their name or start making wine from the Calistoga AVA. This ends an approval process that started in 2004.
The Oxbow Public Market will be getting a new tenant. It will be C Casa, a new style Mexican restaurant run by Catherine Bergen, Napa culinary entrepreneur and founder of “Made In Napa Valley.” Out is Rotisario at the end of the year and C Casa will open in its spot in March of 2010. With the economy such as it is and the demise of next-door neighbor Copia, the Oxbow Market so far has not lived up to expectations. We’ve visited on four occasions during the week and on each visit the place has been a bit somber. It was patterned after the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace but has yet to replicate its popularity.
Speaking of Copia, there has been plenty going on there. After legal settlements, the Copia property is up for sale and rumors have been floating around. Could it be a hotel, a conference center, or be purchased by the Foot Network? Only time will tell but we do know one thing for sure, a group of local chefs is taking over the gardens at Copia. The “Downtown Napa Chef’s Garden Co-op” led by chef Ken Frank from La Toque will tend to the kitchen gardens until that property is sold. The gardens were always one of our favorite attractions at Copia, so lush and plentiful, it would be a shame to see the garden disappear.
The economy is having a serious impact on visitors to the Napa Valley. Many of the wineries feel that one way to fix that is to change the Napa Winery Definition Ordinance. Many of the wineries want to be able to host weddings and other events to bolster tourism. They cannot do so under the current ordinance. They may just want to think twice about the idea of weddings after what happened recently to Paradise Ridge in Sonoma County where weddings at wineries are allowed. Paradise Ridge had to pay out a 3 million dollar settlement because of an accident caused by a minor who had been served beer at a wedding at Paradise Ridge. Seems to me the liability factor and the potential for negative PR is not worth the risk. I do like the suggestion to change the ordinance to allow wineries that are now open by appointment only to open with regular tasting room hours. As it is now, a visitor can drive up to an appointment-only winery and knock on the door and usually have no problem being invited in for wine tasting. So what is the difference? I also think the picnic rules should be revised to allow all wineries to put out at least a few tables so that visitors can sip a glass of wine with lunch and enjoy the beauty of the Napa Valley. The current ordinance has tight restrictions on picnic areas and because of this the Napa Valley has the least amount of picnic wineries of any other wine region in California.
This coming week we will be heading to Napa Valley and an appointment with Larry Stone, the general manager at Rubicon. The visit with Larry Stone should be very unique and we’ll tell you why in our next blog posting. We also have an appointment at Tudal winery where they recently appointed Kirk Venge as head winemaker. We have a reservation at the Calistoga Inn restaurant on the night of December 16. It is the annual Pauper’s Feast night and we enjoy mixing with the locals for this festive tradition.