Posts Tagged ‘watches’

Grapes of Wrath Redux – Hard Times in Napa Valley Wine Country

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Napa’s in the Bay Area, right? It’s super close to San Francisco. So let’s take a look and see how the Great Recession of 2007-???? (aka the “late-2000s recession“) is affecting our Neighbor to the North.

Let’s start with the view from the St. Helena Highway, aka Route 29, aka Main Street. (It’s the main drag for the whole entire valley, you know.) Here’s the old Radio Flyer on the train tracks motif:

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What happens if you can’t afford the rent and a car? What happens if you, as many in Napa and Sonoma counties have done before you, get a DUI or two and you lose your license to drive? How do you get to work or the store without a car? Let’s take a look:

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Napa can’t afford sidewalks? Apparently. Of course, if you’re on a bicycle (not recommended) you would pedal along on the shoulder/breakdown lane, but if you’re on your feet, well, remember all the drunk drivers? I mean, DWI is a Way of Life up there. 

I mean, bacon-rich Cincinnati has its local Hog Report so shouldn’t lush-rich Napa have a local DUI Report? Oh wait, it does

By the way, be sure to “Avoid the 9″ policing agencies that will bust you:

“Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the Napa Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, St. Helena Police Department, Calistoga Police Department, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Napa Valley College, American Canyon Police Department and Napa County Probation.”

OMG, can you believe that bucolic Napa has (or had) 2400(!!!!) outstanding DUI arrest warrants? Mercy!

Anywho, walking in Napa is no picnic. Perhaps it makes the most sense to just amble on the old train tracks (which, of course, are the newish home of the despised (and belovedNapa Valley Wine Train.)

But what about the wineries, how are they doing? Well, the Disneyesque Robert Mondavi Winery had no waiting for their famous 75-minute Signature Tour and Tasting on a recent balmy October Sunday. (Of course, back in the day, the place was packed to the gills, reservations required.)

And how about Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate, where they have mandatory valet service and a red carpet and where they don’t let you in without a $25 cover?

Well here it is, during Sunday primetime, it was totally wide open. A handful of cars in the lot, no valets, no $25 charge, it’s just y’all come down.

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Now let’s head up to St. Helena proper, where the millionaires live and you can buy Rolexeses and high end choco all you want? Let’s check out David’s Jewelers, Since 1976:

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Dave has sweet window displays (man, that Rolex fish, that’s art ready to hang, baby)…

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…but no goods to sell. Uh oh.

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There are Halloween decorations but that’s it. It’s closed down, apparently. Oh well.

And let’s not even think about heading Further North to the St. Helena Premium Outlets place. Cue tumbleweeds.

So, what’s worse:

Busy, crowded Napa Valley; or

Ghost town* Napa Valley?

That’s a tough choice for some people. Oh well.

But now’s your chance to get on up there and see what it was like back in the day, before Napa became a major tourist destination. COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts isn’t around anymore, but all the other places will be staffed with folks happy to see you, I’m sure.

I almost wanted to buy something, but then I remembered about the Buy Local Movement. I’m not a local, really, so I probably shouldn’t spend my hard-earned up there.

But you, you’re welcome to visit, especially before things pick up again in the Spring of 2010.

See you there!

*Be aware that the Great Recession has seemed to pass by the popular eateries, such as Mustards Grill (man, it’s tough to get in there), Taylor’s Automatic Refresher (busy, busy, but the wait isn’t too long) and Yountville’s bestarred (c’mon, it’s a word) The French Laundry (forget about it).