Napa valley draws journalists like fruit flies. It draws tourists for the same reason: physical beauty, the glories of the palate, and a hard-to-define frisson including money, celebrity, and dedication.
Last fall I was invited to join some wine and food writers having dinner in St. Helena. We were a mostly youthful lot: bloggers, a foodie website founder, ‘ziners and one freelance print antediluvian (me) who also blogs. The menu shimmered with promise - you have to be inept to eat badly in Napa - but first it had to be vetted with the waiter for lactose, soy, gluten. The delectable procession of dishes - Hogg Island oysters, piquillo peppers stuffed with cumin braised beef, rabbit tostada with red chile salsa - was carefully appraised by all, our insights lubricated by constant trickles of chardonnay, merlot, and lovely unfiltered rocket juice that sold for $50 a bottle, hardly extravagant by Napa standards.
Discussion was of Criminal Intent and Billy Crystal, then the post-millennial role of tweets and sound bites (“Now it’s all about what you click through to,” one 'ziner said), wine as an antidote to stress (“I had a couple of glasses before I showed my afghan, and I got a level three!”), blogging (“You gotta, gotta have pictures”), the difficulty of finding adequate accommodation in Mendoza, and the fact that many wineries in Napa with rights-of-way though neighbors’ property can’t allow in as many visitors as the winery might want.
“Why not?" demanded a New Yorker, between piquillos.
"It’s private property,” said the Los Angeleno.
Shaking their heads, they dug in.
The advent of the internet has drawn many into writing about wine and food who are adept at producing and directing instant electronic synapses with vast, near-effortless reach. But too often among my colleagues there's not only lack of knowledge of, but also a lack of interest in, the struggles over land use that have kept this valley looking as good as it does.
Not so long ago writers about wine, food and travel had an informed interest in the entirety of the subject. They were better able to see the larger role wine plays as a preserver of landscape through agriculture, the basis of it all. The very idea's inseparable from necessary limitations placed upon development, including tourism, a truth bloggers and antediluvians alike should keep more in mind.
(Please read the following post: http://cjonwine.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-fight-napas-facing-could-be-big-one.html)