• The Curious Case of Charles Augustus Banks IV

    Banks came from money, literally. A successful wealth manager with CSI Capital, he worked in the world of famed basketball stars like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. But he was bitten by the wine bug. Wine Country lore is full of those who made their fortunes starting at the bottom, working the land, walking the vineyard and carefully seeking the perfect grapes.

    Not Charles Banks.

    » read more

  • Rocking the Wine World

    Sonoma Cast Stone in Petaluma has been making concrete fermentation tanks for eight years. Owner Steve Rosenblatt started his company 20 years ago to create concrete for custom walls, countertops and sinks––what he refers to now as the “architectural” side of his business.

    » read more

  • The Ancient Practice of Biodynamic Farming

    Seeking stronger relationships with the Earth and ways to express truly unique terroirs, winemakers and vineyard owners across Napa and Sonoma are embracing biodynamics —“organics on steroids”—in record numbers. In fact, Sonoma County has more than 20 certified Biodynamic farms and vineyards—more than any other county in the United States.

    » read more

  • Budding Business

    The legalization of the cannabis market is predicted to generate more than $20 billion in U.S. sales, but rules and regulations are still in a state of flux.

    » read more

  • Buck Institute for Education

    Kids clustered in groups, sharing ideas and discussing issues, is an increasingly common sight in schools these days. It’s project-based learning (PBL) in action, as the orderly rows of neat desks that once defined how children learned make way for new methods in teaching that give students the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge to prepare them for the challenges of life beyond school. It’s a transition that’s reshaping education, and it’s been a long time coming. “School has not changed much over the past 100 years,” says Bob Lenz, executive director of the Buck Institute for Education in Novato.

    » read more

  • Marin's Farmers Market

    On a cloudy Sunday, the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market is jammed by rows of booths, with farmers and ranchers side by side. Brewers of the bean are doing a conspicuous business as couples walking hand-in- hand and chefs shopping for inspiration and fresh ingredients hold steaming cups, as if Saturday night and Sunday morning landed closer together than the clock suggests.

    » read more

  • Russian River Brewing Co.

    If you happen to drive down Fourth Street in Santa Rosa, chances are you’ll see a line of people around the block, waiting outside the Russian River Brewing Company. Hoping to try some of the most famous beers in the world, locals and tourists wait as long as two hours, for a chance at a bar stool, table or even a bench spot on the front patio to enjoy a cold one. Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo spent years perfecting their fiercely desired and crafty beers, poured and produced in Sonoma County.
    Since opening their doors for business 20 years ago, Russian River Brewing Company has made a dramatic impact on the beer world—not to mention the economy—in Sonoma County. The brewing company is notably famous for their double IPA Pliny The Elder and perpetually sought-after Pliny The Younger, a triple IPA released annually for a two-week period, beginning on the first Friday of February. More than 300,000 visitors make the pilgrimage to the holy land of hops each year. In 2016, the economic impact infused nearly $5 million into the county.

    » read more

  • Breast Health Update

    Marin County hit a dubious milestone in 2001. It reached its peak as a hot spot for breast cancer, cementing its reputation as the county with the highest rate of the disease in the nation. The following year the Women’s Health Initiative released results from a long-term national study that showed a strong correlation between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer, and doctors responded quickly to find alternatives, causing the rate to drop.

    » read more

  • Truffles

    In February 2017, a dog named Ilsa discovered the first-ever cultivated European Tuber melanosporum, or the Périgord truffle, in Sonoma County.

    » read more

  • Balancing Work & Health

    Once considered an added perk to offer employees to boost morale, reduce stress, and increase productivity, corporate wellness programs are evolving as the state of health in the American workforce continues to decrease significantly. Today, 86 million adult Americans have pre-diabetes and 34.6 percent are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    » read more

  • Immunotherapy

    David Ebright received the news that makes your mind go blank one December day in 2013. “When somebody says ‘cancer,’ I stop listening very well,” says David, who is the public affairs manager of Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma. “I want to listen, but am just not capable.”  The week before, he had mentioned in the course of a routine check-up that he’d seen a drop of blood in his urine. They immediately sent him for a scan. That day, David was sitting in the urologist’s office dazed, as the doctor explained to his wife, Marsha, the treatment plan that would involve removal of the small tumor, making sure the cancer had not spread, and then a course of treatments, beginning four months later, that would arm his immune system to fight against any cancer returning to the bladder.  It would be a targeted, specific approach that would enable his body to heal. The treatment: immunotherapy.

    » read more

  • Health, Happiness & Prosperity

    Let’s be honest, Marin carries a reputation. From the outside, it’s chock full of drum circles, versions of yoga that haven’t been invented yet and aura readings. The county just north of the Golden Gate is credited with knowing the difference between chi and chai and snuggling New Age culture so close to its bosom it’s practically old hat.
    And while some Marinites might chafe at a status linking their hometown with a sacred journey to find a state of Zen, others take those organic free-trade lemons and make lemonade.
    Hello, Marin General Hospital.  

    » read more

  • Single Thread

    The buzz among foodies about SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn started long before it became reality. Plans for the newest ultra-dining experience in Sonoma County were first announced two-and-a-half years ago, when the impressive two-story structure going up at the corner of North and Center streets in Healdsburg was nearing completion. For decades the town’s post office had stood on that corner, one block north of the Plaza, as a long-time community hub. But it was destroyed by fire in 2010.

    » read more

  • Wine, Women & Shoes

    Imagine you’re at a fancy ladies’ soiree, enjoying wine, food, shopping and wearing your most glamorous shoes, while learning about the people you’ll help each time you open your wallet. You’re immersed in an atmosphere of fun, fashion and compassion. Welcome to the world of Wine Women & Shoes (WW&S), and a new kind of fundraising event. (Gentlemen are welcome, too, of course.)

    » read more

  • Say Cheese!

    While California is known worldwide for its wine, in recent years it has gained increasing attention for its cheese. Claiming to be “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin proudly led the dairy industry for years, placing California in the number two spot. In 1994, the torch was passed. California along with our happy Holstein cows obtained the number one spot in dairy production, to become an artisanal cheese haven undoubtedly on the rise. Here’s a look at a few of the local cheese companies along the North Bay cheese trail.

    » read more

North Bay News and Stories

2017 BEST Real Estate Company: Bradley Real Estate

Melissa Bradley, founder of Bradley Real Estate, attributes her success to the influence of her grandmother, Sue Bradley, who sold real estate and introduced her to the business. At a young age, Melissa worked side-by-side with her grandmother, helping stuff envelopes. As she grew older, she took on more responsibilities and learned the ins-and-outs of the business. By age 22, she earned her real estate license and worked as a sales person and manager. Four years later, she started her own business in her garage in San Anselmo.


Handlining is a technique where a single fishline is held in the hands. It’s also a sustainable form of fishing and the inspiration behind Handline Coastal California cuisine in Sebastopol. “We wanted to connect Sebastopol with the coastline,” says Natalie Goble, co-proprietor with her partner, Lowell Sheldon. “The inspiration was coastal California, and first and foremost, fresh seafood.”

The Art of Investing Today

The investment industry has changed over the last few decades. Academic research regarding stocks and investment management has spurred on these changes. One of the implications from extensive research is that professional money managers cannot consistently outguess and beat the stock market.

Six Strategies for Branding Your Company

Branding gives each company its own personality, and physical promotional items are a key component of a healthy marketing strategy. It’s an easy way to promote your company, and make an impression on your clients.

The Promising Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric is probably the most powerful herb on the planet to treat and prevent many of the diseases that commonly affects us. There is a long history of its use in Ayurvedic medicine (a holistic, whole-body healing system) to treat inflammatory disorders, indigestion, throat infections, the common cold and liver ailments. It’s also used topically to cleanse wounds and treat skin conditions.

DaVero Farms & Winery

Ask Ridge Evers how he happened to venture into the wine business, and he’ll tell you it was serendipity. In 1982, he’d just graduated from business school and was living in San Francisco when he came to Sonoma County for a weekend getaway and found a parcel of land on Westside Road in Dry Creek Valley.

2017 BEST Contractor/Builder: Ghilotti Construction Company

Ghilotti Construction Company continues to impact the daily lives of residents from throughout the North Bay through their work, which includes repairing Highway 37. That impact has not gone unnoticed, and this marks their sixth year being voted Best Contractor/Builder.

Are Screens Making Us Sick

The average teen (and pre-teen) spends more than six hours per day looking at their cell phone, TV, iPad and computer.

Last year, Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa hosted a physician wellness event at the recommendation of one of our family practice physicians. During this event, we watched “Screenagers,” a documentary created by Delaney Ruston, M.D.

2017 BEST Business Restaurant: John Ash & Co.
The Best Restaurant award for 2017 goes to John Ash & Co. Or perhaps better said, goes to John Ash & Co. again. Since the inauguration of NorthBay biz’s awarding of the Best Business Restaurant honors, John Ash has earned the top spot for restaurants every year.
Jim Brush

is the president and chief executive officer of Summit State Bank in Santa Rosa. He was born in San Francisco and spent his childhood summers at the family cabin, along the Russian River in Summer Home Park. Brush graduated from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, in 1979 with a degree in accounting and earned his certified public accountant designation the same year. In 1982, he moved to Healdsburg and opened a tax practice there, where he worked for 21 years before selling the business in 2003. Today, he and his wife, Nancy, live in Healdsburg where they raised their three children, and share a passion for wanderlust.

2017 BEST Consumer Bank: Exchange Bank

For 127 years, Exchange Bank has served as an institution in Sonoma County, and this year its been named Best Consumer Bank by North Bay biz readers. “It’s rewarding—and humbling—to be recognized by the community for our contributions,” says Gary Hartwick, president and chief executive officer.

The Not So Smart Train

Quite a few people have told me about being caught in traffic waiting at SMART’s 63 grade crossings as trains have been tested for the past months. It’s mid-March and I’m wondering (again) whether SMART will be providing train passenger service anytime soon. Will SMART’s latest prediction of “late Spring 2017” come true? It’s been almost eight-and-a-half years since voters approved Measure Q on the November 4, 2008 ballot.

Lets Build Affordable Housing Now

Given the scarcity of housing and the pressure it places on prices, the real question is: What is the strongest solution to ensure housing opportunity for all?

If you follow the daily news, then you know I’ve said many times that Sonoma County is in the midst of a housing crisis. The lack of housing is impacting almost everyone in our community at most income levels. From students to seniors, the need for affordable housing is demonstrated by high rents, a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent, and sharp increases in rents and home sales prices.

May 2017 Leaders

Welcome to the second annual May Women Business Leaders issue—a celebration of successful and influential North Bay women. Last year, we spotlighted a number of business leaders on these pages, and the feedback from our readers was so powerful we’re devoting this section to another sampling of women, making an impact on the North Bay. We asked these business leaders to answer two of the following questions:

Protea, Yountville
Protea (pronounced pro-tay-yuh) is the genus of South African flowering plants, and in local tradition the flower represents hope and change. It’s also the inspiration behind Protea, a fast casual restaurant in downtown Yountville that opened in April last year, and is quickly gaining a five-star reputation for Latin-inspired street food.


2017 BEST Chamber Event: Windsor Chamber of Commerce

The foundation of a healthy business community in any town or city starts with its chamber of commerce. An active and engaging chamber acts as a catalyst for both growing and established businesses, and the business expo at the Windsor Chamber of Commerce helped the chamber secure the “Best Chamber Event” award at NorthBay biz magazine for 2017.

2017 BEST Credit Union: Redwood Credit Union

In 1950, seven Sonoma County employees, who wanted a safe place to save and borrow money at affordable rates, founded Redwood Credit Union (RCU). Today, RCU serves seven counties in the Bay Area and North Bay, providing services for both consumers and businesses. As a financial cooperative, they focus on people, not profits. According to Brett Martinez, president and chief executive officer, RCU’s mission is to passionately serve the best interests of its members, employees and communities.  “It’s a mission we live every day,” says Martinez. “Our employees know it, understand it, and believe in it.” With that mission in mind, RCU has grown into a $3.5 billion financial institution, serving more than 280,000 people.

2017 BEST Health Care Provider: Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is this year’s winner for Best Health Care in the North Bay. “Kaiser Permanente’s focus on quality, prevention, and the social determinants of health is keeping people healthier; often preventing illnesses and disease from occurring in the first place,” says Judy Coffey, senior vice president and area manager in Marin and Sonoma, of its success. “This is saving and improving lives. That’s total health.”

2017 BEST Wine Tasting Room: Armida Winery

Brothers Steve and Bruce Cousins, owners of Armida Winery, have been working together for more than 20 years. Upon winning the award for Best Tasting Room, they knew the award wasn’t just for them.

May 2017 Careers

Women in the workplace.

Though women continue to make strides in the work force, women only hold 4.2 percent of CEO positions in America’s 500 largest companies. Last year, the 2016 Fortune 500 list included only 21 companies with women at the helm. At the dawn of a new century, women are taking the lead in the United States labor force, while also balancing family responsibilities. Here are a few statistics from the United States Department of Labor.

Trefethen Family Vineyards Napa
1160 Oak Knoll Avenue, Napa, California 94558
Hours: 10am to 4pm daily
Tasting Fees: $25 Classic Tasting ($35 Reserve Tasting)
Wines currently offered:  Dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dragon’s Tooth (Red Blend)
2017 BEST Sparkling Wine: Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
Eva Bertran, vice president of marketing at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, knows that the company’s win for Best Sparkling Wine didn’t come from one aspect alone. “Our vineyard and winery teams have three decades of experience grafting, farming, studying and blending Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Carneros,” Bertran says. “This depth of knowledge, combined with more than 30 years of vineyard maturity, is why Gloria’s wines are keenly better than ever.
Guest Column A Look at the North Bay Real Estate Market

The North Bay residential real estate market is decelerating and showing signs of fatigue after five consecutive years of growth. That was the main takeaway by three of our associates from Terra Firma Global Partners when they studied sales statistics and trends from the first three quarters of 2016 and compared them with the first three quarters of 2015.

2017 BEST Business Event Venue: Vintners Inn
Vintners Inn has been a staple name and event venue destination at the highest level, since they opened their doors 37 years ago. Once again, Vintners Inn was voted the best business event venue in the North Bay for 2017. How does the inn manage to meet such a consistent level of excellence year-after-year? “We take great pride in constantly reinventing ourselves, and we never rest on the successes that we have achieved in the past,” Percy Brandon, general manager of Vintners Inn and John Ash & Co.
2017 BEST Local Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company

There are many flavors in a beer. There are toasty beers, skunky beers, hoppy beers and citrus-y beers. The list goes on forever. But at the end of the day, nobody comes back if they don’t think it’s a tasty beer. And nobody knows how to brew tasty beers better than Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the husband-wife pair who own Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.

Jim Murphy

is president of Jim Murphy and Associates, a construction company located in Santa Rosa. “I started in the drywall business when I was 23 years old,” says Murphy. “When I was 27 or 28, I started building some single-family homes, then when I was 30, I sold my drywall business. I’d been drag racing and was approached by Coca-Cola to race under their banner. I did this for four years all over the United States.

Katie Schou

Sausalito resident Katie Schou is the executive director of the Send It Foundation. For Schou, the foundation has a particularly special meaning. “My older brother founded the Send It Foundation,” she says. “He was diagnosed with a rare cancer at the age of 35. An avid skier and outdoorsman, he had a vision to bring the activities that brought him strength and life during his fight for life to other young adults in the cancer fight. He founded Send It in the last year of his life. When he passed away, I left my job and took on the foundation to bring his vision to life.”

5 Ways To Make The Most of Your Tax Refund

If you have any credit card debt, consider first using your refund to reduce this costly form of borrowing.


More than 110 million Americans collected a tax refund‑worth an average of just under $3,000‑after filing their 2015 tax returns, according to statistics released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you’re one of the many Americans who expect to receive a financial windfall this year, what do you plan to do with the money? It’s tempting to treat yourself to a new TV or a pricey vacation. However, if you refrain from spending your refund impulsively, the money presents an opportunity to treat yourself to additional financial security. Here are five ways to extend the benefits of a tax refund.


2017 BEST Catering Service: Park Avenue Catering
Voted Best Catering Service in the 2017 BEST Of the North Bay readers poll.
2017 BEST Chamber of Commerce: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce

Santa Rosa Metro Chamber is this year’s winner of Best Chamber of Commerce. “Ours is the largest and the most active Chamber in the North Bay,” says Jonathan Coe, president and CEO. “We’re involved in everything from tourism marketing to workforce development, public policy advocacy and training programs.  These efforts are intended to meet our mission:  to promote, support, and advocate for our members and create a vibrant and sustainable economy.”

2017 BEST Wealth Management Firm: Private Ocean

Congratulations to Private Ocean in San Rafael as the repeat winner of the 2017 Best Wealth Management Company in the North Bay. “Being voted the Best Wealth Management Company in the North Bay means a lot to us, “ says Susan Dickson, chief operating officer at Private Ocean. “It confirms that we’re tracking well on our vision of being the premier wealth management firm in the Bay Area.

Cannabis & Cancer: What Do We Really Know?

As an oncologist in Sonoma County for more than a quarter century, I see nearly 100 patients with cancer every week. As their doctor, care involves treating, counseling, supporting and listening to them. More than a third of those diagnosed with cancer will die from it, and no one escapes its effects on health.

2017 BEST Company to Do Business with in Napa County: Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty

For the fourth time over the past six years, Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty (DP&F), a Napa County law firm, has earned top honors as the Best Business in Napa County. DP&F has been providing legal representation to clients primarily in the North Bay, but also throughout California, the United States, and internationally for the past 52 years. DP&F is the largest North Bay full-service law firm and provides legal services and expertise in the practice areas of: business and corporate dealings; real property transactions; intellectual property; land use; alcohol beverage law; litigation; geographical indications; water law; wine law; and labor and employment.

Chateau Montelena Winery

Located along Tubbs Lane in Calistoga, Chateau Montelena Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley. Now recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, it was established in 1882 by Alfred Tubbs, a man who made his fortune in the rope business during the Gold Rush. The Chateau is made of stone and was initially designed as a barrel-aging facility. Tubbs eventually planted vines, and by 1896 it became the seventh largest winery in Napa Valley.

Zach Adelman

is founder and chief executive officer of Navitas Organics in Novato. “I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, but I left in 1990 and have been on the West Coast ever since,” he says. “I started working at a very young age and in many ways have always been an entrepreneur. I started with a paint contracting business in Whistler, and then an import-export business in Vancouver."


The French get a lot of flak for acting pretentious, and displaying feelings of superiority, but the truth is they have plenty of reason for being the envy of the world. France has a rich culinary history. And when it comes to food—whether it’s rustic peasant dishes or hauté cuisine—it’s all about fresh ingredients, culinary technique and attention to detail. If you’re in the mood for authentic French cuisine in a restaurant where you can melt into the experience and lose track of time, try the Crocodile in Petaluma.

The Rent Control Vote: Prelude to More Conflict or Real Solutions?

The narrow defeat of rent control at the polls in Santa Rosa on June 6 must not be seen as the end of a battle about housing, but the beginning of a dialogue about priorities and political power in the North Bay. If we don’t address the fundamental reasons for the crisis that lead to the demand for rent control, today’s problems will look like child’s play in a few short years.

Byron Enix

Byron Enix is president and chief executive officer of American AgCredit in Santa Rosa. Born in Oklahoma, he grew up in Kansas. As he explains it, his career path was relatively straightforward. “I was told by my junior high social studies teacher that I couldn’t list ‘professional football player’ as my future career,” Enix says. “So I asked my dad what he did, as up until then I didn’t really know. And although my current profession wasn’t what my Dad did, he explained that there were companies that made loans to farmers and ranchers. So I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Percy Brandon

Last year’s winner of Best Business Community Leader, Percy Brandon, is general manager of Vintners Inn/John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa. Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Brandon moved to Canada in 1991, and Santa Rosa in 2000.



In this Issue


David Ebright received the news that makes your mind go blank one December day in 2013. “When somebody says ‘cancer,’ I stop listening very well,” says David, who is the publ...

Balancing Work & Health

Once considered an added perk to offer employees to boost morale, reduce stress, and increase productivity, corporate wellness programs are evolving as the state of health in the American workforce ...

Breast Health Update

Marin County hit a dubious milestone in 2001. It reached its peak as a hot spot for breast cancer, cementing its reputation as the county with the highest rate of the disease in the nation. The foll...

See all...