With the new decade more than dawning, wine times are changing, according to data from IWSR, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The numbers show that wine consumption is down 1 percent for the first time in 25 years. The movement is in part credited to Millennials, who are turning to other booze options such as spiked seltzer, which scored another epic gain, up 50 percent from last year. Despite the wine drinking downturn, Napa Valley is not ready to give up her crown as a prevailing wine drinking destination. Whether in response to tourist demands, shifting tides in the wine biz, or because ours is a land that refuses to stand still, reincarnations were seen up and down the valley over the past year with no signs of slowing.
When Jean-Charles Boisset took ownership of the Oakville Grocery last year, some worried and others wondered what JCB might have stuck up his slick, and well-fashioned sleeve. Months later, historic roots still stand as the iconic outpost continues to shell out the good stuff to clamoring crowds. Boisset reimagined the Victorian dwelling next door when he opened 1881 Napa, a tasting salon and wine museum, rolled into one. The space grants visitors and locals an artful if not opulent walk down memory lane. One step in, it’s hard not to gawk at the 48-light Baccarat crystal chandelier dripping from the ceiling, alongside a reproduction of an 1895 map of Napa County. Beyond all the sparkle and pizzazz that JCB is known for, the space manages to stay, in part, grounded in the past, with an impressive collection of wine relics, including original artifacts from the Early California Wine Trade archives. The more current JCB reality returns when it comes to the wine tasting experience. Wine flights of fancy with pithy names like “Is it Cool to be Hot or Hot to be Cool?” and “Majestic Mountains Versus Plush Valley,” offer something for everyone.
In Calistoga, a facelift of epic proportions continues to unfurl with the new Four Seasons, which tramped over what was once the Silver Rose Inn. The venture is the source of many will-they-won’t-they-open-this-year bets. Though completion looks near, my bet is, the resort will not be open by year’s end. Or, that may just be wishful thinking. Also treading contentious territory, the Yellow Rose Ranch development project continues to rouse locals with its threat to infiltrate the other tip of town. Despite tiffs over land development and an army of storefront vacancies along the main drag in town, reinvention rolls on. The Brannan Country Inn changed hands, yet continues to further the historical cause. Onsite, Sam’s General Store, named after town founder Sam Brannan, opened last year and offers a welcome spot to fuel up and slow down, with artisan coffees, Bouchon baked goods, and more. For all the beer lovers in the crowd, Lincoln Avenue Brewing Co. opened in the former Puerto Vallarta Mexican Restaurant space, and manages to accomplish what few restaurants and bars in the area dare to do—serve affordable, quality eats in a casual setting. The new Palisades Eatery pulls off a similar feat in the former Checkers space. The new restaurant incarnation unites former Checkers and Brannan’s owner Ron Goldin and Palisades Deli founder, Eddie Yanez. The food is a mash-up of the former restaurants’ menus, alongside other fresh and classic dishes.
In St. Helena, Joel Gott turned a basic gas station into a destination pit stop with, “Station,” where you can fill up your car and your body at a retro-looking gas station-come-java-joint, which serves up gourmet grab and go bites (outdoor table seating also available), minus the Gott’s Roadside lines. Further down the wine trail, Dean & DeLuca retired and was reborn as Gary’s Marketplace, offering road trippers and commuters another stop off.
In Rutherford, Cakebread Cellars punched up the property with a new hospitality center that sports nine tasting rooms, including a glass-walled room with a view.
Yountville, never a town to be outdone by its neighbors, saw a fancy facelift at Hotel Villagio, and a new steakhouse, from celebrity grill master chef Adam Perry Lang who takes aged beef to the extreme with the “Reserve Cut” clocking in at 400 days.
Downtown Napa, most likely to be crowned the Queen of Reinvention, with reboots and re-dos galore over the past decade, continues the trend with new doors opening. This includes the WALT tasting room, which adds to the Sonoma and Healdsburg locations and a new collective from Alpha Omega, an offshoot of the St. Helena outpost.
With U.S. wine consumption down, and drops in alcohol consumption as a whole, also down, it’s hard to predict what the next year and generation of drinkers will bring. But if the traffic running up and down the valley is any indicator, Napa Valley remains on solid ground.