A reservoir supplying Yountville and the nearby Veterans Home of California may be running low despite the end of a lengthy statewide drought, town officials said Monday, citing an advisory from state water authorities.
An email notice last week from the State Water Resources Control Board cautioned both the town and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which owns both the Veterans Home west of Yountville and the 4,500-acre-foot Rector Reservoir northeast of town, of potentially low supplies into the summer months, according to Town Manager Steve Rogers.
The extent of the potential shortage was not immediately clear, and Mayor John Dunbar said Yountville is seeking “clarification” about local water supplies from the water board and CalVet.
A reservoir visit Tuesday will garner more information on supplies and include representatives of the state water board, CalVet and the Yountville Public Works Department, Rogers said.
No emergency measures have been announced for Yountville residents or businesses, but Rogers said local steps could include water purchases from other cities, or the return of some conservation orders, if use reductions are needed in the future.
“This is an advisory and one that’s certainly concerning,” he said Monday afternoon. “The position of the town is we are very concerned, but we want to fully understand what the situation is – and is not – before we put additional measures into place.”
Guy Schott, spokesman for the state water board’s Division of Drinking Water in Northern California, referred questions about Rector Reservoir to the board’s Sacramento headquarters. Messages left there on Presidents’ Day, a state holiday, were not returned.
The state advisory on Yountville-area water reserves comes in the midst of a winter with lower-than-average rainfall, but a year after heavy rains finally broke a drought that had lingered since 2012 and led Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a year of mandatory use cutbacks on cities starting in 2015. Most local water suppliers were required to reduce consumption by at least 20 percent compared to 2013 levels.
Despite the length and severity of the drought, Yountville never received any state warnings about running down the Rector reservoir supply at that time, according to Dunbar. By the end of 2016, Rector was among several Napa Valley water sources – including Lake Hennessey, the main reserve for the city of Napa – that had become full or nearly full after a spate of early-winter storms.
Sherry Moser’s business is going in circles — and that’s exactly how she likes it.
Moser’s business, RebelGirl Records, sells vintage vinyl records.
RebelGirl Records was launched in in 2016 when Moser decided to try her luck at selling a handful of records at her booth at the former Tews Treasures resale shop.
To her surprise, the records were popular with customers. Moser began buying — and selling – more and more records.
Today, “business has skyrocketed,” said Moser. RebelGirl Records now has more than 7,000 records for sale.
“It’s amazing to see how large the collection is now and how that small stack of records started my journey,” said Moser, who lives in Napa.
Why record albums?
“Well, I love records myself,” said Moser. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Nostalgia of the era of a particular album is a big part of the experience for her customers, she said. “People are so happy” when they find that one certain record they’ve been looking for or once owned, she said.
“Hunting for records, collecting them, playing them … it just brings a lot of happiness,” along with “the feeling of having music in your life.”
In addition, “People say they just love the sound,” of a vinyl record, she said. “And a lot of people they love the artwork on the records themselves. Some collect just for that.”
After Tews Treasures closed in August of 2017, Moser transitioned her business to a booth inside the Antiques on Second collective in downtown Napa and a section inside the Bookmine on Pearl Street in Napa.
Moser said that some people are surprised to hear that vintage records are so popular. But at the same time, “They always talk about their collection they had and wish they still had it.”
Shoppers seem to be responding. According to her records, at her Antiques on Second location, Moser sold 179 records in December and 102 records in January.
She seems to have tapped into a small, but growing market.
According to the Nielsen research service, in 2017 vinyl album sales grew for the 12th consecutive year, comprising 14 percent of all physical album sales.
The top-selling vinyl LP of the year was the re-release of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Deloitte Global estimated that 40 million new vinyl records would be sold in 2017, with sales nearing the $1 billion benchmark for the first time this millennium.
A throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s
Moser said majority of the albums she sells at RebelGirl Records are from the 1960s and 1970s.
They include genres such as classic rock, blues, heavy metal, country and pop. Artists include the Beatles, The Doors, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, Miles Davis, Elton John, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and even ‘80s pop group Wham!
Prices for typically range from $4 to $20 for each album but the rarer records can sell for $40 to $100 or more.
For example, Moser once had a Beatles record that was reportedly released for the band’s fan club only. It sold for $150, she said.
A sealed Beatles record can sell for as much as $100, said Moser. “They go quick. It just depends on which one and the issue date.”
“I’m really proud of the collection I have in the shop(s),” she said. Besides rare or collectible records, “I have some great starter records.”
“I’m always looking for originals, demo/promo, rare, sealed, error/recalled records and also records that have their original lyrics insert and posters/stickers,” she wrote in an email.
To price the records, Moser grades them based on vinyl and cover condition, model number and pressing.
As far as evaluating records, “I can tell usually from the cover itself, if it’s well taken care of,” said Moser. “Look at the cover. Look at the quality of the vinyl.”
She finds her inventory in a variety of places including garage sales, estate sales and online.
At a typical estate sale, Moser usually pays about $1 to $1.50 per record. She’ll often buy in large lots of hundreds of records.
“Sometimes I can get a huge lot for a less than 50 cents per record. But a dollar is about average.”
“Then eBay is whole ‘nother ball game. If it’s a great collection on eBay, I might splurge.”
While she does buy some records online, she doesn’t sell her records online, said Moser.
“I’m going to try and keep it local,” she said. “I like that people can physically come in and look at a record. Lots of times, people come in looking for one record and end up with a whole stack on their hands.”
Moser stores her purchases in a climate controlled storage unit in Napa. That’s where the bulk of her 7,000-item inventory is located.
“It’s a lot of records,” Moser said.
Born in 1965, Moser said she has some favorite artists of her own.
“I always liked the Beatles,” she said. Plus music from her high school days such as the Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship “and, of course, Journey.”
Albums of artists that have recently passed away, such as David Bowie and Tom Petty, are also popular, according to Moser.
Fire victims replace records
This record aficionado has noticed another trend.
“Right now, I have quite a few people that come in and they are replacing the collection they lost in the fire,” said Moser.
“One guy came in two days ago — he lost 2,000 records,” in the fire, she said. “That’s one of the main things he misses the most.”
Moser was referring to her customer, Kevin Regan.
Regan, who lives between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, said he’d been collecting records since his junior high school days.
“I had all the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers — all the classic rock,” he said.
The Tubbs fire completely incinerated his record albums along with three turntables, said Regan. “It was devastating.”
For Regan, 59, nothing compares to vinyl records.
“To an audiophile, the sound is so much better than digital.” And the “crackling” sound of a record playing? “You lose that in digital,” he said.
Record albums also “bring back memories all the concerts I went to when I was younger,” he said.
“And I love the album covers. That’s something you don’t get with MP3s and digital or even a CD.”
After visiting Regan’s booth at Antiques on Second, he was thrilled to see such a variety of albums, many of which he used to own.
“She’s got a great collection,” said Regan. “It blew me away. Sherry really goes for quality.”
Regan said he’s since made one purchase from RebelGirl Records — an album he never owned before from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
“If I had the money I’d buy every single one of them,” said Regan. “Knowing she’s there, I will definitely be going back for more.”
A wide range of customer ages shop at RebelGirl Records, said Moser. “I have a lot of really young kids coming in and then people in their 60s and 70s.”
As for growing her business, Moser said she has been seriously considering selling new vinyl records, which some artists are releasing.
Moser will also eventually start selling 45s, the smaller version of a classic vinyl record. Moser said she already has about 2,000 of that record style.
“People are asking for them but I have my work cut out for me right now.”
RebelGirl Records is her full-time job, said Moser. She previously worked as a nurse at the Queen of the Valley Medical Center. But after a fall while unloading records, she hasn’t returned to nursing.
After some initial skepticism about leaving nursing, her family supports her, Moser said.
“I think they see how hard I work. Pretty much every day, I’m doing something with the business.”
Her fiancé is a big help as well, she said.
“And I haven’t completely given up on nursing,” she said.
“But I’m happiest when I’m doing my records. I just enjoy myself, looking through them. I love doing research and cleaning them. The whole process is exhilarating.”
Could Napa Valley one day be known as much for cannabis as it is for wine? Ask several prominent members of the latter industry and the answer is a decisive ‘yes’.
As momentum continues to build behind the notion of a thriving cannabis industry in Napa County some day, a cast of grapegrowers, vineyard owners and vintners have become the latest advocates for such a future. Today, they are working to secure it through the foundation of a new group, the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, or NVCA.
Envisioned as the main trade group for the county’s forthcoming cannabis producers and retailers, the group is at work hoping to establish the new industry as yet another element of Napa’s agricultural identity.
“It’s just another crop and another reason for people to celebrate Napa Valley, both locals and visitors who come here,” said Eric Sklar, one of the founders of the NVCA.
Speaking last week along with fellow NVCA member Rob Mondavi, Jr., Sklar, a co-founder and former partner of Alpha Omega winery, stressed, “We want to get this right. We don’t want to do it in a way that does anything but enhances what we’ve got here.”
He and Mondavi, who is winemaker and co-founder of Michael Mondavi Family Estate, likened their association to the main trade group for the area’s wine industry, the Napa Valley Vintners.
“We said if we’re going to do this, we need an arm like the Napa Valley Vintners that provides education, provides guidance [and] provides marketing eventually for when we have a cannabis business for Napa, that will promote the business around the world,” Sklar said.
Other NVCA members hailing from the wine industry include Jake Kloberdanz, a local vintner, the Honig family, owners of Honig Vineyard & Winery, and the Renteria family, owners of Renteria Vineyard Management.
“We’ve all been interested in this for a while,” Sklar said, citing several years’ worth of conversations among members. With the inclusion of Proposition 64 on the 2016 ballot, the conversations became more frequent, he recalled, and the association began to take shape.
The group officially formed late last year, incorporating with the state and opening a bank account. Its first meeting took place several weeks ago, and an initial board meeting is slated for this week.
“It’s in its infancy,” Sklar said, “but it’s very clear what it’s supposed to be.”
Among the group’s ambitions are for commercial production of cannabis to begin in Napa as early as the 2019 growing season, though the county currently does not allow for the commercial cultivation, pending an ordinance from the Board of Supervisors.
“We think that that’s very doable,” Sklar said of the time frame. “We think that the supervisors need to get on it and we hope they will and we’re willing to work with them.”
Mondavi added that, “By us trying to articulate and to champion this, we’re really championing the voice of Napa Valley voters. We’re not looking to do anything different than what the voters have already asked for.”
Napa County voters approved Proposition 64 in the November 2016 election by 61-39 percent, four percentage points above the state average.
Further noting the ordinances enacted by other counties facing the same issue, Sklar said, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” To that end, the group has been meeting with Napa’s policy makers and appearing at public forums and meetings to discuss the issue.
However, per the timeline for an ordinance that would allow commercial cultivation of cannabis in Napa, Supervisor Ryan Gregory admitted, “It’s a tough one.”
The staff that would have to work on the ordinance, Gregory said, “are also working hard on fire recovery and there’s a lot of overtime and extra time being put in right now. It’s hard for me right now to tell staff to do anything different.”
But as far as the possibility of commercial growths starting in the 2019 growing season, Gregory said, “It seems reasonable that that could be a target of ours.”
As the landscape of the new industry continues to take shape in Napa, Sklar noted major topics to address include land use, security and how to establish a brand for Napa Valley cannabis while maintaining the reputation of the long-established wine industry.
“We’re intending to do this in a way that enhances and increases the [Napa Valley] brand,” Sklar said, pointing to the group’s membership basis in the wine industry. “Why would we even think about it if it was going to damage the brand that’s our foundation?”
Mondavi added, “I think that everything that’s done has to benefit the Napa Valley image. It doesn’t matter if it benefits cannabis or not; it needs to benefit Napa Valley and then we grow from there.”
There are clear boundaries between the two industries, Mondavi pointed out that state regulations prohibit retail sales and the production of cannabis from taking place on the same site as the retail and production of alcohol.
Growing on the same parcel is allowed. Yet once alcohol enters the picture in the production stages of wine, the two cannot share a space.
“The two are not going to be mixed any time soon as a retail business,” Sklar said.
It would, however, be possible for wine and cannabis to share branding, for instance, with strains of marijuana bearing the names of Napa Valley wine producers.
Meanwhile, another element within the Napa wine industry has culled a sense of urgency in the campaign for cultivation, as large companies with footing in the local wine world, including international drinks company Constellation Brands, have also signaled an interest in cannabis. Owners of Robert Mondavi winery and other Napa producers, Constellation invested nearly $200 million in Canopy Growth, a Canadian medical marijuana company last October.
Yet, for the time being, the company cannot make such investments in the U.S. while the federal government continues to define cannabis as a Schedule I drug, or drugs “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Sklar said that while he hopes for the federal legalization of cannabis, a window of opportunity exists now for smaller, local businesses to establish footing in the market “before the big players come in.”
As he sees it, that chance comes with the ability for Napa Valley to define itself as a top cannabis-producing region.
“Imagine the top tier of cannabis being the same as the top tier of Cabernet grapes,” he said. “We have an opportunity, but the opportunity’s not going to last forever. If we don’t establish it now, it’ll be blown out by big companies too early in the process.”
One of those smaller businesses is Fumé, founded by Sklar and named with both smoke and the Fumé Blanc wines of Robert Mondavi in mind.
Vertically integrated from seed to retail, the company will plant its first garden in Lake County in the coming weeks, where it will also manufacture and distribute, Sklar said.
The company does not yet have any Napa product, he said. “But we’re hoping as soon as possible to be growing in the fields of Napa Valley to create brands that have Napa on the name.”
Like the wineries that constitute the Napa Valley Vintners, Fumé would be a member company of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association.
The goal of the association, Sklar said, is to have similar businesses under one umbrella, “because one thing that our fathers and grandfathers taught us is that rising tide lifts all boats.”
“While I care a lot about my own business,” he said, “I know that my business will only succeed if we have this umbrella of all of us working together.”
Though the county’s chief wine industry groups including the Napa Valley Vintners, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Napa County Farm Bureau, have yet to support or reject the prospect for commercial cannabis growth and retail sales within the county, each group said it is closely following the issue as it develops.
Late last year, the Napa Valley Vintners established a task force to study the topic, said Rex Stults, the group’s government relations director.
“It’s still something we’re just kind of monitoring and paying attention to,” Stults said, noting that in the group’s initial discussions with its industry issues committee and subsequent reports from its task force, “there hasn’t been any pushback in the big picture whatsoever.”
Recalling a meeting between the Vintners and the Cannabis Association late last year, Stults said, “They said all the right things. Which is they want to be good neighbors and do things the right way and be transparent in the process and we have no reason to not believe those things to be true at this point.”
The county Farm Bureau is also studying the issue via a newly established cannabis subcommittee, said Ryan Klobas, the group’s policy director.
“We’ve gathered a lot of good information and we’ll continue to do so, and then our intent is to have a policy recommendation to the Farm Bureau board of directors as soon as possible,” Klobas said.
As the debate evolves and NVCA’s campaign continues, the group is currently seeking others interested in the issue to join its ranks, offering more information through its website: napacannabisassociation.com.
“We want people who are interested in it and supportive,” Mondavi said. “And we want people who are nervous about it as well.”
But above all, Sklar said, “We want to get it right. And rarely do you get to do it on a blank sheet of paper and to get it right. Often you’re trying to fix things that evolved on their own organically. Here we have the perfect opportunity to do this right from the beginning.”
Caltrans wants to make certain Highway 37 drivers traveling east toward Vallejo play by the rules when confronted with backups at the Highway 121/Sears Point traffic signal.
Afternoon rush-hour drivers often encounter a long backup in the Vallejo lane and a shorter backup in the approach to the Sonoma left-turn lane. Some stay in the Sonoma lane and try to force their way back to the Vallejo lane at the last moment.
“The intersection has experienced congestion caused in the part by the queue-jumping in the eastbound lane of Highway 37,” a Caltrans press release said.
Caltrans plans to restripe the intersection the nights of Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 to try to thwart these traffic line-cutters.
The intersection is outside of Napa County in Sonoma County. It is along a highway that runs through Solano, Sonoma and Marin counties, coming near to Napa County only at the county’s southwestern tip amid wetlands.
Still, Napa County is affected by Highway 37. A Caltrans report said it is heavily used by recreational travelers heading to wine country. Local transportation officials say Highway 37 traffic woes prompt drivers to use major south Napa County highways as a relief valve.
Highways 37/121 intersection problems came up at Highway 37 open houses held last year in American Canyon, Vallejo, Sonoma and Novato. Those attending could leave written comments for Caltrans.
One person wrote that drivers following the law must wait “because of this constant stream of illegal late mergers who feel that they are more important than anyone else on the highway.”
The result is an increase in road rage, accidents and near-accidents, he wrote.
Whether Caltrans proposed solution will work should soon be known. The new striping will move the point where traffic separates for the Sonoma turnoff closer to the light in an attempt to take away the opportunity for queue jumping.
One person at the open houses worried this approach will make going to Sonoma harder. Some Highway 37 users want to keep the lanes basically as they are, but install a concrete barrier to stop the queue-jumping motorists.
A Caltrans report said the trip on Highway 37 takes 20 minutes without traffic and more than an hour-and-a-half with congestion. Ninety percent of the accidents are congestion-related. The 21-mile highway links Vallejo in Solano County with Novato in Marin County.