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Kirk Kirkpatrick photo 

Three of the Napa High boys basketball team's senior leaders are, from left, Charles Gravett, Joe Carnazola and Mitch Hippauf.

Napa County grape crop valued at $736 million

Strong demand for Napa Valley grapes—cabernet in particular- helped the value of Napa County’s grape harvest to rise 7.6 percent in 2017, from $683 million in 2016 to $736 million.

The average price per ton for Napa County grapes rose 11 percent to $5,204 per ton, the highest in the state.

At the same time, in part due to a streak of hot weather in September, the total number of tons of all grapes harvested in Napa County dipped. The 2017 total of 141,578 tons was 3.3 percent less than 2016’s 146,557 tons.

California Department of Agriculture officials released the preliminary 2017 grape crop report midday Friday.

“Napa County is very healthy and profitable,” and enjoys good demand, said Glenn Proctor at the Ciatti Company, a wine and grape broker. The agricultural region is well positioned in the premium wine market, he said.

“The challenge to our industry are regulatory pressures, land values and labor costs that continue to rise dramatically,” said Proctor. “It’s not going to get any easier to maintain margins and a healthy market.”

“It is encouraging to see that the price of cabernet is up,” said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Putnam said normally the group would review the preliminary report but this year, due to the October fires, the association will wait until the final report is issued in early March before drawing any market conclusions.

“The fires will have an effect on this year’s report for sure,” she said. Because of the fires, some growers report delayed deliveries and payments “that might add up to a significant number” that would be better accounted for in the final report, she said.

As for the decline in tonnage, “I wouldn’t read too much into” such a small drop, Putnam said.

Cabernet sauvignon grapes continue to hold the top spot in Napa Valley, with 66,159 tons produced. That’s a 4.2 percent increase from last year’s cab crush, which totaled 63,484 tons.

At an average of $7,474 a ton, the price for the valley’s cabernet sauvignon continues to climb, up 8.6 percent over last year’s value of $6,881 a ton. These figures include sales from a winery to itself or in-house sales.

The average price paid for valley chardonnay in 2017 was up slightly to $2,809, while tonnage dropped— from 25,181 in 2016 to 20,595 in 2017.

Tonnage also dropped for sauvignon blanc, from 13,537 to 12,880 tons. The price for a ton of sauvignon blanc increased to $2,282 on average from $2,139 a year ago.

Local merlot production was also down, from 14,332 in 2016 to 13,126 tons in 2017. The price paid per ton of merlot was up slightly, to $3,387 from $3,358.

Proctor noted that early in the year some growers thought the chardonnay harvest looked like it might be light. “And then we had that heat wave in September and any chance of any bigger crop got affected.”

Besides chardonnay, other varietals were also down in tonnage, he noted.

It’s a trend that growers are planting more cabernet, said Proctor. As a result, “Some of the other varieties are suffering from that.”

As for the demand for cabernet, “We’re not surprised the price is still strong,” Proctor said. “Cabernet has been in demand and that demand has been very strong.”

Proctor said he did not think the October fires impacted these numbers.

“Most of the crop was picked. This is about the heat we had in September, not the awful fire we had in October.”

Sonoma and Marin counties grape harvests received the second highest return of $2,803 per ton, up 8.2 percent from 2016.

Statewide, the 2017 crush totaled 4,233,288 tons, up less than half of a percent from the 2016 crush of 4,217,154 tons.

Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 2,242,984 tons, down 1.6 percent from 2016.

The 2017 white wine variety crush totaled 1,764,152 tons, up .7 percent from 2016. Tons crushed of raisin-type varieties totaled 94,268, up 4.6 percent from 2016, and tons crushed of table-type varieties totaled 131,884, up 38.2 percent from 2016

The 2017 average price of all varieties was $775.09, up 1.5 percent from 2016.

Napa teens become mimes to raise funds for Justin-Siena musical
J.L. Sousa, Register 

Feras Halabi, a cast member in Justin-Siena High School's production of "Guys and Dolls," participates in a Mime-A-Thon held at the school on Thursday to raise money to fund the orchestra for the musical.

At first glance, a Thursday stroll across Justin-Siena High School was like any other weekday on campus. Teenagers walked from class to class, waited in a cafeteria line, or seated themselves at outdoor tables in the sunlit plaza intently following their friends’ chitchatting.

Only one thing was missing for some of the students: speech.

The silent ones were easy to find. Only their faces were decorated – with squiggle lines drawn over eyes, or black triangles above the cheek, or red-and-white makeup that made their lips appear smaller and more pinched than before.

They were members of the Justin-Siena drama club, turning down the volume for the school Mime-A-Thon. For most of the school day they would communicate only with facial expressions, eye movements and hand gestures, going wordless in exchange for donations to fund a March musical production of “Guys and Dolls” in which they would star.

Holding one’s tongue for six hours amid hundreds of fellow teens might be a challenge to rival any coursework, but theater students like Pria Bose declared themselves ready to throw themselves fully into the effort, however awkward it might be at times.

“I try to stay in character in class too,” admitted Bose, a 17-year-old Justin-Siena senior who was one of five mimes to briefly step out of character for an on-campus interview. “I think it’s funny; the teachers may not think so!” she added with a laugh.

J.L. Sousa, Register 

Morgan Scher, a cast member in Justin-Siena High School's production of "Guys and Dolls" walks across campus on Thursday during a Mime-A-Thon to raise money to fund the orchestra for the musical.

Ahead of the Mime-A-Thon, a group of school faculty, parents and classmates paid to sponsor individual mimes or the drama program as a whole, according to James Bailey, Justin-Siena’s director of theater arts. Funds will pay for the hiring of a 15-piece pit orchestra to accompany student actors when they perform “Guys and Dolls” March 15-25 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville.

The donations will be money well spent to create as Broadway-like an experience as possible for the 75 or so teens acting or helping stage the musical, according to Bailey.

“I could do a recorded track and it would be a lot cheaper,” he said. “But there’s just something special about working with live musicians, and they don’t have that opportunity very much anymore.”

Relatively little rehearsal was necessary for many of Thursday’s silent actors – partly because of their experience in a previous Mime-A-Thon in 2016, and even more because of skills they already have learned in competitive improv theater programs. The variety of hand and facial expressions needed for improv translate naturally to miming, said students taking a short midday pause from their silence.

J.L. Sousa, Register 

Pria Bose, left, dances a jig while being recorded by classmates at Justin-Siena High School on Thursday. Pria was one of a number of cast members of the school's production of "Guys and Dolls" who participated in a Mime-A-Thon to raise money to fund the orchestra for the musical.

Mostly, however, the secret to success may simply be in waiting an extra moment at all times, according to Erin McClure, 18.

“Just thinking before you act, because you can’t speak – especially with people trying to tease you, trying to get you to talk,” she said. “The first thing I do when someone says something is freeze, take a breath and stop before I process things. If too many things are happening at once, you might just break character (otherwise).”

J.L. Sousa, Register 

Cast members of Justin-Siena High School's production of "Guys and Dolls" held a Mime-A-Thon at the school on Thursday to raise money to fund the orchestra for the musical.

Despite theater students’ promotion of the special day, one actor admitted that schoolmates don’t always make it easy to keep up their speechless act.

“People ask me questions that aren’t yes or no, or they say stuff like ‘Say yes if you’re not stupid!’” said 18-year-old Kevin Palla with a slight smile. “They try and peer-pressure you into saying something. People will poke you, try to get a reaction out of you.”

“The coolest part is when they look at you – then look at you again – and then the third time, stare at you, and they like it because they’re seeing something different,” he said.

Civil Rights
Angwin speaker who integrated Little Rock high school in 1957 assesses race relations today

ANGWIN — As one of nine African-American students who ran a gauntlet of white hostility when they integrated Central high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, Terrence Roberts offered students at Pacific Union College personal insights on race relations in America today.

More than 60 years after Little Rock, Roberts said Americans are still learning how to navigate their history of racism despite progress in civil rights, the election of President Barack Obama and the influence of groups like Black Lives Matters.

Incidents of white supremacy continue to upset the popular belief and hope for a post-racial America, Roberts said at the college’s Feb. 1 Colloquy Speakers Series. The title of his talk: “The Fierce Urgency of Now.”

At the age of 15, Roberts — a member of would later be called “The Little Rock Nine,” was confronted by mobs of whites, kicked, spat upon and otherwise threatened. Ultimately, the U.S. Army was called upon to protect them as they attended school throughout the year. The following school year, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus closed down all public schools in Little Rock to prevent integration.

Roberts said that he and his family then moved to Los Angeles to continue his education. He attended California State University, Los Angeles and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1967. He received his master’s degree in social welfare from the UCLA School of Social Welfare in 1970, and his Ph.D. in psychology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1976.

From 1975 to 1977 he was a member of the faculty at Pacific Union College, and from 1977 to 1985 he was Director of Mental Health at St. Helena Hospital and Health Center. From 1985 to 1993 he was an assistant dean in the UCLA School of Social Welfare then joined the Antioch University Los Angeles in 1993 and served as core faculty and co-chair of the Master of Arts in Psychology program until 2008.

“How is it possible that we still discern a difference between the old ways and today? Of a time when segregation was socially accepted and today in the midst of a resurgence of white supremacism?” Roberts asked students. “How can we still end up – despite the successes of civil rights — with this ‘montage’ in which there no discernable difference between then and now?”

Roberts pointed out that the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, which proclaimed that separate-but-equal education was unconstitutional, may have changed the laws of the land. However, it could not change the social consciousness of accepted white racism that had existed since 1619 when the first Africans were stolen and imported as slaves to the North American continent.

“What happens to a people,” Roberts asked, “who are taught that they are superior for 335 years? They believe it! It doesn’t mean that it’s true … but the social construct continues to reside in the minds of those who live in that social awareness.”

“And that belief could not be overturned in the three years since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and that September of 1957 when the president of the United States sent troops to escort us into Little Rock Central High School.”

According to Roberts, this same social construct of black inferiority and white superiority persists in the cultural underpinnings of much of the U.S. today. And despite the touted successes of civil rights, it’s imperative to continue to push for the changes that will – over the months, years, and decades – balance the scales for equal rights in both law and social awareness.

To facilitate this change, Roberts’ recommended pathways for students to take are self-awareness, self-education, and a belief in a personal relationship with God. “We must see our path through the lens of God,” Roberts said. “That is how we will be able to see the difference between injustice and justice, right and wrong. This is the fierce urgency of now.”

Tom Stockwell, Star 

At the age of 15, Terrence Roberts’ was growing up in Arkansas when he and eight other students attempted to register for classes in the Little Rock Central High School. Roberts spoke at Pacific Union College on "The Fierce Urgency of Now."

Yountville: Hotel tax revenue dips, but doesn’t crash, after Napa Valley fires

The Napa Valley’s most tourist-dependent town expects a decline in hotel tax revenue in the wake of the North Bay wildfires – but not as much as may have been feared.

Yountville’s steady upward march in room tax funds – the source of two-thirds of its general-fund budget – is forecast to end in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Estimated proceeds from the 12.5 percent tax charged to overnight guests should total $6.8 million in the year ending July 1, down from the $7.1 million tally of 2016-17, town staff said during a budget preview to the Town Council on Tuesday.

A growing number of high-end resorts and lodgings charging hundreds of dollars per night have bolstered Yountville’s reputation as a luxurious wine-country hideaway while pushing the town’s share of hotel-driven revenue to one of the highest levels in California. But the risks of such a dependence on overnight guests were laid bare after the Oct. 8 eruption of wildfires across Napa and Sonoma counties, where the immediate threats of death and destruction were followed by the lingering economic threat of aborted vacations and travel.

In the first three months after the fires, lodgings across Napa County totaled $17 million in lost revenue, leaving revenue for all of 2017 virtually flat compared to the year before, Visit Napa Valley reported in late January. The impact was heaviest immediately after the disaster, as year-over-year revenue for October plunged 36 percent, average room rates 19 percent and occupancy 22 percent, according to figures from the STR Inc. research firm.

In Yountville, the aftermath of the wildfires – as well as some hotel rooms being closed for renovations during the winter off-peak season – will hold down bed tax funds, but such transient occupancy taxes still should reach levels similar to those in 2015-16, according to the memo for council members.

Despite the apparent post-fire business recovery of local hotels, Town Manager Steve Rogers urged caution in forecasting when tax revenues fully bounce back – particularly with many rooms unavailable during winter renovations.

“We have the fire, but we also have the issue of what if Villagio takes two months longer to reopen? Because Villagio is 112 rooms of our 450,” he told council members. “As we go into March and April and May, if they’re not back online, we could start having a different scenario.”

Meanwhile, Yountville staff also forecast a slight increase from $1.27 million to $1.29 million in another tourism-driven funding source – sales taxes – with opening or renovation of several eateries and wine tasting rooms. Most prominent among them is the reopening of The French Laundry, which temporarily suspended lunch service during a renovation and is expected to build back its visitor count with a return to its full menu.

Recent openings in town include Platform 8, Southside Café, and Ottimo. Also under development in Yountville is an expansion of the Ma(i)sonry tasting room, whose owner, the Restoration Hardware home furnishings company, will pair it with a new three-meal-a-day restaurant, RH Gallery.

Taxes on hotel rooms, sales and property together supply 86 percent of Yountville’s general fund, which covers the town’s everyday expenses.