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It is official, Dear Reader: We have entered the colorful season. According to Napa Valley Grapegrowers, veraison has begun. Veraison marks the colorful transition from growth to ripening, growers tell me. The grapes not only change color, but also begin to increase in weight – a good thing for them, but a problem for Auntie – volume, and sugar content. Red wine grapes turn from green to purple, while the whites begin to glow a translucent golden yellow. Growers tell me this year’s harvest will return to a normal time frame after several early harvests during the drought.

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And while our summer ripens here in California, another season has commenced down-under: it is winter black truffle season in Australia. Chef Ken Frank of La Toque restaurant, located in the Westin Verasa Napa in downtown Napa, is kicking it off with delightfully decadent offerings, including fresh sweet corn polenta with Maine lobster and black truffle; wild king salmon, layered with slices of fresh truffle, cooked sous vide in duck fat and served with summer squashes and truffle; and black truffle ice cream with Baby Crawford peaches. Yum! This summer is La Toque’s fifth season incorporating the black beauties from the Truffle and Wine Company in Manjimup Western Australia into our seasonal dishes.

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On a heartwarming note, Delicato Family Vineyards, owner of Napa’s Black Stallion Winery, recently made a donation of more than $133,000 to the Bay Area chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation to send 13 children with life-threatening medical conditions on their dream vacations. The kids’ destinations include theme parks, Hawaii, London, and Tokyo. Delicato also gave each child a unique selection of gifts to take on his or her journey, from toys and shoes to princess dresses. The funds were raised by the company’s employees. Well done, Delicato!

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Next to sipping a bit of the grape, baseball is Auntie’s favorite pastime, so heartiest congratulations go out to Logan Hernandez of Napa, who was among more than 2,000 players and coaches at Junior Giants Day Saturday at AT&T Park, and one of about 90 players to receive the “Willie Mac” award for outstanding contributions and participation. Hernandez and the other awardees were recognized on the field and on the scoreboard, a very big league achievement.

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And today is a proud day for St. Helena’s Nichelini Family Winery. They inform me their 2014 Merlot Reserve earned a 91-point score in the 2017 Winemakers’ Challenge Competition, a “Best of Class” rating in the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and Decanter magazine described it as “A new Napa elegance.” If you’d like to taste this wine, you may do so from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20 at Nichelini, 2950 Sage Canyon Road. Auntie is getting thirsty.

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Historian and Paleoanthropologist Jay Greene will give four lectures later this fall — three on the History of Russia from Pre-history to Putin (Oct. 3, 10, 17) and on Dec. 5 he will discuss Cathedrals, “Spirituality in Stone and Glass.” All will begin at 5 p.m. at the St. Helena Public Library. If you haven’t heard Greene lecture, you’ve missed something special. (Especially as he talks about Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great and Czar Nicholas and other leaders of Imperial Russia.)

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And Nimbus Arts informs me that parents can gratify their young one’s urge to play in the mud while nurturing artistic talent with a fun toddler clay class. Kids ages 2-5 can satisfy the urge for slippery, squishy fun this Saturday, Aug. 12, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Class fee is $20. Other classes for teens and adults are offered as well. Nimbus Arts is located at 649 Main St. Call (707) 963-5278 or visit nimbusarts.org for information.

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If the kid’s creative urges run toward music, St. Helena Children’s Chorus begins at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 29. New members should contact Director Craig Bond at 963-7712 for an audition time. St. Helena Teen Choir begins at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 30. Prospective members should come to the first practice. Both choirs meet at the Grace Episcopal Church, 1314 Spring St., St. Helena.

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