Mark G. Epstein moved to St. Helena from the East Coast early this century after a career in international business.

We’ve been reminded almost every week this fall that the veneer of civilization is exceedingly thin: Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas. And now the fires in Napa and Sonoma.

A St. Helenan of a certain age was complaining to me recently about age-related hearing loss and the ridiculously high cost of hearing aids. I asked her if she had seen any of the new hi-tech non-prescription hearing devices. She hadn’t.

This summer we’ve been treated to dramatic weather – which is normal for those of us who are refugees from the Midwest, East or South. One Sunday, the temperature was close to 60 degrees and we were soaked and pounded by rain and hail. The next Sunday, the temperature was way above 100 (with…

An American admiral became a celebrity a few years ago when he delivered a commencement address in Texas. We know it was well-received because after retirement that admiral was appointed chancellor of the entire University of Texas system.

On a delightful spring day five years ago a vintner pal and I motored down to Yountville for lunch. This was not, however, a typical social outing. We were in pursuit of knowledge on a subject vital to any male in St. Helena: prostate cancer.

This winter a youthful doctor here in the Valley gave me a diagnosis of cancer. That’s the bad news. The good news was that it would be easily and quickly cured by surgery. But, nobody wants to be told he has any type of cancer. The doctor said a biopsy would dictate the type and extent of s…

The big United States and little St. Helena both had 2016 elections with upsetting results. That’s “upsetting” with one meaning or two, depending on your politics. At least here in St. Helena, draining our metaphoric swamp has been well-mannered.

“All politics is local,” famously said that old Boston pol Tip O’Neill. By which he meant people vote according to their neighborhood and personal concerns. A variant of this political law applies to us in St. Helena this election: the only election impact our votes have will be local.

It’s rare that a politician on the streets of St. Helena attracts national attention. Unfortunately for House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that happened to her earlier this summer. As reported to the Star by an alert citizen, Pelosi’s praetorian guard of U.S. Capitol Poli…

From any perspective, the comet-like trajectory of Napa’s Zeus Winery has been astounding. First appearing in a highly crafted press release just a decade ago, Zeus is different from any winery we’ve ever seen.

In this sour political season, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. has given us the most insightful explanation of what’s going on. In a TV interview, he said that neither party was offering us the classic American message of “hope and growth.” If you listen to Bernie Sanders an…

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Neil Aldoroty helped modernize the Napa wine industry with the “premier wine storage” facility of 55 Degrees that he and his wife, Karen, established here in downtown St. Helena. For locals he provided temperature-controlled accessible storage; for out-of-towners, he offered a seamless mecha…

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2016 is proving to be a remarkable political year. A previously unrecognized restlessness is evident at both ends of the political spectrum, and our traditional political leaders are befuddled and scared. As they should be.

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Our federal government in its bureaucratic wisdom offers us a turbulent river of recommendations, guidelines and suggestions on how we should live our lives. Why is that? Part of the answer is that knowledge doesn’t exist in a vacuum and there’s an inevitable tendency to try to make it useful.

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The wintry holidays are all about food. Thanksgiving turkey; Hanukkah latkes (potato pancakes); Christmas roasts; New Year’s Eve caviar. A wise doctor once told me he didn’t weigh his patients between late November and Jan. 1. Good thinking.

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If you’re a reader of a certain age, you’ll remember with fondness the cartoonist Rube Goldberg. Last century, he was famous for drawing incredibly complicated machines for accomplishing straightforward tasks. An implied message was that organizations make life unnecessarily difficult for us.

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We live in a different place. I was reminded of that in August when the national conversation focused on the stock market collapse and the Chinese financial chaos. But here in the valley, I heard not one word about Wall Street; talk was all about the early harvest, lower yields and gratifyin…

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When a well-traveled St. Helenan heard that I was heading to Iceland for a couple of weeks, this globetrotter responded with astonishment, asking who goes to Iceland for that long. My answer was that I could have stayed a month.

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The word “balance” keeps coming up in wine conversations these days. It’s a loaded word that means different things to different vintners and imbibers and it’s causing rifts in the world of wine.

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If you’ve gone to the Cameo this month, you’ve viewed an enticing 30-second piece on the largest undiscovered secret in St. Helena — our Vineyard River Walk.

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For generations, our health care system has been paternalistically controlled by providers. A clutch of factors, including the demands of aging baby boomers and the advent of the Internet era, has radically reframed the picture. Power to the patient!

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A common annoyance for St. Helenans is that infuriating junk phone call selling something unwanted, and typically coming unwelcomed at a bad time. Especially when we’re receiving fewer phone calls, as emailing and texting have grown, we would like those calls that we do receive to be importa…

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More than a few St. Helenans recall with dread that day when we opened the mail and found a letter from AARP congratulating us on becoming 50 years old. Adding injury to the insult of reminding us that we were then on the precipice of decrepitude, the mailing wanted dollars from us. Admitted…

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With its fourth successful year, the Napa Valley Film Festival has reached cruising speed. It provides entertainment and volunteering opportunities for locals and brings in visitors from across the country. It rings up food and lodging dollars during an off-season week. It highlights new art…

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Ebola, Ebola, Ebola. That’s this month’s cable news. When we have lots of excitement but little substance coming from many of the talking heads, there is cause for concern. Our cumbersome and expensive national health care system gets poor grades for dealing with chronic and long-term condit…

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Reviewing the heroes and knaves that dominated World War II, the renowned British historian Andrew Roberts once commented to me, “Personality is vital.” He meant that success can be dependent on our unique personalities, which determine how we react to events and people.

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One benefit of living in a small town is good customer service from local merchants and other vendors. Whether it’s at a grocery store, a hardware store, the post office, we in St. Helena are treated well. That’s because there’s a personal connection between us and the folks behind the counter.

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The Great Man Theory of History does have its moments. Think of Washington in the Revolution or Churchill in World War II. In our hamlet, leadership shifts may not be as profound, but they’re important. This year, we’re getting new leaders at St. Helena Hospital and in City Hall.

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The basic political rule, defined decades ago by Tip O’Neill, is that “all politics is local.” Citizens vote mainly on local matters.

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Spring is the season for new growth. This year, that’s true for both the vineyards and Napa’s cultural scene. BottleRock has been confirmed for a second year, and the new City Winery will debut at the Opera House.

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During the recent cold spell I chatted with a St. Helenan, originally from the Midwest, about yuletide weather. Both of us having grown up in colder climates, we agreed that freezing temperatures were totally appropriate for the holidays. And my fellow import chortled that many native St. He…

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“Be nice,” we’re told growing up. But in our adult world of self-involvement, with earphones and constant texting, the practice and art of treating people decently appears to be fading. Exceptions are notable.

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Social change can come quickly. Consider gay marriage. With increasing velocity, its acceptance has spread nationally in just a few years. The same is happening with medical marijuana.

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One day early this year I popped into Smith’s to pick up a prescription. The young lady behind the counter said I had two Rx’s. Nope, I replied, just one. I asked to see the second drug. It was a mysterious unguent or ointment, from a Santa Rosa doctor with a faintly ridiculous name. Somethi…

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Having grown up with the films of Ingmar Bergman, on a recent trip to Sweden it was mandatory that I make a pilgrimage to Faro Island. This was the rugged and rural home of the reclusive director, whose privacy was protected by his fellow islanders. Pedaling on a country road, I sensed that …

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Though the economic recovery is moving ahead haltingly, an upturn is now clearly established. Folks feel better, they’re spending more, and that’s good both nationally and at the street level in St. Helena.

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Perhaps because it was just before Passover and Easter, the recent meeting of the Napa Valley Vintners/St. Helena Star wine-tasting panel was even more affable than usual. This group, with an ever-changing roster, is mostly winemakers. They, more than any other set of imbibers, appreciate th…

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