Richard Moran roams around the Napa Valley in a happy mood singing in the rain.

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The fires were frightening. The damage is heartbreaking. No one is untouched. The way the community continues to respond is heartwarming. Everyone is affected or knows someone who is recovering. As I drive by the lots in wine country with only the fireplace left standing or a burnt pickup tr…

Friends who visit often volunteer. “If you ever need any help when it’s time to pick the grapes, just let us know,” they say. The same people often continue, “It could be like an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode and we can drink wine and have fun.” Little do they know that picking grapes is not for the…

Sometimes a property just needs a little more oomph. The gardens are green, the flowers come and go, but what kind of a statement can be made to really demonstrate that yours is a special and unique place. The answer is: a piece of sculpture, a work of art. I see more and more sculptures dot…

The bugs are here and I doubt I need to remind you. Bugs are as much a part of wine country as dogs, old trucks and Felco pruners. Bugs like ladybugs and bees can be good for the plants as they make things happen. Bugs are good for the eco system; I just don’t want them to be a part of my pe…

Each year my baby boomer friend spends hours in front of the TV watching the NCAA college basketball tournament. He has his routine down pat and it is perfect. He plays hooky and binge watches the games from home all day, one after the other. During breaks he indulges himself by enjoying a b…

How hard has it been raining lately? After the last storm I had the option of turning left out of our driveway and dealing with a mudslide. If I turned right I couldn’t get far because there was a giant oak tree that had fallen across the road. Choices, choices, choices.

A gaggle of former business colleagues showed up here in wine country a few weeks ago. They were finishing up a company leadership “retreat” and spent mornings at Meadowood playing with Post-it Notes, easels and facilitators as they wrestled with visions, missions and values. Without even be…

My attempts at developing a proper garden around the place are now history. I gave up with the full support of the family. The burn pile is growing with the dead plants and flowers that I had imagined would grow into beautiful blossoming or fruit-bearing specimens.

The guy was seated in a folding chair at the Safeway entrance with a cardboard box on his lap. The box held four very cute, very little kittens. It was a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting and probably illegal. Three of the kittens were all black and one was mostly black with a few hand…

Wine country requirements include owning a collection of hats for different occasions and weather. I have one hat for crawling around under the house. I have another for going wine tasting. Another hat, the fancy one with no sweat stains, is reserved for going to weddings. A special one, mor…

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The demographics of wine country are diverse. Next year go see for yourself at the St. Helena Fire Department Lobster Feed. It is a great time and you might sit next to Francis Ford Coppola or a cashier from Steves Hardware or an investment banker from New York City or a winemaker.

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How many bats flying around in the house are too many? Most people would say one bat in the house is too many and I agree. When we have a bat in the house, we shift into action like a well-oiled machine. It took practice and a perspective that “it’s only one?”

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Winter fires in wine country are part of the romance and part of the landscape. There are basically two types of fires here. The first type is the gentle fire in the cottages and B&Bs with spa music playing in the background. The other is just called the burn pile. All year long we throw…

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What about that drought? It really made us sit up and take notice about water, didn’t it? We are not sure that the drought is over but it is now raining and that’s a good thing. It feels like the wait for the rain has taken years. The new rain might be the result of El Nino, but it’s probabl…

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It was a pretty normal dinner party until the corn on the cob was served. The corn was prepared by the host on the grill, wrapped in aluminum foil, which makes it all the more tasty and all the more chewy. It was the trademark dish of the host so everyone was eager to bite into it. You have …

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I love the billboards on either end of the valley. Regardless of the direction one is traveling on Highway 29, the signs are there to greet one and all: Welcome to this World Famous Wine Growing Region — Napa Valley. The sign goes on to quote our famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson, “And th…

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Attitudes toward raccoons hereabouts are at two ends of the spectrum. There are no attitudes in the middle.

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Creating “TO DO” lists is no problem for me. Doing the things on the list is another matter.

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The birds are back and around the house there is much to see. For example, I didn’t know that the pool sweep could also serve as a perch. One large blackbird will stand on the part of the sweep that is not submerged for long periods. He, or she, will ride the sweep like a bucking bronco as i…

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My neighbor just built a new fence. Rather, he built a wall as if he is expecting an attack from the Vandals and Visigoths. It is a beautiful wall constructed of river rock by the many wall artists in these parts. The wall is taller than I am. At occasional intervals iron gates interrupt the…

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No, I am not thinking about Bill and Melinda Gates. Although, Bill and Melinda, if you are reading this, I am available for dinner pretty much any time. The gates I want to consider are all of those that grace our fair valley. We are considering a new gate and as I’ve reviewed the options, i…

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The dimensions of wine country are complex and varied. The area could just as easily be called Old Truck Country or Bachelorette Party Country or Annoying Limos Everywhere Country. But none of those monikers compare to the No. 2 activity here: eating. If climate change hits and the wine busi…

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Many believe that this simple fact is now true: Thanksgiving may be the only day left in the year for family, friends and food. It is a day of generosity and talking to each other in a relaxed way. (Or it should be.) I believe the test of a true holiday is when one set of questions is replac…

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Wine country is truly a magical place when it comes to the fruits, vines and berries that grow here. Don’t believe me? As a visitor recently pointed out to me, we have trees that feature golf balls as the fruit.

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This is a story about cutting down trees. Lots of trees. Before the hate mail pours in, I should mention I love trees. When I was in college I lived in the room once occupied by Joyce Kilmer, the brilliant poet who penned the poem, “Trees.” You know the one, here is a sample verse…

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When I see the visiting tourist couples who are holding hands and looking at the houses for sale in the windows of the Realtors on Main Street, I want to warn them that life here is not all fun and games. Or better put, not all wine and food.

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If there is a distinction between trash and treasure in wine country, it is a blurry one. An affliction seizes all who spend time here — it is the inability to throw anything away. I know. Recently, I put a broken electric hedge trimmer in the trashcan. The trimmer hadn’t worked in years and…

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Not long ago I came home to find 20 firefighters on the roof of my house. It was not a drill; they were using our roof as the platform to extinguish the fire in the house NEXT DOOR. We were lucky. No damage to our house except for dogs that may never recover from the trauma.

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The new rains have introduced creepy wet things on the wall in the basement. I can’t tell if the things are alive or not but from the looks of them, they could be carrying a horrible virus that makes one’s skin disintegrate.

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Skunks are not supposed to be seen during the day. So when one was spotted wandering around near the house during the day it generated a lot of commotion. I suspect all sorts of critters wander around the property at night but I don’t see them so they don’t count. It’s better that we don’t k…

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The mailbox is full of catalogs and gift ideas extolling the virtues of stuff that is related to Wine Country. The catalog’s message is that we have an abundance of goodies here, and, if you play your cards right you just might receive a cool doodad made from an old wine barrel with the word…

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Walk around any city neighborhood come Halloween and the scary decorations are in full bloom. Front porches look like movie sets where Freddy Kruger would hang around. The decorating contest seems to escalate each year. Not in the country, we don’t need all that showy stuff — we have it all …

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The kids hate it when I say it, but I say it all the time anyway: “Look out the window, people come from all over the world to see what we have all the time!” They groan and say, “We know Dad.” Now I have been proven 100 percent right by Williams-Sonoma.

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All rules of etiquette dictate that when invited to someone’s home, it is appropriate to bring the host a small token of appreciation. However, in wine country, this tradition creates a big dilemma because the usual gift is a bottle of wine. Is it proper to bring a bottle of wine to someone …

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On the scale of fancy wine cellars, ours would be near the bottom. Mostly because it is in the cellar, the same place that houses broken lamps, tire chains for driving in the snow and Fourth of July decorations. It is dark and dank and cool year round so it attracts spiders and their webs an…

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Pity the poor wine barrel. A beautiful oak barrel is the keeper of the valley’s nectar one day; and, once used, too quickly sent to unknown exile.

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