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A HOLIDAY GIFT to Napa Valley  residents (who are not being “recessionized.”) You may recall that in last week’s column I mentioned the “Twelve Days of Christmas” celebration at Meadowood, which began Tuesday, and will feature a daily feast prepared by a celebrity chef from across America. The price of each feast is $1,225, and includes one night’s lodging.

Meadowood has now announced that Napa Valley residents may enjoy the gala event, sans the overnight lodging, for $350 per person. Call (800) 458-8080 for your choice of dinners and reservation. Also, The Food Channel will be televising the preparations of each of the 12 feasts (including recipes) so “recessionized” viewers can enjoy them vicariously. Check it out at www.foodnetwork.com/meadowood.

Speaking of holiday gifts, Charles O’Rear and his wife, Daphne, have announced that their book, “Wines across America” which is available at book stores for $35 can be purchased through Amazon for $23.10. And better yet, if you are a Bay Area resident and have 10 “nuts-about-wine” friends, you can buy a case of 10 books at a 50 percent discount … but you have to pick the case up at the O’Rear home in St. Helena. Call 963-2663 for directions to enter into your GPS.

St. Clement Winery has opened “The Winemaker’s Lounge,” a new hospitality room, in the old stone building behind the winery. Guests can choose from five single-vineyard wines to enjoy for a personalized tasting with an option to add a chocolate and cheese pairing component.

Here is more info on the Disney Corporation’s film, “Bedtime Stories,” which was shot at Dario Sattui’s Castello di Amorosa. The film will be released nationally on Christmas Day. Dario said he tried to have it shown at the Cameo, but apparently the studio decided to screen it in Napa.

You may recall that I had written that the filming took 24 days and that 300 extras were employed for the project.  Dario said that every hotel in Napa and Santa Rosa was booked during that time which brought millions of dollars into the local economy. Dario donated $100,000 (a significant part of his remuneration) to local charities, including Rianda House, the St. Helena School District, Justin Siena High School, Acorn Soupe, the Napa Valley Hospice, and more.

Didja catch the Wall Street Journal’s wine columnists, the husband and wife team of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, in an hour-long interview on PBS’s “Fresh Air” on Monday night? The subject was good wines at inexpensive prices. They said that one should never buy a wine priced under $3. I wouldn’t know where to find such a wine. They also said that good wines under $10 can be found, such as malbecs from Argentina and Chile. Under $20, they recommended sauvignon blancs from South Africa and New Zealand. They didn’t have much to say about California wines, let alone Napa Valley wines, except that the mark-up on well-known brands on restaurant wine lists are high because of their popularity and that people feel comfortable drinking them (as the mark-up increases, the value decreases). This may be an East Coast perspective.

Journalist Lewis (Lew) Perdue is back after a nine-year hiatus from the wine industry. In 1992, he wrote the book “The French Paradox and Beyond,” which, along with the 60-minute television show of the same name, pointed out that the French have less cardiac disease in spite of their high-fat and high-cholesterol diets. The concept had a huge impact on wine consumption in America, and red wines sales went through the roof. Lew’s new project is “Wine Industry Insight,” an online blog of wine industry business. You can view his blog at http://wineindustryinsight.blogspot.com.

In the inaugural edition, he lays out the details of the ongoing Copia financial morass. Briefly, the ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation, the insurer of  Copia’s $78 million bond debt, says that Copia’s decision to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a sham to prevent creditors from collecting money owed them.

Here’s a new racket for the wine industry to worry about … stealing their photo-voltaic panels (each weighs about 35 pounds, and costs about $1,000). The latest victim was Honig Winery,  which had 39 panels taken from its 819-panel array on Thanksgiving evening. Stealing panels is no job for amateurs. The panels are bolted down and require special tools to remove them.

Also, a couple of months ago, thieves stole panels from one of the Napa College buildings. The Napa County Sheriff’s Department is working on both cases, but no luck yet. The thieves have a job selling them since each panel has an ID number stamped on it. The Sheriff’s Department regularly checks Crigslist to see if any used panels are listed for sale, and then investigates.

Seems like every conversation among friends these days is about the worsening recession. We’ll know the recession has hit Napa Valley when a notice is posted on the door of The French Laundry … “Walk-ins Welcome.”

CABOOSE ITEM: Last week was the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. In an old book of toasts I found these quotes, fitting for the occasion:

“God bless America and damn Prohibition.”

“Here’s to prohibition. May it continue to reduce the number of men who think they can sing.”

“When Christ turned water into wine,

There were no drys to scold and whine,

Today, prohibitors would rant and rail

And send the son of God to Jail.”

(George Starke can be reached at wineroads@yahoo.com or by phone at 942-0733.)

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