Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

This has been an unexceptional year. The Courtney family’s daily routines of 2017 continued through 2018. No changes in jobs, homes or cars. No health drama. This column managed to appear on each of 52 consecutive Sundays.

There was a hint of excitement last summer when we obtained new passports. I dreamed of an overseas vacation in 2019. I’d immerse myself in itinerary planning, then we’d jump on travel deals this winter for a trip next spring.

Have I read even one travel brochure, scrolled even one travel website?

I have not. I couldn’t find the time.

I blame Netflix. I blame getting up too early and going to bed too early for me to have made any headway. Routine has me in its iron grip.

Cheryl isn’t complaining about our stalled travel initiative. She’s has ongoing projects and interests.

Most noteworthy, the Instant Pot. She bought one at mid-year to speed up preparation of and add flavor to evening meals. (For months we called it an Insta Pot, but that turned out to be utterly wrong.)

My mother, bless her soul, would have marveled at how the humble pressure cooker of her generation has come back in a high-tech, must-have version.

We had some tense moments when Cheryl cooked her first meal and prepared to release the lid. Might the high-pressure Instant Pot explode and take her head off?

My helpful suggestion: Let’s sandbag it.

Things have worked out. Indeed, Cheryl was so happy with her small Instant Pot that she bought a second, larger one — one big enough to cook a whole chicken with vegetables.

Sometimes she has two Instant Pots going at once. After dinner she reads Instant Pot cookbooks.

This has also been the year of Cheryl’s meadow project. A rear lawn that had gone to weeds during the drought is now being brought back to life as a model of native plant sustainability.

It’s not impressive right now, but it’s a start, says Cheryl who is currently focused on scavenging rocks and arranging them just so.

We had a surprise wine moment at year’s end. My daughter was gifted a bottle of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon from perhaps the valley’s most prestigious vineyard. And she in turn gifted it to us.

Guess the retail value, she said. I got up to $120, then gave up.

$160, she beamed.

What do we do with such pricey wine? A wine more than twice as valuable as any wine I’ve probably ever tasted?

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We won’t drink it, that’s for sure. We’re too miserly. Our palates are not worthy.

I’m currently “cellaring” this prized possession in an unheated cubby next to our bedroom. I may transfer it to a safe deposit box.

On a sentimental note, 2018 was the year that housing began to take shape on the old Napa Valley Register site in downtown.

Every time I drive by the construction site I have mixed feelings. I worked for some 40 years in the old building. It was a second home until the earthquake did its damage.

Yet I’m happy to see dense housing going up. It’s what the times call for.

I’m happier yet to have the Register still humming along in new quarters on Soscol Avenue, and me now in a decked out cubicle.

The thing that most astonishes me in the new downtown isn’t the units going up at Register Square, but the luxury Archer Napa hotel which landed with a spectacular thump last winter.

At five stories — plus a rooftop terrace — the Archer dwarfs everything else in downtown. It seems to hover like a gleaming mother ship, attracting a bevy of stylish shops that have clustered at its base.

You can gaze at the Archer and its glass balconies from up close or from many blocks away. There’s no not seeing it.

I marvel how it came to be in the middle of our downtown. I try to imagine what comes next.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.