“If you want to stand out from the crowd, give people a reason
not to forget you.”– Sir Richard Branson

Napa Valley is best known as one of the world’s premier wine and food destinations, but it’s the people who live here who make it such a special place. In our 2022 Intriguing People Edition, we’d like to introduce you to this year’s list of Napa residents we think are worth getting to know.

Intriguing profiles by fran miller

 

Photo by Kim Carroll

DENISE ADAMS
VITICULTURALIST / VINTNER

No stranger to winemaking when she and her husband Stephen founded Napa Valley’s ADAMVS in 2008, Denise Adams had previously perfected her vinous technique as proprietor of the highly esteemed and historic Château Fonplégade in the legendary Saint-Émilion wine region of Bordeaux. Today, Adams splits her time between Bordeaux, where she painstakingly revitalized a time-worn chateau and its vineyards, and Howell Mountain, where she and her team craft lush, high-end estate Cabernet Sauvignons. “There is a natural rhythm that has taken place over the years, which is to rotate every two months or so,” said Adams. “This routine allows us significant time to dig in and get work done, yet we never feel apart from either property for too long. I am blessed to have staff at both properties who are deeply committed.” At ADAMVS (Latin for ‘borne of our red earth’), Adams employs the same organic and biodynamic practices she established in France, where farm records date to the 16th century. “It was/is an amazing privilege to resurrect a historic chateau in a highly esteemed and historic winemaking region, yet equally exciting and challenging to create something from the ground up on Howell Mountain,” said Adams, a trained artist who enjoyed the creative process in helping design the ADAMVS buildings, wine library, tasting room, and winery. “These buildings all have meaning and significance to the land, the wines, and to me personally. I love entertaining and spoiling my family and friends with surprises, comfort, and beauty when they are in my home and gardens, so I took this same innate approach to imagine how our guests and future members would experience ADAMVS. We consider it a privilege to be a part of this great growing region and bring some of our knowledge from France to Napa.” // www.adamvs.com

 

ANNE ALDERSON
INTERIOR DESIGNER / OWNER, BRICK AND MANTEL

At age 19, Anne Alderson was instrumental in building her own custom home. From that experience, she learned that she loved the design process. This led to her eventual work for various interior designers in the Lake Tahoe region where she grew up, while she pursued design at the University of Nevada, Reno. After more than a decade of running her full-service interior design studio and home stores in Truckee and Petaluma, she opened her Napa business. As the owner of Brick & Mantel, she is one of Valley’s most prominent interior designers, with a long list of loyal clients who find inspiration within her newly expanded Bel Aire Plaza showroom, where she features 100% American-made handcrafted furniture, custom upholstery, lighting, area rugs, and home accessories. She designs everything from the ground up, from initial space planning to finishing accessories. Adept at helping to bring her client’s visions to life, Alderson recommends that photos of favorite vignettes, colors, and furnishings be saved and shared. “These are essential tools for a designer to understand the look the client wants to achieve,” she said. “A good designer will be able to recreate the feel their clients wish to convey in the space they have.” Her easy-going and collaborative work style has earned her a legion of fans in both the residential and commercial realms. When not designing, she can be found enjoying the region’s ideal weather and the outdoor opportunities afforded. She loves cooking, baking, horseback riding, and wine tasting. // www.brickandmantel.com

 

DAN DAWSON
WINE ADVISOR

Dan Dawson moved to Napa in 1992 for two reasons: to find his place in the world of restaurants and fine dining, and more importantly, he had a Napa-based friend who had a couch on which he could crash. “To me, Napa was and is a Goldilocks town: not too big, not too small… just right,” said Dawson, who has always loved the region’s food and wine culture. Before finding his true calling as a wine merchant, his hospitality career included employment as a sommelier (French Laundry, 1998-2000), apprentice chef, food server, dining room captain, and hotel manager. “Every job, plus my Hospitality Management degree from UNLV, made a lasting impression and positive influence on my wine career.” From 2002 to 2017, he owned and operated Back Room Wines, still considered one of the Valley’s best wine shops for small-production California wines and wines from abroad. His newest venture, Outer Space Wines, opened this fall in Downtown Napa. “Running a small business takes many skills,” said Dawson, who is both the owner and manager. “The two that I think are most instrumental in my success are my ability to taste and identify high quality and value, and to be able to communicate to my clientele what makes these wines exceptional.”

Dan lives in Coombsville with his wife Holly, daughter Talia and dog Moxie. Beyond wine, Dan is an avid sourdough bread baker, adept gardener (skills picked up during the pandemic), and devoted volunteer coach for Napa United Soccer. His perfect day includes nine holes of golf with the family, a big bowl of mussels and fries with a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and watching the movie “Purple Rain,” which he has viewed at least 20 times. // www.firstandfranklin.com

 

SUSAN DeMATEI
MARKETING MAVEN

After 12 years in tech marketing working on brands such as Apple, Intel, and Sprint, Susan DeMatei moved from San Francisco to Napa for a lifestyle change. “I hit Silicon Valley in 1992, just as the internet was becoming mainstream,” said DeMatei, founder and president of WineGlass Marketing. “I was there for the first websites, emails, and online ads. We were creating things nobody had ever done before.” Her friends laughed when she moved to Napa for the slower pace that her occasional Napa weekend getaways provided. A city girl at heart (she grew up outside Washington DC and went to school in Boston), they thought she’d never consider living in an agricultural town. But once in Napa, she found a home and a successful business. She hasn’t completely abandoned tech, as her company’s mission is to help wineries market themselves using technology. “I love that in Napa, I know my neighbors, which I hadn’t in the city,” said DeMatei. “I’ve been here for almost 20 years, but it wasn’t until I opened a small business and became an employer that I got to know this community intimately. I feel responsible for my employees’ lives here. It is not lost on me that anytime you outsource or subcontract, you’re taking away a job from a local. So I try to hire and support our community.” The one thing about San Francisco she misses? The San Francisco Choral Society, of which she was a member. She loves to sing classical choral music. Other passions include Pueblo Indian pottery (she and her husband have a collection of over 2000 pottery, bone, and wood items in their collection), intricate handmade adult wooden puzzles (“a great stress reducer”), and animal rescue – specifically bulldogs, of which she has fostered 11 in the past 15 years. “This passion has also merged with my company,” said DeMatei. “We are proud to handle marketing for Napa Humane and Friends of the Napa County Animal Shelter.” // www.wineglassmarketing.com

 

Kellie Fuller and the Mike Greensill Trio perform at the Blue Note Napa // Photo by Eric Risberg

KELLIE FULLER
LOCAL ENTERTAINER

Kellie Fuller worked off and on most of her life as a concierge in many Napa Valley hotels and resorts and even the local hospital. She also served as a professional doula, a midwifes assistant, and a childbirth educator, in addition to spending five years on-air with local radio station KVYN/KVON, where she produced and hosted “Kellie in the Morning.” But singing has always been her number one passion. “My mom says I was singing before I could walk,” said Fuller, whose dad is a professional musician. “My dads band often practiced in our garage when I was a toddler, and I loved to sing along.” Fuller, a self-taught pianist, joined every choir or singing group she could as a child. She started entering talent shows in the second grade. “Ive always looked for every opportunity to sing. Even when I paused my music career to raise my kids, I still sang on special occasions for friends and family.” It was Fullers Vintage High School music teacher, Kathy Blumer, who encouraged her to pursue singing as a career. She received her degree in performing arts from Napa Valley College and studied classical singing for several years before finding mentors in Terry Bradford and Wesla Whitfield. These days, when shes not performing regularly at Blue Note Napa, Fuller can be found at local venues listening or dancing to live music. “Im all about music,” said Fuller, who admits to being a serious ‘Trekkie in her downtime. She also admits to a curious post-performance ritual. “When I get home after a show, Im usually pretty amped up. I go over the whole show in my mind like I hear each song as if its playing again. Then, after washing off the make-up, I open a can of green beans, heat it up, and add Miyokos butter and salt. Its just so comforting and good!” Fans say the same of her singing. // www.kelliefuller.com

 

TIM GASKELL
MARTIAL ARTS PROFESSOR

As a child, Tim Gaskell poured over the 1980 Guinness Book of World Records with a goal to one day break his own record. He did so on July 18, 2021, after 31 hours and 32 minutes of consistent tai chi movement. Over that weekend, Gaskell performed the ancient martial art dance in slow motion until he was utterly exhausted, resulting in a world record title of ‘Longest Tai Chi Marathon.’ In doing so, he raised funds for the cancer, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and Parkinson’s research foundations via live stream. “Helping people is my motivation,” said the professor of martial arts and personal trainer who specializes in tai chi, yoga, meditation, MMA, and self-defense at Active Wellness Center in Napa. He advocates that various versions of tai chi can help anyone improve wellness and self-efficacy. Gaskell also offers an online video course as a resource to learn tai chi, yoga, and other martial arts at www.mytaichicourse.com. Occasionally, he guest lectures at local colleges about the ‘History, Philosophy and Application of Internal Arts.’ His family started its martial arts journey in late 1983 and traveled the world learning from various masters in a multitude of styles. In 1996, Gaskell initiated a martial arts career by partnering with local fitness centers and private facilities in Napa. His other professional experiences include production management, audio engineering, security, web development, and graphic design. Now devoted full time to his passion, Gaskell spends his free time gardening, cooking, woodworking, and trading cryptocurrency, as well as enjoying trips to the Sonoma Coast with his wife Alyssa and two dogs. Born in Napa, Gaskell has never felt the need to flee. “Napa Valley has a perfect climate and is home to some of the best food, wine, and people in the world.”

 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

DAWN KING
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR

As a FBI special agent, Dawn King was an expert in finding and developing informants. Often undercover, she worked on violent crime, drug, and computer crime cases and was incredibly successful in bringing many criminals to justice. She earned six letters of commendation from the Director of the FBI and was rated as “exceptional” for eight years straight. Then, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Eventually, she started her own investigation business in Napa – Dawn to Dawn Investigations. For nearly 20 years, King has served as a licensed private investigator, providing services to private citizens as well as attorneys. “I do all kinds of investigative work including civil litigation support, criminal defense, asset searches, difficult locates, background investigations and even missing persons and murder investigations,” said King, who also performs occasional surveillance for cases involving worker’s compensation, cheating spouses, and child custody. Heady stuff, and likely a surprise for those who know King through her avocations as horseback rider, golfer, skier, scuba diver, hiker, and winemaker. (She and her husband planted a quarter acre of Cabernet grapes after moving to Napa 20 years ago from which they make a delicious Coombsville Cab.) “The breathtaking beauty brought me to Napa, as well as the people, the wineries, the entertainment, the fabulous restaurants and of course the weather,” said King, who is known to play a mean air guitar. “I also love the hometown feel of Napa; any place with a Christmas parade and a 4th of July parade has to be loved. There’s not one month that goes by that I don’t enjoy something about Napa and the wine country.” // www.dawntodawninvestigations.com

 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

DAVID LONG
VINTNER

Before founding his winery, David Arthur Vineyards, Palo-Alto born David Long was a restaurateur. He owned a popular 40-seat fondue restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, where he had attended college at the University of Denver. But the restaurant business was no match for the allure of Napa, where he returned to work in the cellars and vineyards of Schramsberg, Joseph Phelps, and Chappellet while learning the business and developing and planting his own vineyard on his family’s property. Forty-five years ago he moved to Napa to help work his family’s ranch land high atop Pritchard Hill, Palo. Starting in the 1950s and over the years, Long’s father Don had acquired nearly 1,000 acres in the prized St. Helena region in hopes of one day starting a winery. In 1978, 28-year-old David built a small barn on the property and began planting grapevines. Recognizing the excellent quality of his grapes, his then-wife Joye suggested that rather than sell his grapes, he convert the barn to a winery. Eponymously named David Arthur Vineyards, its 1985 inaugural release coincided with the birth of David’s daughter Laura, who serendipitously now runs the day-to-day operations of the winery and vineyards. “Laura has the same passion for our business that I do,” said Long. “We share an office and a hug every day. It’s just the best!” In 2016, the duo welcomed Laura’s husband Teddy and his father Paul Bystrowski as partners. The foursome produce lush Bordeaux varietals and a highly regarded Cabernet Sauvignon from what might be the oldest Cab vines on Pritchard Hill. Long, an art major who studied pottery spends what little free time he has skiing, auto racing, cooking, and gardening. “I love that at its heart, this is an agriculture-focused community,” he said. “We farm at a high level. I love that we grow a product that is going to be enjoyed by people. When you arrive at someone’s house, no one expects you to bring a bag of Brussel sprouts!” // www.davidarthur.com

 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

PAUL MABRAY
WINE INDUSTRY CHANGEMAKER

Paul Mabray’s life has been a journey of connecting wine and tech. From his first job, where he increased sales by building his own customer relationship management system, to hiring a consultant at Niebaum Coppola to create the first wine club processing software, to being part of the first wave of online wine sites (WineShopper/Wine.com), and founding two successful wine-tech companies (WineDirect and VinTank), all of his experiences led him to his role as CEO at Pix – the world’s first wine discovery platform with a simple matchmaking mission: to pair people with bottles that bring them joy. “One of the most famous masters of wine once told me that becoming Pix’s CEO was like the old Guinness commercial, ‘This is the beer you’ve been practicing for,’” said Mabray, a father of four. “I believe the path forward for the sustainability of our community and our industry is a healthy adoption of digital. We need tools to better connect with consumers around the world. Nothing made this clearer than the recent pandemic.” Mabray, whose wife is the CEO of Donum Estate, grew up in Napa, but at age 18, he ventured to Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and New York. He paid his way through college by selling comic books. “But Napa has a magical pull that called me back. Northern California intermingles country living with the rich culinary magic of big cities. Every experience you can imagine is within three hoursthe snow, the ocean, the lakes, and the city. And the wine industry is truly one of the rare categories where our product binds us not only to the land and environment but to each other as a community. I’m happy to be not only a resident but an active member of this community.” A voracious reader and consumer of content, Mabray also enjoys writing (he has profiles on both Medium and Substack) and playing both board and video games. “Their deep immersion gives me a short escape from the intense pressure of being a startup CEO.” // www.pix.wine

 

MICHELLE MANDRO
WINE COUNTRY AUTHOR AND INSPIRER

After an early television career and positions within corporate America at Universal Studios and YUM Brands Inc., Michelle Mandro moved to Napa Valley in 2005 as the Executive Director of the American Institute of Wine & Food, a national association founded by Robert Mondavi and Julia Child. Today, as the founder and president of Wine Country Women LLC., she is an author, podcast host, wine country expert, and change maker. “Ever since I started my company, I’ve become a bit of a workaholic,” said the Florida-born Mandro, who spent most of her adult life in Kentucky, where she worked on-air in television news for the CBS and NBC affiliates in Louisville. “There’s some crossover between my work and personal life. I enjoy wine tasting, hosting dinner parties, and learning about different cultures and businesses.” A busy work schedule has led to her pledge to say ‘yes’ to non-work activities. “I enjoy traveling – visiting favorite places and discovering new ones, intimate live concerts, seeing a polo match or NYC fashion show.” She supports cancer initiatives due to her mother’s passing from ovarian cancer and historic preservation initiatives. Due to her Kentucky heritage, it is no surprise to learn that she loves horses and the Kentucky Derby. “I’ve seen more than 15 Derby races, from watching in the infield as a high school student to sitting on Millionaires Row with celebrities and police escorts. It’s one of the most magical times to be in the State and should be on everyone’s bucket list!” But after 17 years in Napa Valley, she admits to feeling more and more like a California girl. “I love the diversity of the landscape, the moonlight falling on the vineyards, the aroma of grape juice during the harvest season, and the endless amount of fresh, fantastic food. I love the gracious, thoughtful, truly down-to-earth community of people. Whether dealing with fires, the pandemic, a charity event, or the harvest – the wine country community is compassionate. It is one-of-a-kind, and I’m glad to be a small part of it!” // www.winecountrywomen.com

 

Photo by Tony Banthutham

CARLO MARCHIORI
ARTIST / GALLERY OWNER

Born in the Venice countryside, Carlo Marchiori ventured to art school in Padua before heading to Canada at age 18 to work as a film animator for CBC Television. From there, he moved to Tokyo to produce television commercials, then to New Zealand and Brazil before returning to Toronto. He ended up in Napa 35 years ago after a short time in San Francisco, where his search for warmer weather was thwarted by the City’s notoriously cold summers. “I decided to warm up in Calistoga,” said the octogenarian artist, who found great success as a muralist, adorning the walls of Las Vegas hotels, casinos, and restaurants in the Renaissance/classical styles that he’d learned in Padua. His beautiful and often whimsical artworks (stone plaques, ceramics, porcelain, sculptures, paintings, and more) can be seen at his Ca’ Toga Gallery in Calistoga. “Calistoga turned out to be a lottery prize, a great little town,” he proclaimed. Within his six acres along the headwaters of the Napa River, Marchiori has recreated a bit of Italy to console his nostalgia for his native land. “Napa reminds me of my native hilly countryside,” said Marchiori. His Ca’ Toga villa, where he gives private tours every Saturday from May through October, is frescoed in various classical styles; the grounds are reminiscent of Roman ruins, presenting an evocative antique setting in an “abandoned state” among olive trees, weeds, and wild ducks swimming in a pond. He discourages catalog consumerism and encourages others to use their imaginations to realize their own ideas. Marchiori states, “To create is to express and to reassure oneself in this prefab, marketed culture” Ever energetic and curious, he continues to indulge his many hobbies, passions, and ideas. “I can entertain myself by absorbing project after project. I like history, art, ancient cities, ruins, and American National Parks for their primordial sense of space. Nature always wins me over. When I think of my life and career, I realize I have had an engaged, happy, and fruitful existence.” // www.catoga.com

 

Photo by David Collier

BRITNY MAUREZE
EXECUTIVE CHEF

Britny Maureze moved to Napa 14 years ago to attend the Culinary Institute of America and couldn’t find a reason to leave. After her CIA graduation, she honed her wine and food pairing skills at Chateau Montelena, Signorello Estate, and St. Supery before finding a home as the first in-house executive chef at Sequoia Grove, where she has helped to build the culinary program from the ground up. “When I saw the opportunity to start a culinary program from scratch in a brand new facility, I jumped headlong into it, and my risk paid off,” said Maureze, who holds a degree in psychology with an emphasis in behavioral neuroscience.

As Sequoia Grove’s executive chef since 2018, Maureze changes her delectable “A Taste for Cabernet” tasting menus seasonally, utilizing the freshest, locally sourced ingredients to bring out the best in Sequoia Grove wines, the grapes of which have been sourced from both high-altitude vineyards and those on the valley floor since the winery’s 1979 inception. Featuring creative dishes such as potato-crusted halibut with primavera sauce, Mediterranean falafel with black garlic yogurt, and duck confit empanadas with mole Rojo – all paired with Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignons – hers is one of the most highly rated tasting experiences in the valley. “I love the easy access to the wide variety of produce, meats, and seafood that we have here, and of course, the proximity to the best wines in the country,” said Maureze, who, when asked which of her qualities might surprise people, admits to being a huge Weird Al fan. In addition to the side business she created in 2019 (Chef Brit’s Baked Goods, where she makes a variety of brownie flavors), Maureze spends free time at the area’s parks with her 2 ½-year-old daughter Genevieve. And she loves the proximity to California’s beaches and mountains. “We are so spoiled here!” // www.sequoiagrove.com

 

BOB McCLENAHAN
NAPA VALLEY PHOTOGRAPHER

His work is ubiquitous. Bucolic vineyard images. Black and white portraits. Perfectly illuminated bottle shots. As one of Napa Valley’s most prolific photographers, Bob McClenahan captures the vibe and tenor of the region through the lens of his Fuji cameras. His images are seen in magazines, books, brochures, billboards, and websites. He records for posterity the goings-on at marquee events such as BottleRock, Festival Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Film Festival, and The V Foundation Wine Celebration. His client list is a who’s who of Napa Valley industry leaders – each of whom acknowledges his work as instrumental in attracting visitors to the area.

McClenahans love for wine countrys lifestyle is evident in every one of his photographs – an irony that he acknowledges. “I moved to Napa in 2005, and frankly, I hated it. I didnt like wine or the stuffy nature of it all.” But a strong sense of community quickly drew him in, as did the areas natural beauty. “The vineyards, oak-covered hillsides, bright yellow mustard, and rolling hills of Carneros… theres a lot of beauty here to photograph.” He had never intended to become a photographer. “It just kind of happened,” said McClenahan. “I had been laid off, and that caused me to give photography a shot.” Previous professions include grocery store clerk during college, compliance officer auditing books and records for financial companies post-college, and even a stint at MTV during the dawn of the internet, where he provided website content. “I was hired to write CD reviews, band interviews, and concert reviews. They needed images to accompany the articles, and thats when I started taking photos.” The rest, as is said, is photographic history. // www.bobmcclenahan.com

 

Photo by Nic Meerholz, Sea Timber Media

CHUCK MEYER
FOOD & BEVERAGE ENTREPRENEUR

Chuck Meyer sampled many ‘real jobs’ upon graduation from UCLA before discovering his true calling in the hospitality industry. Before founding Napa Palisades Saloon and Beer Company, First and Franklin Marketplace, Ox and the Fox, and most currently, Outer Space Wines, he was a dishwasher, a bartender, a lifeguard, a custom ski boot fitter, a hand model, and a game show contestant. (He’s appeared on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and $25,000 Pyramid.) For nearly ten years, he has also served as director of food and beverage for Bottle Rock Napa Valley. “I am a serial entrepreneur focused primarily on food and beverage,” said Meyer, who moved to Napa from San Francisco in 2010 for the weather, the laid-back vibe, and the proximity to mountains, city, and beach. “I’m particularly interested in how to sustainably offer higher-end ingredients while maintaining a price point that can be accessible to everyday humans.” During the dark days of the pandemic, Meyer created Feed Napa Now in acknowledgment that even though he and others in the hospitality industry were in a difficult situation, many had it worse, He continued to purchase food inventory that he then shared with his staff. In addition, he partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley to raise funds to provide meals for those with food insecurity, and with the help of local restaurants, he organized weekly meals for delivery to those in need. A fan of all Bay Area sports teams, Meyer’s biggest obsession is skiing, followed by any other activity enjoyed on water. “Frozen, or flowing; boats, skis, or boards, I love it all,” said Meyer, whose other pastime is chasing after his five and two-year-old boys. // www.napapalisades.com, www.firstandfranklin.com

 

Photo by Evan Roscoe

ERIN RILEY
SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

As the owner of Be Bubbly, Erin Riley brings the Napa Valley its first-ever dedicated champagne and sparkling wine bar. The idea percolated when she ran the wine shop for the Napa Valley Wine Train. “I saw that this was a missing niche, and I started putting my business plan together,” said Riley, a lover of great food, wine, and travel. She hand selects and serves more than 100 of the best champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world at her downtown Napa tasting room. Born in Memphis and raised in Nashville, she spent most of her young adult life in Texas. But when her sister moved to Yountville, Riley visited and fell in love with the town. “When I got the opportunity to transfer with my company 22 years ago, I jumped.”

Before opening Be Bubbly, she served as a multi-store district manager for companies such as Williams Sonoma, where she worked at the San Francisco corporate headquarters before settling in Napa as the sales director for Villagio Inn and Spa and Vintage Inn, a position that exposed her to the wine country lifestyle. In the interim, she purchased a 47’ sailboat intending to sail around the world. After five months of training and preparation, she sailed from Baltimore to Bermuda to Virgin Gorda. But after surviving two hurricanes, she decided to return to the comfort of Napa. “The people who live and work here are very dedicated to the industries that support this wine-growing region, so I have made great friends who also share my love of food, wine, and travel,” said Riley. “I love the beauty that is all around us! The hillsides and the vineyards still take my breath away. It reminds me very much of being in the Champagne countryside.” // www.bebubbly.com

 

CRAIG SMITH
COMMUNITY LEADER

When Craig Smith became the Executive Director of the Downtown Napa Association (DNA) 26 years ago, it was simply a part-time gig meant to hold him over while he and a friend worked on a startup. But the job ended up being more fun than Smith could ever have imagined. Parttime turned to fulltime years ago. And that startup? It never came to fruition. As DNA’s director, Smith’s role is to foster better business in the downtown area, provide support for the merchants and professionals, and promote downtown as the core of the community for business, entertainment, and culture – something that comes naturally to him. He fell in love with the region 28 years ago when he followed a crush (now his wife) to town. “The weather, the outdoors, the people – I love all of it,” said Smith, who sheepishly admits that he isn’t a wine drinker. He doesn’t drink at all. He loves the way different organizations work hand-in-hand, without worrying whose turf it is. “And I love that people immediately come together to solve something when something goes wrong.” Smith formerly worked for the GAP and the American Lung Association. “Which seem like disparate professions, but ironically the DNA wanted someone with retail and nonprofit experience. Who else even has that?” Smith and his wife love to travel. In the past year, they ventured to Botswana and Antarctica. He loves kayaking, cycling, and cooking. He even wrote and self-published a mystery novel, Lies that Bind – How Do You Arrest Someone Who Doesn’t Exist? “Despite winning a fiction award and receiving five stars on Amazon, only about 500 people have read it,” laughed Smith. “But check it out; it’s a good read if I do say so myself.” // www.donapa.com

 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

RICHARD VON SAAL
CREATOR AND DESIGNER

According to Richard Von Saal’s mother, his creative persona was revealed right out of the womb. At the earliest age, he was drawing buildings, fashion, furniture, and cars and assembling geometric shapes into functions. “My passion for creating materials and colors into patterns of functionality has always been prevalent,” said Von Saal. “My mind never rests nor slows down, a blessing and a curse.” The highly regarded designer refers to himself as an artist ‘supported by the blood and guts of an entrepreneurial mind.’ “For the most part, I assemble craft, and business is always the muse,” said the former proprietor of Mixers Juice bar and Health Shoppe in St. Helena, where he used juice to heal his cancer and opening the store to cancer patients. That led to his opening of Mixers Eclectic Cafe and Juice Bar in Napa on Jefferson Street, where he served smoothies, fresh juices, and gourmet coffee in a space he designed and built with his “then” artist fiancé. “We built every inch of the space and designed/built the furniture, leather textured the walls, opened beam ceilings with sprawling curly willow branches and copper melting carrot stools.” Northern California satisfies Von Saal’s many passions. The avid collector of artistic furniture, objects, and tchotchkes, loves the communities of Napa, Marin, San Francisco, Humboldt County, and Yolo County for their diversity. “I’ve been an avid outdoorsman trekking far into the forests, fishing the smallest streams and brooks, repelling down abandoned mining shafts from the gold rush days, and then come home to the finest craft food, then caviar toasting with the most splendid wines of all time, heaven! The ocean shores have my soul in the waves, beaches, and cliffs. The forests yield amazing woods that I salvage, Walnut, Monterey Pine, gorgeous Oaks and Olive, and their dust fills my lungs as I create the designs for my clients–pure bliss.” His latest venture, Vonsaal Adjunkt gallery in Downtown Napa, passes his collections to patrons as he forages onward, satisfying his search for yesteryear’s pieces that he will recondition in his inimitable style. // www.vonsaal.com

 

COLLIN WHITE
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR

As the founder and CEO of Stitches Medical, Inc., a medically oriented apparel brand, Collin White and his team design clothing customized to an array of treatments such as post-surgery, chemotherapy, dialysis, and incontinence. The idea was born in his dad’s private medical practice, where patients consistently asked, “What am I supposed to wear?” “I realized that this question was not being met with a clear answer, so I decided to embark on this journey of developing hassle-free apparel that was ideal for wearing both inside and outside clinic visits,” said White, who previously worked as a commercial real estate agent in San Francisco. He has found great satisfaction in transitioning from transactional work to a career that creates comfort for those in need. Born and raised in Napa, White is happy to raise his family in the region where he grew up. “What has kept me in Napa is the idyllic lifestyle. I have two little boys, ages 1 and 4, and Napa Valley has the perfect ingredients for raising a family. I love that we get to live in an agricultural setting where we can smell the grape crush in the air during harvest, see tractors driving along Highway 29, and live in a small community. There’s a certain nostalgia of living in wine country where it feels like we are truly living within a movie.” When not working, White can be found on the polo field. A lifelong polo player, he played as a youth in Argentina, where he developed an affinity for Latin America. (He and his family spend two months each year in Guatemala City, his wife’s hometown.) In high school and college, he played polo at the national level and was elected onto Team USA shortly after college.

He continues to play in various tournaments throughout California as his Stitches Medical, Inc. business flourishes. “I knew that being in business with my father, where we are creating something of value to those in need, would be special,” said White. “I was right.” // www.stitchesmedical.com

 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

BARIS & RODI YILDIZ
LOCAL RESTAURATEURS

Brothers Baris and Rodi Yildiz moved from Kurdistan, Turkey to the Bay Area two years apart when each was 16 years of age. When each arrived, they started working at their uncle’s restaurant in Burlingame. After a variety of subsequent restaurant jobs, the duo realized their long-held dream of owning their own eatery. In 2002, they opened Ristorante Allegria; twenty years later, they have found themselves part of the fabric of Napa Valley. Favored equally by tourists and locals who love its California-influenced Italian cuisine made by longtime chef Cesar Rodriguez, Ristorante Allegria is a warm and inviting place where Rodi and Baris welcome guests like family. They have defined jobs (Rodi is the wine buyer, and Baris handles daily operations), but each covers the other in an adept display of familial allegiance. The restaurant has helped to support family members who followed them to the states: mother, sister, and older brother. It has also helped to support the greater community. During fires, an earthquake, and a pandemic, Rodi and Baris have kept Allegria open in one form or another, whether it be to provide coffee or takeout meals or to simply provide a calm spot in which to gather. “We feel a responsibility to this community,” said Rodi, father of three. “We try to stay open during trying times to provide a sense of normalcy.” When not busy at the restaurant (one or both are there every day), the two share a love of hiking, camping, golf, martial arts, and soccer. “We always wanted to open our own restaurant,” said Baris. “The very first time we visited Napa, we fell in love with it, and that is when we decided to open Allegria here. Napa is a great place to raise a family. And, of course, it has the best wine in the world and exceptional food.” Allegria notwithstanding, of course. // www.ristoranteallegria.com