The Napa Spirit
Known for its wineries, Napa Valley is the ultimate in destination retailing. The quaint specialty retail stores here complement the primary product especially well.
The green and gold Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Framed on three sides by mountains and thirty-five miles long, it is home to more than 400 wineries, most offering tastings and retail wine sales – some by appointment only. The valley is five miles wide at its south end, where it laps the tidal waters of the windy San Francisco Bay system, and less than a mile wide at its north end up against sometimes snow-capped Mount St. Helena that stands nearly a mile high. The Valley produces some of the world’s greatest wines, from grapes made famous in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, drawing more than 5 million visitors each year. Many of the wineries sell souvenirs and some offer an array of gifts: glassware, linens, wine accessories, jewelry, and clothing. Here are profiles of three of the Valley’s best winery shops: ultra-modern Artesa at the south end, historic Inglenook in the middle, and V. Satui at the north end, with the largest winery gift shop in the Valley.
Cork purses and accessories are as durable as those made of leather,” Natalie Rogers says. Backing up her claim is a table full of women’s handbags, bracelets, necklaces, totes, wallets, picture frames, and cases for notebook computers – even a ballpoint pen. Rogers is the retail coordinator for Artesa Vineyards and Winery, and runs the gift shop. The cork products are made by artisans in Portugal for Corx, an importer in the neighboring Sonoma valley. They are the most popular of some 200 retail items Natalie stocks, sourced from a dozen reps. Also popular are wire cages for corks made by Epic Products in southern California.
Natalie believes the gift shop complements wine sales, at about 20% of tasting room sales, and gives designated drivers fun while the rest of the party is tasting wine. Price points are $7-10 at the low end, $25-$40 in the middle, and $200+ at the top for men’s watches. “I stock no kitsch,” Natalie says, a policy that disappoints some visitors looking for magnets or similar souvenirs. “This is a gorgeous winery; our gifts reflect that,” she says.
Other popular items are women’s hats, Spanish (natch) cookbooks, bracelets, earrings, olive oils, vinegars, and a Smith Picnic Plus wine bottle carrier that doubles as a purse.
Artesa is owned by a Spanish family that has been making wine since the 16th Century. The winery in Napa’s Carneros District is starkly modern, but blends into the Valley’s rolling hills with walls and a roof covered by sod.