Saying Goodbye To Napa Valley
I’ve lived in Northern California for 55 years. I’ve lived in the North Coast Wine Country (Sonoma and Napa) for more than two decades. Nearly all of my very best friends are located here in Northern California. The heart of the Industry in which I’ve worked for 25 years is here in Northern California.
At the end of January, I’m packing up my family and leaving for Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
That we are leaving is largely an economic decision.
In 2016 Cathy Huyghe wrote in Forbes about the cost of living in Napa Valley. In her article, she listed the average cost of a home in Napa by city. This was before prices increased even further:
- Napa: $655,466
- Yountville: $837,250
- St. Helena: $1,164,775
- Calistoga: $642,000
These were average prices for a 3 bedroom home with modest amounts of property. Imagine if you wanted four bedrooms and not a modest amount of property but rather a tad more than modest.
While we could have afforded the payments on such a house here, the down payment is pretty severe. Still, we could have continued to rent. Sometimes renting is the right economic move. It’s not for us.
For the home we purchased in Salem, Oregon, I would have paid upwards of $2 million in Napa. We paid about a quarter of that. You see the attraction.
Yet there are trade-offs.
I’ve traveled fairly extensively across the United States. If there is a region that with a more perfect climate than Northern California, I’m not aware of this place.
If there is a region with better access to mountains, oceans and rolling valleys and hills than Northern California I’m not aware of it.
If there is a region with more intense dedication paid to the bounty of the land and the food and drinker produced from it, I’m not aware of it.
We are leaving a fairly spectacular place. If you live here now and it makes economic sense to stay or if you can move here, do it.
On the other hand, consider the Willamette Valley.
If there is currently a more dynamic and vibrant wine region in the United States, I’m not aware of it. With Kathy and I both being creatures of wine, it ought to be easy to understand why we are so excited to be relocating to this area of Oregon. By every measure, the Oregon wine industry is on the ascent. The world now has its eye on Oregon and its wines and they like what they see. And the industry in Oregon has responded to the attention it has continually gained with measured, thoughtful and smart moves, always with quality in mind. Moreover, the people of this industry who we know and have friendships with are what make the Willamette Valley so attractive to us.
The move to Willamette makes sense from a career perspective also. I’m a consultant. I work with wine clients in Napa, New York, Florida, Southern California and beyond. I can nearly live anywhere and still give my clients the service they deserve and pay for. Kathy is a hospitality and DTC professional with deep experience and dedication who I know will end up becoming a prime catch to a winery in Oregon. Moreover, both Kathy and I are inspired by the presence of a wine country surrounding us and made better professionals by continuing to be a part of a community of other wine professionals. All this recommends the Willamette Valley as a destination.
I will have a great deal more to say and report about Oregon, the Oregon wine industry and the Willamette Valley on this blog in the same way that I’ve reported extensively over the years about Napa, Sonoma, and California’s wine industry and wine places. Perhaps I’ll bring a pair of fresh eyes to the Willamette Valley. Undoubtedly this new focus on a new region will change my own perspectives on many issues. How could it not? The point is that there will be a slight change of perspective at FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog.
Some people claim it’s not good to have regrets. I don’t know if that’s true. I do know however that if you don’t carry any regrets with you then you’ve not properly embraced living. Leaving Napa Valley and Northern California is regretful. It’s my home and has been all my life. It’s where the most important times of my life have played out. I love it here. My best friends and my loves are here. I’m going to miss being in close proximity to so many Napans, Sonomans and San Franciscans who, though I don’t see them face to face regularly, I am comforted by knowing they are nearby. If we could have made sense out of staying here, we would have because it’s home.
Our final days in Napa Valley will be spent planning, packing, closing up and saying goodbye. It’s going to be hectic. It’s going to be very bittersweet. Yet, as Kathy and Henry and I move through these final days, we will have our eye on a little plot of land in Salem, Oregon that holds remarkable potential for this family and that has proven too attractive to ignore.
Goodbye Napa. Hello Willamette.