July 2012

Note from Peggy

by admin on July 17, 2012

I have a mentor and good friend who taught me about front loading.  Front loading is work with no visible return…just keep pushing up the mountain, he would say, and soon you will reach the peak and begin your descent.   He assured me that it would be well worth it.  I’ve drawn strength from these words many times throughout my journey.  The part I think he intentionally left out was that I was climbing Mount Everest…raising two kids and building a business with limited capital…it was a steep climb…and breath taking on every level.

I haven’t thought about front loading in a long time.  At one point, I figured I either missed the peak or was on an endless trek where my mission was to grow stronger and learn to appreciate the moments of peace.. renew and begin again.  Either way, I simply stopped thinking about it…until now.

We have had a lot of wonderful and exciting things happen this year.  The move from Rutherford was a risky one done mainly on intuition…and it has paid off.    I’ve been able to focus on our two stores on Main St. and we’ve driven enough traffic through the stores and website to maintain our momentum.  We were able to afford to move ahead on the remodel of the front of our Main St. building…a truer reflection of who we are…with stone that came from the original stone used in the building.  What a find that was!

I hired an amazing manager for our retail location on Main St.…Marc Golick…I’m sure some of you are following his recipes on our blog.  He not only is an amazing chef but his passion for what we do fills the entire building.  He has changed our game and brought our customer experience to a level that I had hoped for but had never been able to achieve.

We’ve begun the development of our new private “tasting lounge” in the vault area of our Main St. location.  More details to follow but slated to open on September 1st.   It’s an idea that I’ve had for years…so thrilling to be able to make it happen!

Our new venue, Napa Valley Bath Co. , is pulling its weight in its first year.  It’s opened a new world for me…and connected me even deeper to our planet.  I’m having so much fun developing the brand and the products…and am passionate about finding ways to deliver the healing medicines of these plants to you.

And the most exciting news of all…my cousin who has had a career as Vice President of operations at The Gap and Petsmart has decided to come back home to Yountville and join our team.  She will be the Chief Operating Officer.  We have talked about this day for many years…I don’t think either of us knew it would be now but it is..and I’m not questioning it!  I will be freed of day to day operations so I can do what it is that I am most passionate about…creating, nurturing and fostering growth.  She begins on August 6th!

And then our newsletter…or mini magazine as I like to call it.  I’ve had this idea for years.  I wanted to publish a beautiful magazine with inspiring messages and authentic, thoughtful content.   The ease of the internet has made a mini version possible…and my goal is to make it something you look forward to seeing in your inbox.  We will keep you up to date on our happenings, share product and industry knowledge, and feature a special place or person in the Napa Valley that you may or may not be aware of.   Every week we will determine what we think you may be interested in…we will not push content for content sake.

The girls are growing up and doing well.  Emily had an amazing semester in South America and Kaelin is loving NYU and getting ready to head to a semester abroad in Tel Aviv.  Kaelin is home for the summer and it is heartwarming to have her energy and that of her friends in our house again.

Now more then ever, I treasure my time in the morning for my meditation rituals.  I take a respite in the middle of the day to simply be…reconnect with what matters…and regroup for the next part of my day.  I’m smelling the roses…and the lavender…and the lemon balm…and I’m working harder then ever.   There are still many challenges and difficult days but there is an easier movement through the pitfalls…a greater faith in what lies ahead…a stronger sense of the purpose of this journey…and an awareness to the renewal that the earth grants me every day.   I realize now that I stopped thinking about front loading when my focus shifted from the peak to my step….and the funny thing is…once I shifted…so too did everything else.

I hope you are well and appreciative of this very moment.

My very best,


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“This buzz that is happening is real,” said Mike Bradley, an Oakland-based importer of high quality olive oils from around the world.

Mike was talking about a growing consumer interest in olive oil, and a growing public awareness of the difference between the stale oils that line the supermarket shelves and the fresh, flavorful oils that you can buy directly from a producer or small specialty retailer.

But as appreciation of quality olive oil has grown, so too has concern about the lesser-quality stuff that’s out there — oil made from subpar olives, oil that has been refined, oil that is old and rancid, or oil that is downright fraudulent, and made from something other than olives (nuts? seeds?).

“What we really have is a shortage of quality olive oil, and a glut of junk,” Bradley said.

Bradley spoke at a recent conference at the Napa Valley campus of the Culinary Institute of America, about a mile up the road from our store in downtown St. Helena. The conference attracted some of the top names in the field of olive oil — growers, millers, tasters, writers, chefs — all of whom share an interest in helping people differentiate good olive oil from bad.

So how can you tell the difference? We see many customers at our store who are curious about what makes a quality extra virgin olive oil, and we enjoy sharing our local, organic, small production oils with them. These are oils that, to varying degrees, will exhibit all of the positive characteristics of fresh extra virgins: fruitiness, bitterness and a peppery finish or “pungency” that might make you cough.

While extra virgin olive oils must hew to certain technical standards (low levels of free acidity and guidelines governing how they are made), traditionally they must also pass a taste test showing that they have no defects before they can be called “extra virgin.” Olive oils are one of the few foods in the world (along with balsamic vinegar) whose quality designation depends on how they taste, not just where or how they are made.

“The good stuff is truly luminous,” said Tom Mueller, another speaker at the CIA and author of a book called “Extra Virginity” that has helped to expose fraud within the olive oil industry. “The bad stuff is dumbed-down industrial food of the worst kind.”

Freshness is critical when shopping for extra virgin olive oil. Unlike wine or vinegar, olive oil does not age and even high-quality oils will start to taste stale after several months. Mueller recommends thinking of olive oil as “fresh fruit juice” — if it doesn’t taste fresh, then it’s probably not worth buying.

It is true that top-notch olive oil will be more expensive. As with most artisanal products (from food to clothes to furniture), you are paying for the hard work and talent of the producer, as well as quality. Industrially-made oil is less expensive, sure, but there are no guarantees that corners aren’t being cut.

“Making second-rate olive oil is a lot cheaper… than making world class oil,” Bradley said.

In the end, we support knowing the producers you’re buying from, and being able to ask them questions about their practices. Without transparency, there will never be trust.

“Consumer-producer connection is so so important,” said Alexandra Devarenne, a Sonoma-based olive oil consultant. “You want to know these people.”

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