A Journey

A tribute on Memorial Day

by Peggy OKelly on May 30, 2016


Robert John Jake MD        WW II and Korea

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  Theodore Roosevelt


A very special Memorial Day for my family as we honor all fallen veterans along with my dad who now rests in peace at the Veterans Home Cemetery in Yountville.  My thoughts and prayers are with all of the men and women who have been or are in the Arena.  God Bless You.   

God Bless Us All,


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The Forever Peace

by Peggy OKelly on March 17, 2016

Emily came home last weekend as she was studying for an accounting midterm and needed her mom.   I was good with Fifo and Lifo but when she brought up perpetual and periodic inventory, my mind went blank.   After all it has been 25 years since the CPA exam.    I sat down at my computer to google the answer and an email appeared…Dexter Filkins.  I stared at it for a few seconds…Dexter Filkins…Dexter Filkins….oh geez Dexter Filkins!!

Lets go back two years..2014… when I had an inspiration to travel to every country…find what is indigenous to that land…and create products that would connect people to the earth…its people…and their traditions.  After a family vote…we named it Ground…the parent company would be Ground Mother and the countries would be Ground “country” with a logo that represented that land.  I did all the admin…got the name, the urls, etc… and then tucked the concept neatly away in my heart knowing that it would manifest in its own time.

In March of 2014, as many of your might recall, Kaelin and I met Emily in Morocco as her internship in Ghana was coming to an end.  We stayed on a farm outside of Marrakech..excited to connect with the farmers and learn about what they grew.  Do you remember the car ride from the airport that I wrote about?  Yes it wasn’t a “they”..it was a “him”…and he was a businessman who developed the property…and guess what…he grew olives.  Needless to say, we became fast friends.  He didn’t speak good English but it didn’t matter.  The “farmer”, Fouad,  asked me to teach him how to produce olive oil that would meet the International standards and in exchange he would help me understand the landscape and pursue my vision.   We accomplished a lot in those ten days considering we were on vacation but I returned alone three weeks later to seriously pursue Ground Morocco.

It’s difficult to find the words to express the experience…it was magical…and oppressive…fascinating…and demoralizing…walking in lead shoes one moment and on air the next.  The energy was so thick at times I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  At one point in the journey I didn’t know why but I felt a strong urge to run..to go home.

“Why are you so quiet Peg gie?” Fouad asked.  “ I think I am going to go home.” I said quietly.  “What?!” he exclaimed.  “Are you completely crazy?  First we are four hours from an airport and Peg gie you are in Africa so you cannot just “go home”.  Everyone is letting you in…that is not normal Peg gie…you are getting everything you wanted..and you want to leave?!  I don’t understand.”  “No Fouad…you are getting it for me…no one looks me in the eye…and I sit in these meetings and dinners and feel as if I don’t exist. I don’t know how to feel about any of this…I am the one who is putting together the project and everyone acts as if I work for you.  I’m over it…I just need to go home.”

Fouad and I were kindred spirits…we had the connection of the olive and business from the moment we met…and an ability to be painfully straight with each other .  “Peg gie….you are the one who comes to this country to do business…you are the one who wants to be introduced to all of these people who happen to be men….you come into this culture but you act as if your methods and your culture should rule.”   “ You don’t like it..fine…don’t do business here..that’s easy…I have things I need to be doing too..so you decide…but if you want to do business in this country you have to understand the culture..it is only right.”  I sat with his words for the rest of the journey to the town of the Rose…he was right…I was not in Kansas anymore.

It was not easy but I spent the rest of the trip in observation rather then judgement.  At the end of the two weeks I had developed an entire bath and body line with locally sourced ingredients….met amazing artisans…and learned a lot about myself.  Although I was far from in love with Morocco, it was difficult to say good bye.

As soon as the wheels touched down in the USA I was on Amazon ordering the Book of Islam.  I was determined to gain an understanding of the culture through its history so I could have perspective.  I watched every Front Line doc on the Middle East…picked up some other books and then as we all now know…got in a “not an accident”.

Fast forward to last October.   I was in thick in cognitive therapy on all levels but my priority was regaining my ability to read and write freely.   I was back to a life of practice practice practice.  I was listening to books online, listening to a lot of NPR and Frontline…and somewhere along the way I got the tip that I had to read “The Forever War”…by Dexter Filkins.

Six pages a day was all I could read at that point.  Hard to explain but the brain just shuts down and if you push it, the inflammation flares and it’s a long painful night.  I stayed with the program for the first week.  About 48 pages in I was motivated to pick up the pace…so I did….slowly but surely I added a page a day…and then added reading in the morning and at night…and before I knew it I was at a chapter a day.   As I read the final line….closed the book…and sat back in somber contemplation about the realities exposed in “The Forever War”…I realized I had read the book….I did it….my ability to read was coming back!

The next few days were filled with gratitude…for the knowledge and understanding I had gained through the book….true journalists…God bless them…they go where most wouldn’t and report back…so we can all be informed…if we choose to be.  And wow..my brain..the body’s ability to heal if you respect it enough to listen and follow its lead…give it the time it needs…and again that book that motivated me to dig a little deeper push myself a little harder…

Olive harvest was upon us not much after that last page was turned.  Caught up in the aromatherapy of freshly milled oil I was inspired to share a bottle with the author of The Forever War…Dexter Filkins.  I wrote a note of gratitude and sent out a bottle of our Olio Nuovo knowing that most likely he would never receive it..or understand it.  That didn’t seem to matter as I handed it over to the UPS driver the following day.

I hadn’t thought about that bottle of olive oil until the email came across my computer last Friday night.  Dexter Filkins…thanking me for the olive oil he had just received…a very kind and heartfelt note of gratitude and appreciation.  The circle was complete.

That’s it…reads like a soft ending in a world of reality TV.   Strangers connecting….in gratitude…appreciation…and with kindness.  Hmm….what a wonderful world this could be.

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Making Way for New Growth

by Peggy OKelly on March 11, 2016

As the dogs and I set out on our morning walk we heard voices coming from the road. It was unusual to hear any noises in our little place in the woods much less early in the morning.  I decided to divert from our normal route to a path that would lead us to the road.   As we closed in on the valley floor, the dogs stopped…ears stood up…and they focused intently on the cars and trucks parked on the side of the vineyards.   I could not see any people but I could hear voices and laughter coming from within the miles of vines below.

It was our first sunny day in quite some time so I knew I had the perfect opportunity to take some pictures.  I ran the dogs home…grabbed my camera…and set back out to the scene.  As I walked into the vineyards I could see the workers deep in the vines.  I was struck by the joyfulness in their voices….and the laughter.   It was still early in the morning….cold….and they were pruning…..yet such light heartedness.  I felt their joy enveloping me and before I knew it I too was enamored with the day.

As I walked back up our drive I felt the newness of life….the water was flowing in the streams….the sun was shining….and old growth was being cut to make room for new.  I felt a renewed sense not only for the day but for the year to come.  It reminded me of an essay I wrote a few years ago for the blog of Christopher Kostow, Executive Chef The Restaurant at Meadowood……


NEW GROWTH…by Peggy O’Kelly of  St. Helena Olive Oil Co.   July 21, 2104.

Pruning. It’s an indication that harvest is over….old wood cut back to make way for new growth…a new season has begun. I always take time to give gratitude to the old growth and acknowledge the presence of it within the new….as life is a series of connections…all dependent upon one another….and never ending.

My journey began as a child running wildly through the hills of Yountville…soaking in the spirit of a land once inhabited by the Wappo Indians. We spent many long days hiking, making forts, swimming in the reservoir and playing with everything that nature provided.   As I grew up and my older siblings entered the workforce I began to learn about the entrepreneurial spirit that ran deep in the land….Schmidts with The French Laundry, The Tiedmanns with Oakville Public House, The Original Oakville Grocery, The Catersons with The Wurst Place, Ann Grace and Ruby Redman with Napa Valley Mustards….and more.   Farm to table was rooted in the Napa Valley long before the first vineyard was planted….there was no need to market it…just live it.

At 18, I ventured off to University in San Francisco.  I spent 10 years running fast and far from the life that unbeknownst to me had taken root within my soul.  After the birth of my first daughter I was drawn back to the Valley for farmers markets, family dinners and pet parades.   It was in one of my visits that the olive tree came to light.  A vintner was pruning the trees on her property with the aim of producing Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil.  I was intrigued and soon drawn into the lore of the olive tree. The thought of bringing it back to life in the Napa Valley became my obsession.

I drew from the spirit of the Napa Valley I knew as a child to launch my new venture…and maintained my inspiration with the continuous energy of new growth in the Valley.  I modeled my business after the leaders of the wine industry as olive oil was just as misunderstood.  We opened the first olive oil tasting room/production facility in the United States and began our quest to educate our customer directly…..formed relationships with local olive growers and began our niche production of Napa Valley orchard designated extra virgin olive oils…and drafted our core message of preservation of traditions that help sustain the olive as a life-giving food source while honoring the land from which it came.

Every year when the old branches fall to the ground, I say a prayer of thanks for all that has come before….then look up at the new growth and am excited at what more there is to come.

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This was no accident

by Peggy OKelly on August 18, 2015

I stood in awe as I watched Emily tighten, snap and secure the straps on her backpack at the United counter.   There was little worry this time as in the twenty years since her feet hit the planet she has experienced many adventures..all over the world.  By her command of this pack I knew that the time had come… to open my hands…cover her with blessings…and let her fly.   She was headed to Europe this time…meeting friends she had met during her gap year in Asia.  It was a much needed trip after being held captive in University for a year.

Emmy enjoyed her first year at Temple University but the endless cement and winter months left her longing for home…or a little South of home.  She would set her Sophmore year sites on school in Santa Barbara where there is ample sun and close proximity to water and mountains.   There would be no dorm this time as she and her friends found a cute little house they could call their own.  We know the drill right?  She will take part of her bedroom…and build her own nest….and although she will still come home on breaks…it won’t ever be the same.  A rite of passage…bittersweet…but as I watched her throw her backpack onto the United scale I couldn’t help but feel the sweet.

Once checked in, we began our familiar trek to SFO security so caught up in conversation that we didn’t realize we went to the wrong gates.   A ten minute delay to walk to the other side of the terminal.  Inconsequential..or so I thought.  It’s my tradition to stay and watch the girls fade into security.  Although they tease me, they always shoot me a smile and wave as they meander through the lines.   Today as Emmy walked into the detector I stared a little longer…surrounded her with white lights…and went on my way.

Driving home I was reminiscing about the journey the three of us had taken…and how grateful I was to have shared the last 23 years with my girls.    Although things would change for us, I was excited to venture into this next phase…with them…and with myself.   I was in the final negotiations with an investor who shared my passion and wanted to support my vision for St. Helena Olive Oil Co.  After 6 months of intense negotiations, a letter of intent was signed, documents were being drawn, and funding was anticipated within 30 days.  New beginnings were in store for all three OKelly girls.

The drive home was a breeze until I was reminded it was June 1st…. the first day of the dreaded St. Helena Construction project.   As I stopped in a long line of cars I could hear the concierges of the Valley telling their guests, “ Don’t go to St. Helena…it’s a mess”.    I glanced in my rear view mirror to ensure the following car knew to stop but it was plenty far behind.

My next memory was of a loud sound in the distance and a confused notion that someone had hit me…then awakening to the shattering glass of the car in front of me as I watched my front end smash the back of it as if it was an aluminum can.  Silence. Sirens. Confusion. Fear. Shock.

Diagnosis:  Whiplash/Concussion.  Cognitive abilities – shot.  Little ability to focus and concentrate.  Sensitivity to sound and light.  Difficulty finding words…completing thoughts…slowed speech.  Intolerance to stress.  Exhausted.  Weepy.   In seconds I became a stranger to myself.

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The Restaurant at Meadowood

by Peggy OKelly on November 5, 2012


A returned phone call, availability for an immediate meeting and true interest in the happenings at St. Helena Olive Oil Co.  are not things that I would expect from one of the youngest three Michelin star chefs in the Country.   Christopher Kostow, chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood, is a breath of fresh air.

On Friday…yes as in four days ago…I decided that one of our posts should be on The Restaurant.  I am going to feature a different venue in the Napa Valley with every newsletter and thought whom better to start with then a customer who inspires us to be the very best.  I knew the chances were slim that I could get pictures or a meeting at this late date but I never have time to contemplate odds.  I reached out to Ben Nerenhausen, sous chef, as he had been our  contact.  He said he would forward it to Christopher and they would see what they could do.  In the same note, he asked for more olive oil….hmm…perhaps a delivery I would make myself..with iphone camera in hand.

The following morning Kaelin and I headed out to make the delivery and perhaps have lunch at The Grill.  Christopher had left me a message that morning so I returned his call as we drove past the Meadowood gates.  I had no expectation of meeting him that day but after the conversation turned to olive oil and his passion was apparent, I let him know we were right outside his front door…with olive oil.  He did not defer to his receiving person but rather came up and let us in himself.  He went on to give us a tour of the remodeled restaurant and kitchen…his pride in every detail was on his sleeve.

After our tour, we sat down to discuss how we could work together this harvest.  I brought him up to speed on our estates, varietals, etc… and we discussed the characteristics he was looking for in an extra virgin olive oil.  It was apparent that a tasting would be in order so we could match descriptors and I could really understand what flavor profiles he was looking for.  The conversation was so inspiring as it gave me more to shoot for this year…I know it’s going to be a big harvest so I’ll have fruit to work with…and to create something that will please his pallet is a challenge that I am looking forward to.

I knew at this point that I could take a little risk and talk to him about the products that we make for our Napa Valley Bath Co.  We talked about our organic Napa Valley lavender essential oil, hydrosols, and the calendula oil that I just made…after all, calendula flowers are edible and used in salads.  He was curious…and was interested in samples to get a better understanding of the flavor profiles.  His open mindedness and sense of wonderment was refreshing…and inspiring.

As we prepared to say good-bye, Christopher invited us to The Restaurant for dinner…so we could understand what they do.  It was the mix of emotion from his overwhelming hospitality, sense of connection, and generosity that left me speechless…but only for a second.  I graciously accepted his invitation….Tuesday the 17th at 7:30pm….dinner for three at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

With next steps in place, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the car.  As we walked out the door,  Kaelin giggled and said, “Wow, mom, I love this part of your job! “.

Stay tuned for next weeks newsletter where we reveal how Christopher and his staff fed a vegan, a vegetarian and a carnivore.

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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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Never Say Never

November 18, 2011

For those of you who followed our journey in Italy, you will remember the crazy Italian glass distributor that I met in Certaldo. Well, for months after my return to the States, Mr. Cervantes and I tried to work together to import the 100ml bottle that stole my heart. Time passed, things got busier and […]

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Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

September 8, 2011

I’ll never forget the tasting that my sister and I worked at Vintage 1870…now V Marketplace in Yountville. It must have been in 1995. It was not the first time that I tried to sell my wares in my hometown. The previous venue was years before…I believe I was around 10 years old when I […]

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INNA jam?

August 30, 2011

It Takes One To Know One. When a Meyer Lemon Marmalade class sells out within a few hours, you have to wonder who the instructor is.  I love Meyer Lemon Marmalade as much as you but come on…a sell out in less then a day online?  Something was up. Out of curiosity and a bit […]

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Quinta do Tedo

August 16, 2011

One of the reasons I chose Florence, Italy as our home in 2009 was the knowledge that a dear friend, Kay Bouchard, lived just outside in the Chianti Region. She was a great source of information and inspiration…my security blanket. I had known that she and her husband Vincent were developing a winery on the […]

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