From time to time, we like to call out extraordinary things our friends are involved with. Perhaps the most inspiring project to come of out the Napa Valley in recent years is Kelli White’s encyclopedic book Napa Valley Then & Now. Those of you who have visited Press Restaurant in St. Helena may have had the pleasure of meeting Kelli and gaining her insights into Napa. Named as one of the top 10 sommeliers in the country by Food & Wine Magazine, Kelli and her husband Scott relocated to St. Helena to run the wine program at Press. Their goal? Build the world’s most comprehensive Napa Valley wine list. Coming from the francophilic restaurants of New York City, this mission became both her education and the foundation for Napa Valley Then & Now.
In building Press’s wine program to include over 1500 selections reaching back to the 1940s, Kelli was lead into the cellars of Napa to explore, learn, and ultimately educate the world about the people, history, and wines of this extraordinary place. While we locals can sometimes be a bit weary of outsiders, Kelli has become a leading authority on the Napa Valley, and the person I now turn to for questions and recommendations on my own home turf.
I first learned of Kelli’s book when she came to interview me about the history of Hourglass. Having grown up here, I was struck by her depth of knowledge, the detail of questions, and her passion for Napa. The breadth of tasting experience she has with older and modern Napa wines is a unique insight very few possess. What I learned later in receiving my copy was that this passion would well up into what may be the most definitive book on Napa ever written. The 3 1/2 inch tome chronicles the history of Napa winemaking by profiling 200 wineries. Each winery profile provides an overview of the winery, tasting notes of representative varietals, and vintage aging expectations. Her approach leads the reader through a historical timeline, a comprehensive look at the appellation system, then details each individual winery with interesting and useful insights. A book of this nature could drift into a matter-of-fact listing of details, yet Kelli writes with a structured rhythm, balancing poetic prose against the requisite technical language of our craft in a compelling fashion. For those more schooled in recent Napa releases and unsure of Napa wine’s ability age, her chronicling provides a unique insight not found anywhere else. The conclusion demonstrates Napa’s ability to age alongside the great wines of the world. And of course, her writing captures the most forward edges of this grand experiment unfolding before our eyes.
I can not recommend Kelli’s book highly enough. It is a monumental effort and a must have for Napa wine lovers. You can learn more and purchase the book directly from Kelli at Napa Valley Then & Now.
We hope this finds you well and we look forward to sharing more insights as they come across our radar.
All the best!
St. Helena, CA