Tom Wark vs. James Conaway and ‘the battle for Napa Valley’

by TrevR on April 28, 2008

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Reading Tom Wark’s blog post (err, rant) today over at Fermentation about comments from author James Conaway gave us a bit of a chuckle. Tom decided to call into question several quotes from Conaway that appeared in the Napa Valley Register from a recent talk he gave at the California Preservation Foundation Conference.

So why did the post give us a little laugh?

First off, let us say we tend to agree with Tom’s assessment of the remarks–they’re totally bizarre–but we also weren’t at the conference to get the proper context (and we’re certainly not going to take it on faith that the Napa Register is providing it).

That being said, it’s always funny to us when people who have never lived in a place, or never lived there for any extended period of time, seem to be quite vocal about pointing out what’s wrong and what’s best for it.

Sure, Conaway spent some time in Napa Valley, interviewed a bunch of, to use his term, “elite” folks and wrote a couple entertaining books on its history. So, does that make him an authority on the Napa Valley? Does he know better than people who’ve lived in the valley their entire lives what makes the place tick, what the citizens think about its evolution, what the hot button issues are, etc.? Hardly.

Does Napa cater to tourists? Of course. Like it or not, the wine industry and tourism are what keeps the valley financially afloat. Finding a balance between catering to tourists and providing a good quality of life and opportunity for locals is the constant struggle. This is not a new issue. Is the valley changing as time goes on? You betcha, and please name a single place in America that is not. Do big corporations or big money own many of the local wineries? Sure, and again, name a relatively established industry where they don’t. The comments from Conaway aren’t anything new, we’ve heard it all before, over and over again. It’s getting a bit tired.

We’ll leave it at this. Is it just us, or does anyone else find it a bit ironic that Conaway is making a living writing books about the trouble with tourism in Napa Valley when the bulk of the very people who buy his books are likely themselves tourists who have–or will–visit Napa at some point?

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, tourism, napa tourism, James Conaway, Fermentation, Tom Wark]

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About the Author

has written 723 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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