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Inn on Randolph: Oasis of Calm During Grape Harvest

Editor’s Note: This past fall I had the pleasure of participating in the grape harvest in the Napa Valley, one of the most appealing wine regions anywhere. Rather than simply wine touring, I sought to get a deeper understanding of the process of winemaking by participating in the harvest, shadowing Warren Winiarski of Arcadia Vineyard, Michael Silacci of Opus One and Chris Howell of Cain Vineyard and Winery to learn the secrets of making exceptional wine.  It was a fascinating and enlightening experience, learning how they sampled the fruit, made the critical decision to pick, brought in the fruit and carefully crushed and fermented it. In addition, I dined at wonderful restaurants, stayed in lovely hotels and met some fascinating characters. The following stories feature the highlights of the Napa Harvest—the insights, surprises and lessons learned along the way.

Nicholas O’Connell, MFA, Ph.D. is a freelance writer and founder of The Writer’s Workshop. He will teach a Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class in Tuscany (May 20-26).


After a long day of grape picking at Cain Winery and Vineyard, I landed at the Inn on Randolph, an oasis of calm and peace during the sometimes hectic harvest season. Located in a lovely, leafy neighborhood a short walk from downtown Napa, the Inn on Randolph is a classic B&B with period architecture and an interesting past as one of the early homes in Napa. The Inn has a main building with cottages, many with private patios, surrounded by beautiful gardens with roses and gurgling fountains.
I was tempted to take a nap after my grape picking, but instead decided to explore the property. The original 19th century estate, located in Napa's largest residential historic district, was owned by the Hannah Moore family. In the early days, many generations of locals were delivered at home or at midwife centers, and in 1910 the property became known as "Maternity Row." According to the Inn, Hannah's granddaughter, Ima Mary Walker Burch, a midwife herself, established a women's health center within the residence, converting the front parlor into a clinic and the dining room into the delivery room.
The Inn went through a complete renovation in 2012, retaining its period feel while adding modern amenities like Jacuzzi tubs. After a strong cup of coffee in the dining room, I showered and headed out to explore downtown Napa. I found the Inn’s proximity to downtown especially appealing. I walked into town to buy ingredients for a picnic, passing other historic homes and picking up the vibe of the city.
Every time I visit Napa I find new shops, stores and amenities to explore.  This time, I bought duck filets at the Fatted Calf in the Oxbow Market, as well as a baguette, St. Nectaire cheese, and a half bottle of Roederer Estate Brut wine to complete my picnic. I found a bench near the river and sat outside in the sunshine to enjoy my meal, which made for a pleasant coda to an amazingly varied day, the last of the stops on my quest to understand the world of winemaking from the ground up.
Note: The Inn is offering a special rate of 20% off regular room rates from now until the end of December. They will be donating 5% of the proceeds to the Napa Valley Community Foundation in an effort to help rebuild the beautiful Napa wine region after the region’s devastating fires. The Inn would like to invite you to be a part of the community by booking a stay with us and helping us give back to our friends and neighbors. Many small businesses have been shattered, andyour visits and support would mean the absolute world to them.

Editor's Note: The preceding story is an excerpt from the forthcoming Crush: An Apprenticeship in the Wine Trade by Nicholas O’Connell, M.F.A, Ph.D. He is the author of four books and contributes to  Newsweek, Gourmet, Saveur, Outside, GO, National Geographic Adventure, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sierra, and many other places. He is the founder of the online and Seattle-based writing program,


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