[ mariana calderon photo + design ]

Photographing another photographer...it's like cooking for a chef. You feel flattered they would trust themselves to you, but holy toledo, the stakes are high! Mariana is a fellow Napa-based photographer with a crazy story. My version: After growing up in Costa Rica, she jumped into a job hosting a wine travel show, and one day found herself interviewing a charming young man in the vineyards. (As one does.) After a few trips back and forth between her homeland and wine land, she and this charming lad got hitched, and they now make their home in the valley. With a background in architecture and design, she brings a lot of clean lines and light to her beautiful work - check it out here!  

Mariana entrusted me with shooting her lifestyle portraits for a website refresh. We enjoyed late-summer sun + hospitality at one of my favorite Napa spots, St. Clair Brown Winery, roamed around some downtown gardens, and ended then day by tearing up some back roads to catch an amazing late-summer sunset. A very, very good day. 

[ single thread healdsburg ]

SingleThread is a deeply-thought out endeavor,  the kind that's worth every flowery adjective food writers can squash into a headline. After photographing it for Edible Marin + Wine Country's spring issue, I can say yes, folks...

Yes, it's a restaurant, a farm and an inn - each done very, very well. Yes, the owners are a driven, married duo that do everything from grow the food to arrange the flowers to prepare their edible masterpieces in front of you. Yes, it's a meticulously farm-to-table affair that observes 72 local mini-seasons and prepares each course in a really, truly open kitchen. Yes, they own the smallest winery in California - in the form of a giant, mysterious "wine egg" with it's own address - visible from the dining room. Yes, on a clear day you can see Old Faithful Geyser blow it's spout from their rooftop deck. And yes, the dining room is clothed in delicate weavings of threads made of vegetable DNA. 

But I will tell you now and forever that I cast my final judgment on a restaurant's soul based on their bathrooms. Everything I need to know about philosophy and practice is there. And yes, their WC is a delightful experience not to be missed (but no I did not photograph it - you'll have to check it out yourself). What can I say? We live in a privileged, ironic and beautiful world. 

[ monticelli brothers wine ]

Immigrants have found opportunity in Napa for decades. My own family immigrated here from Mexico and Holland, and found neighborhoods teeming with families from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Not to mention Italy! Did I mention Italy? Napa's Italian families have played a large role in the community, especially the wine industry, since the 1800s. Ferrinis to Facchinis, Giovannonis to Gallos, Mondavis to Martinis...we've got Italians!

The Monticelli Family came to California from Tuscany following World War II. A family of winemakers, they brought vine clippings in their luggage (in those golden pre-TSA years) and soon began growing grapes. Today, brothers Massimo (shoveling grapes below) and Mario Monticelli, trained under their father Marcello (portrait below), produce four varieties of wine named after family members.

It was a huge treat to join them in late fall to photograph part of their harvest + production. The rich, changing colors of the grapes and juice...wafts of new wine mixing with warm olive trees nearby...yowza. You can try the fruits of the Monticelli's craft in select restaurants nationwide, or at local eateries including Don Giovanni, Cuveé + Fumé.