Stealing the Spotlight from Napa in 8 Easy Steps
There are a plethora of things in this world that I am rather tired of at the moment: the shrill tea-soaked rhetoric of Michelle Bachmann, the over-hyped benefits of awful tasting coconut water and any poorly produced television commercial for a local business featuring wooden acting by the owner’s family members (I am talking to you Toyota of San Francisco).
Perhaps the thing I am most tired of hearing about is the “renaissance” that is apparently happening over the hill in Napa. You can’t open a magazine or a Culinary Academy bathroom stall door without reading an article on the “new” Napa, which now seems more newsworthy than brain eating amoeba or Jennifer Lopez (they are one in the same, by the way).
Just a personal note to all the food and travel editors out there currently obsessed with the “new” Napa topic: Just because a restaurant has truffled their menu within an inch of its life, does not mean it’s fantastic. Also, there are more than 100 alumni out there from Top Chef, so a cafe opened by a Top Gear alumnus would be much more notable. And finally, just because you have a Ritz Carlton pending, doesn’t make you tourism nirvana (see Half Moon Bay).
I can appreciate that the city of Napa has added a few bits and bobbles lately to make it more than just an outlet mall with a Target or two. But it does chap my hide (this phrase needs to be used WAY more in our society) that our arch rival town is getting better press than Sonoma. So, being a marketer of sorts, I have decided to put together a list of the things Sonoma needs to do to regain the spotlight. Equally as important, I have developed a detailed list of what we DON’T need in our quest to knock Napa back to second-valley status.
First the list of what we do need:
Think Local: I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but if you are thinking of starting a business, think about the locals first… then the tourists. Here’s the deal: the locals will always be here, including during the off season. So, if you start from meeting a local need, any tourism spill over is just the icing on the cake. See Hopmonk Tavern if you want an example of someone doing it right. See any new Wine Tasting room on the square for an example of someone doing it wrong.
Coffee House: Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy my intimate moments with the bedazzled Mary Kay lady at Starbucks, but would it kill Sonoma to actually have a comfortable coffee house with good coffee, yummy baked goods and cozy couches?
Food Trucks: I realize that all the restaurants in the square are deathly afraid of the food trucks that have been showing up at Sebastiani Winery the last Friday of each month, but take note: they are popular not because the food is great - it is because they foster community. They give people a reason to casually gather, to talk, to drink, to eat. If they are stealing business. it’s because they are meeting a need you aren’t. Figure out what that is, and meet that need.
TrainTown: I realize that this is an institution, but even my six year old son was a little bored during his visit – and he was jacked up on cotton candy and gummy worms at the time. We need to spruce this attraction up. How about adding a water slide? Water slides are well known to boost local real estate values and improve community image, much more so than miniature golf courses, which lead to trailer parks and bad home perms. (Editor’s Disclaimer: I really love waterslides)
Now, on to the list of things we DON’T need:
Banks: We don’t need any more banks. According to CNN, no one has money anymore, so the proliferation of financial institutions in the City of Sonoma can now officially subside. I mean, how disappointed are you every time you see a new business opening up, only to find out it is a bank?
Mexican Restaurants: Done. Check. Got it covered. We get it – this area was once ruled by Mexico. No more please.
Festivals: Look, I know how much everyone in Sonoma loves a good festival, but we are verging on overkill. We are the child who cried “funnel cake” once too often.
Having a festival every weekend starts to make each subsequent one less special. I mean, what are we going to do if the Katmandu Festival becomes irrelevant?
The Doobie Brothers: Can we all agree that the Doobie Brothers are not the Doobie Brothers without Michael McDonald? Let’s stop advertising them as such. False advertising leads to consumer disillusionment, childhood obesity and psoriasis, which is never good for your image.
I could go on about the dangers of Friedman’s addiction and our recent Shih Tzu infestation, but you get the picture. There are simple things Sonoma could do to become a media darling again and steal back the spotlight from Napa. But the more I think about it, maybe we don’t actually want to.
The Accidental Vinophile is Dave Karraker, a comedian and writer who splits his time between Sonoma, San Francisco, his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and 61 Ford Thunderbirds. You can find more on Dave at www.davekarraker.com. Email email@example.com. Follow Dave on Twitter: @davekarraker.