By Curtis Strohl
When the wildfires began to subside and we began to plan for recovery, the Napa Valley wine business came to an interesting and provocative conclusion: that in asking for help, it was okay to ask for people’s business. There are millions of individuals around this country who feel a personal connection to the Napa Valley, and they find that connection in their relationship with wineries that they have visited. Many of these people were contacting us and asking how they could help.
The Napa Valley community showed its true colors by banding together immediately and organically finding ways to help one another. Not surprisingly, the Napa Valley business community was a part of this response. Napa Valley businesses donated masks, collected clothing and food, opened their kitchens for emergency food preparation, paid wages for workers during closure, and donated monies directly to relief funds.
In fact, one of those funds, the Napa Valley Community Relief Fund, was already endowed with money left over from our last natural disaster, the 2014 earthquake. Much of that money was raised by Napa Valley wineries through the Napa Valley Vintners. All in all, Napa’s willingness to give continues to be an impressive force, and Napa businesses are not afraid to use their clout to support their local community.
So when winery customers asked what they could do, the wineries responded by saying, “Keep purchasing Napa wines, which will enable us to continue supporting each other.” Now that is truly a bold ask, and it got me to thinking.
Supporting your local economy helps to provide for the needs as well as the comforts of your neighbors. In Napa Valley, we have a strong local economy. But the fires reminded me that this is not something to take for granted. We have a responsibility to care for the things we are thankful for.
One thing that the Napa Farmers’ Market is trying to accomplish is to provide a strong, vibrant and profitable marketplace for local farmers. When you shop at the Napa Farmers’ Market, you are supporting a way of life that many in this community hold dear. We buy from the farmers, which enables them to continue farming and providing fresh ingredients for our tables.
This year, at Thanksgiving, I am not only going to contemplate the bounty that I enjoy and to remind myself to be thankful for that bounty. I am also going to ask myself I am doing to actively support what I am thankful for. What aspects of Napa Valley life are you grateful for, and what can you do to preserve them? I am thankful for our farmers and our farmers’ market. I am thankful to be part of a community that cares for others so readily. And I am going to continue to look for ways to support all of the above in the next year.
Risotto for the Holidays
Risotto requires constant stirring so I prefer to make it when I know I’ll have guests milling around my kitchen asking to help. I just smile and hand them the spoon. Cooking risotto is all about the process: Watch your heat, keep stirring, be patient and it will come out delicious.
1-1/2 to 2 quarts broth, or part broth/part water, simmering
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Italian Arborio rice
1 cup white wine, optional
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano cheese
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Mushrooms, sliced or quartered
Kale or chard, deveined and chopped
Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan and adjust the heat to keep it simmering.
Melt the butter over moderate heat in a large, heavy saucepan with high sides. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir until it is hot and coated in butter.
Add ½ cup of wine, if using. If not, add ½ cup of the simmering broth. Adjust the heat so the rice bubbles gently. Stir constantly, adding liquid ½ cup at a time until the rice is cooked through but slightly al dente, 20 to 25 minutes. You may not use all the liquid.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Variations: For mushroom risotto, add sliced or quartered mushrooms when you add the rice. For a winter greens risotto, add chopped kale or chard in batches—some with the rice, some in the middle of the cooking and some near the end so that the greens have a range of textures, from soft to crisp.
Curtis Strohl is General Manager of B Cellars in Oakville and a board member of the Napa Farmers’ Market.