American Times NAPA VALLEY: California Steals the Bucolic Beauty of Tuscany's Vine-Clad Countryside
Gumbel, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
THE SIGNORELLO vineyard is reached through a pale sandstone gateway topped with pale terracotta tiles. A line of cypresses marks the crest of the hill behind the main villa, and beneath the trees stretch rows and rows of vines interspersed with olive trees.
It is the sort of luscious Tuscan landscape Bernardo Bertolucci captured so knowingly in his summer idyll of a film, Stealing Beauty. All that is missing from the view is a glimpse of a medieval village on a distant hilltop. But this isn't Tuscany, and there aren't any medieval villages. It is the Napa Valley, California's premier wine- growing region, an hour's drive north of San Francisco, and the vista created by the masters of Il Signorello is an entirely artificial one.
The valley, as it turns out, is full of such conjuring tricks. Not far from Il Signorello is the Stag's Leap winery, which offers a reasonable facsimile of a French chateau, complete with stone buttresses, giant barrel storage rooms for sample tastings and a formal garden. Ten miles or so to the north is the property owned by the film director Francis Ford Coppola, whose main house has the kind of Gothic feel that would not be entirely out of place in the Loire.
Napa, as it turns out, is not just a byword for beautiful countryside, fine wines and palatial weekend retreats. It is also America's quintessential shrine to Euro-worship. Not content to feast on its own considerable beauties - the gently rolling hills, the wooded hollows, the sun-drenched country houses - Napa feels obliged to create a kind of upscale Disneyland, where everything of interest is really a replica of something else, in this case the epicurean rural life of France and Italy.
Bordeaux, of course, is where the first vines came from when Napa rediscovered its wine-making traditions once Prohibition was repealed and the postwar economy took off. But the worship of all things European goes well beyond varieties of grape.
Every rural lodge is a …
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Publication information: Article title: American Times NAPA VALLEY: California Steals the Bucolic Beauty of Tuscany's Vine-Clad Countryside. Contributors: Gumbel, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 4, 1999. Page number: 12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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