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Come to Napa Valley, But Not for the Wine

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Several times a year I'm asked by friends and family for recommendations on where to go when they visit Napa Valley. In addition to wineries I think they'll like, I also include ones with interesting architecture and must see art galleries. That list usually includes The Hess Collection for its impressive display of contemporary art, Mumm Napa for the Ansel Adams photo gallery and Ma(i)sonry for the eclectic mix of art, decorative home items and lineup of Blackbird wines and more.

It's nice to have options that don't always include wine. You can only sample so much wine in a day, and it's good to have a break. If you don't drink wine at all, you may feel left out. Fortunately there's more art in Napa Valley than even I knew was on view.

Next month "Arts in April" will showcase visual and performing arts with special exhibits, performances and experiences, all part of what's being dubbed as "The Napa Valley Collection" at wineries throughout wine country. Each week one or more geographic regions host special events, starting in Calistoga for the first week and moving south to Napa on the last week.

During a press preview, I learned that Markham Vineyards has a permanent collection of Rolling Stone magazine cover photos. Wow. Baron Wolman was the man behind the lens, from the first cover for three years, and he was there to give us a personal tour of his photos.

Every picture, as they say, tells a story, and Wolman recounted each photo session in great detail. His photos are iconic, especially the one of Jimi Hendrix.

For me, he is a rock star too. I love behind the scenes stories. Wolman will be at Markham on April 14 from 11am to 1pm doing a slide show about his backstage access, with a Q & A session. Tickets are $10 per person. Trust me, you don't want to miss this. I'm adding Markham to my list of recommendations.

We also went to Clos Pegase, owned by Jan Shrem. The winery itself is a work of art, designed by architect Michael Graves. In fact the winery is often referred to as a temple to wine and Shrem's extensive art collection.

He took us on a tour, which started in his office. Every room, every hallway has paintings, drawings and sculptures. What a great place to work. Shrem created a stage in winery's caves, and he himself performs "Bacchus the Rascal" which he describes as a Bacchanalian history of wine seen through 4000 years of art.

If you can get to Clos Pegase on April 7 at 3 pm, again, this is not to be missed. Shrem has a wicked sense of humor and a sparkle in his eye, as any rascal would. Tickets are $25 per person.

Of course there is the wine at these wineries, but art is the main attraction. That the art pairs with the wine is a happy bonus.

You can find a complete listing of all Arts in April events here.