Restored Welcome Sign Napa Valley
Restored Napa Valley welcome signs alongside Highway 29. Photo: Jason Tinacci.

Welcome to this world famous wine growing region.

There’s many iconic landmarks in the Napa Valley. The Grape Crusher statue, Oakville Grocery, incredible vistas featuring some of the most astoundingly beautiful tree formations on earth.

But, out of them all, the most famous is quite possibly the Napa Valley welcome sign(s), featuring that magical Robert Louis Stevenson quote: “… and the wine is bottled poetry.”

If you go to Napa you simply must, by order of the Tourism Gods, stop your car along Highway 29 (careful, it’s not the safest thing to do), and hop out for a group photo (or selfie – but surely you’re not visiting alone right?).

Now, fortunately, the historic signs have been restored. They’ve been given fresh coats of paint, and been generally spruced up. I’m happy for that. For a while I believe one of the plans involved potentially tearing down the signs. That would’ve been a sad day indeed.

“Over the summer they received a much needed facelift and have been preserved for generations to come,” noted an email from the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), a non-profit trade group that represents over 500 Napa wineries.

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In celebration of the restoration project, NVV held a fun photo contest. Organizers called for photos of people posing with the sign. So a few months back I sent one in. Not of me, of course. No, no… dare I ever get caught in front of the lens. Rather, that honor once again went to Loni. Back in the day when we started doing wine videos, we came up with this idea of spinning. For some reason or another I would ask Loni to spin at random times–not the cycling kind, the arms extended out, while the body spins kind, maybe I should call it “twirling”?. We’d then cut those silly, irreverent shots into our equally silly, irreverent wine videos. Granted, it was ridiculous. There was no rhyme nor reason:

Welcome to Napa Valley
Napa Valley: You Spin Me Round. A still from a Stark Insider TV wine video, 2009 vintage.

To this day, some five years later, we still get a kick when someone in Napa recognizes us and asks… yeah, that’s right, I remember, weren’t you the ones that did that wine video with some sort of weird spin, dance move? As a result I think I’m in Loni’s eternal doghouse–the infamous caulking video didn’t exactly help either (hey, I needed an excuse play with my gear). My Mom used to email me, “the spinning is too fast!” Looking back at the video (see below) I realize that she was absolutely right; Premiere Pro in the hands of this neophyte can make for a bumpy ride. Still, I smirk when I see the fraction of a second that features the “spin” in front of the famed welcome sign currently used for the bumper in Stark Insider wine videos. If you can’t have fun in wine country…

Today NVV sent out a commemorative poster for those who played along in the photo contest. This is what it looks like:

Napa Valley Welcome Sign Poster

I’m glad I found an excuse to put those wine bottle mementos to good use.

And when you go to Napa, feel free to spin around, jump for joy, and dance–why not, YOLO. Here’s the instructional video:


*Bonus dance scenes shot in Loreto Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Plus: cameo by Karl Wente’s impossibly cute dog!

Clinton Stark
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear