Napa at Last Light - Author Book Signing & Conversation

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Date(s) - 03/14/2018
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

St. Francis Winery


Is Napa at “Last Light”? A new book by author James Conaway posits the demise of Napa’s agrarian Shangri-la. This past week Mike Dunne’s Sacramento Bee headline read, “Napa expert grim about the state and direction of the valley: ‘I don’t see any hope’.” And wine writer W. Blake Gray headline his interview with the author: “Napa Sells its Soul to Developers.” Find out for yourself…

Join us for a conversation with the Conaway and local writer Paul Franson, and a book signing, at St. Francis Winery on March 14th, from 6 to 8 p.m. Readers Books will be on hand selling copies of Conaway’s book.


  • How Napa Valley may be selling out to developers, according to Conaway
  • Why he thinks Napa Valley is over-planted for the water table
  • How he sees Napa Valley as similar to Silicon Valley
  • Why he believes some local politicians may be inept and possibly corrupt
  • How Conaway thinks women in the wine industry have contributed to Napa Valley development in a different way than men


  • 6-6:30 p | Reception, book purchases and book signing
  • 6:30-7:30 p | A Conversation with James Conaway
  • 7:30-8 p | Q&A and closing remarks


James Conaway, Author

A former Wallace Stegner writing fellow at Stanford University and an Alicia Patterson journalism fellow, James Conaway is the author of “Napa: The Story of an American Eden,” (1990); “The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley” (2002); and now “Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity;” and three novels, “The Big Easy,” “World’s End,” and “Nose.”

Frank Prial, writing in the New York Times, said Conaway was “a reporter with a Saroyan-like sense of humor and a Balzac-like eye for detail,” which made him very happy. That book has been in print continually since 1990 and people still tell Conaway they enjoy and learn from it.

Napa’s sequel appeared in 2002. The Far Side of Eden: Old Land, New Money and the Battle for Napa Valley was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year and described in the New York Times Book Review as “an important story, emblematic of our time.”

Other books include the memoir, “Memphis Afternoons,” about growing up in Memphis in the Fifties, and “The Kingdom in the Country.” It’s a personal journey through the public lands of the American West described by Wallace Stegner as “a very lively book… He got into places and activities that most westerners never even get close to,” and by novelist Jim Harrison as “a wonderful and well-considered evocation of the New West.”

Of his history of the Smithsonian Institution, Evan S. Connell wrote, “Nobody will attempt to one-up Conaway for a long time because he, like his subject, has gathered all things relevant.” He is also the author of “America’s Library: A History of the Library of Congress, 1800-2000,” published by Yale University Press.

For four years Conaway was the editor of “Preservation,” the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Conaway has also written for lots of magazines over the years, including The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Republic, Gourmet, Smithsonian and Nat Geographic Traveler. He won first place in a North American Travel Writers Association competition for his series, “Walk into America,” that appeared in Traveler, and he’s taught creative non-fiction at the University of Pittsburgh and at Johns Hopkins and George Mason universities.

He still contributes to Geographic’s travel blog, Intelligent Travel, as well as his own

Conaway and his wife, Penny, a caterer, divide their time between Washington, D.C., and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, with frequent trips to California. Their mutual hobbies are cooking, travel, and some fly fishing.

Paul Franson, Writer

Mr. Franson writes about wine and winemaking for both consumers and the wine business. He was formerly editor of a national business magazine, and has written for many publications, including Wine Business Monthly, Wine Enhusiast, Decanter, The San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine and the Napa Valley Register, as well as his own newsletterNapaLife, the weekly insider’s newsletter about Napa Valley. He maintains two websites, and

Franson wrote Spinning the Bottle, a book about wine industry public relations with Harvey Posert, and is working on another wine marketing book.


For more than four decades, the wines of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards have reflected the finest mountain and valley vineyards in Sonoma County. Its founder, Joe Martin, fell in love with Sonoma Valley and established St. Francis Vineyard in 1971, planting 22 acres of Chardonnay and the first 60 acres of Merlot in Sonoma Valley. After achieving great success as a grower, Joe opened his own winery in 1979 with his business partner Lloyd Canton.

Their first winemaker, Tom Mackey, joined St. Francis in 1983 and was renowned for elevating both the quality and style of Sonoma Merlot as an ultra-premium, stand-alone varietal. He also cultivated an in-depth understanding of every Sonoma appellation.

Today, a new generation of winemakers, Katie Madigan and Chris Louton, continues their long tradition of luscious, elegant, fruit-driven wines from Sonoma County grapes. They farm more than 400 acres of Certified Sustainable estate vineyards in Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valley, each with varying compositions of loam, clay and volcanic soils. They also nurture long-term relationships with top Sonoma County grape growers, giving the winery access to some of the region’s most coveted old vines Zinfandel and other varietals from acclaimed vineyards.