Led by Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett, the team behind this initiative consists of citizens, professionals, scientists, winegrowers, and ecologists. There are no deep pockets or financial stakes, just a concern that we pass along a truly sustainable Napa County to the next generation. Here are some active contributors to the movement to save Napa's watershed:
Mike Hackett grew up in Chehalis, Washington, a small lumber and dairy town. After flying military planes for the Navy during the Vietnam War, he became a commercial pilot and trained others to fly commercially. Mike married his high school sweetheart and moved with his family to the Napa Valley at a time when there was an enthusiasm for hands-on winegrowing and producing high quality natural products while living sustainably with nature. From 1978-2004, Mike and Carolyn lived in west Napa and ran a Christmas tree farm. They now have two grown children and a pair of grandchildren. In 2004, Mike and Carolyn moved to Angwin and became aware that Howell Mountain is a key watershed, providing water for St. Helena’s Bell Canyon Reservoir and Napa’s Lake Hennessey. For the last 12 years, Mike has been a member of Save Rural Angwin, and the last several years served as its chair.
Jim Wilson’s unusual combination of experiences prepared him well for leadership in conservation. His degree in Food Science enables him to understand the production processes in the wine business, while his career in quality assurance for Anheuser-Busch gives him the logical experience to get to root causes. His spiritual beliefs support his conviction that nature exists for reasons greater than providing resources for human consumption.Growing up in Auburn, CA, Jim would hike the trails from Squaw Valley to Forestville, raising his awareness of the importance of leaving nature as he found it. Jim’s family moved to Napa when he was in high school. He married his high school girlfriend, Leonore, a poet and writer. They now live in the oak woodlands of Capell Valley outside of Napa. They have three sons who share their reverence of nature and concern for its protection. Jim is a community activist and educator, teaching the latest concepts in climate responsibility in local schools.
Chris Benz' career was in the wine industry, working 35 years as a winemaker and winery production manager in Sonoma and Napa Counties. She is also an avid hiker and backpacker and learned a lot about local trails and natural lands by being a hike leader and conservation easement monitor with the Land Trust of Napa County. Chris is concerned about preserving the future of agriculture in our county and served on the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee in 2015. She currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Napa Group of the Sierra Club, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee of the Napa Valley Transportation Authority, and is active with Napa Climate NOW!, a local group educating about climate change.
Beth Novak Milliken
In 1987, Beth Novak Milliken joined her mother, Mary Novak, becoming the first second-generation family member to become actively involved in guiding Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery. In the more than quarter century since, Beth has played a key role in establishing the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard as one of the world’s great winegrowing sites, and Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley’s most iconic and respected wineries. She has also quietly built a reputation as a leader in the Napa Valley community, advocating on behalf of the wine industry, and the social and environmental causes she holds dear.
Warren Winiarski is a Napa Valley resident, grape grower and philanthropist. His well noted Arcadia Vineyards in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley grows Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. He planted his first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in 1970 in what is now the Stags Leap District AVA. Founder and former proprietor of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Mr. Winiarski is a Napa Valley winemaking icon with a deep legacy commencing when his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgment of Paris in 1976, helping put Napa Valley on the global wine map. A longtime advocate of Napa Valley land preservation, Mr. Winiarski has backed legislation during the past 50 years to protect agricultural and open space for future generations. He is a longstanding, avid supporter of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's American wine programs and has established funds to continually support the UC Davis Library's collections of prominent wine writers' manuscripts and papers. Mr. Winiarski lives with his wife Barbara in the Napa Valley.
Yeoryios C Apallas, J.D.
Yeoryios C. Apallas is a retired senior assistant attorney general from the state of California. In his twenty-seven years with the California Attorney General’s Office, Mr. Apallas specialized in the enforcement of nonprofit and foundation laws. Mr. Apallas is the proprietor of Soda Creek Vineyards in the Napa Valley. He is the president of the Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation, a California nonprofit organization. He continues his legal work, focusing principally on charitable trust and foundation fiduciary issues and provides volunteer work in the area of fiduciary responsibilities of nonprofit organizations and their directors. Mr. Apallas serves as a board member of the Napa Valley Farm Bureau and is a member of the Napa Grape Growers Association.
Patricia was raised on a small farm in Illinois during a time all her friends’ fathers’ boots smelled like milk and cow manure, and social life revolved around the seasons and agriculture. She escaped the hard work of farm life as soon as she had wheels, studying chemistry and then psychology. She was surprised to find herself back on the land when she married her current husband. Together they have managed Harms Vineyards and Lavender Fields, becoming certified for Biodynamic organic produce. She has two sons, two daughters-in-law, and two grandsons, all reasons she works passionately for the watersheds and the survival of our oaks. She maintained a private practice as a Jungian psychoanalyst in Napa, Sonoma County, and San Francisco for many years, is an author, and currently serves on the board of Napa Vision 2050 and is editor of its newsletter Eyes on Napa.
Founder, farmer, activist and winemaking pioneer of Howell Mountain. Randy started his wine career working for Charlie Wagner as the first enologist for Caymus Vineyards, and never looked back. Now after all these years, not a lot has changed. More of a farmer, he’s hands-on in vineyards most days. His love for Howell Mountain led him to be instrumental in establishing it as a sub-AVA of Napa Valley. And if he’s not farming the mountain, he’s mountain biking on it, flying his plane over it, or finding ways to preserve it for future generations. He is happy to be called a dirt-loving hippie, but you’d probably think he’s more of a cowboy.
Xulio Soriano is a grassroots community organizer and spoken word artist from Napa, California born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work is centered around the intersection of art, education, and socio-ecological justice. He is co-founder of Napa Valley Dream Team, Napa Valley Ethnic Studies Advocates, Healing Walk Napa Valley, and Alianza Mixteca del Valle de Napa. Appointed liaison in bi-cultural exchanges between Mexico & California indigenous peoples and out-reach assistant for Suscol Intertribal Council. He writes poetry and raps in English, Spanish, and French.
Born and raised in the Napa Valley, Julia Winiarski has worked in early childhood education, hospitality, the wine industry, wildlife rescue and hospice. She studied philosophy, humanitarian aid, and culture. She is an artist and one of the founders of Healing Walk Napa Valley, and currently serves on local environmental nonprofit boards.