Twin Spin: Napa & Hong Kong
Call me crazy, but I think Hong Kong is a lot like Napa Valley. Napa Valley is world famous — so is Hong Kong. Napa Valley is only 35 miles long, which is about the length of Hong Kong Island. Napa Valley features two mountain ranges, the Mayacamas on one side and the Vacas on the other, somewhat like the Kowloon ranges on one side of our harbor and the spiky range comprising the spine of Hong Kong Island on the other. At its widest, Napa Valley is only about five miles wide and at its narrowest only one mile wide – just like Hong Kong Island. The Valley strings together a series of townships: Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and Napa City. We string together Kennedy Town, Sheung Wan, Central, Wanchai and Causeway Bay.
Napa has a reputation for glitzy glamour that verges on the, ahem, showy. Hong Kong unabashedly abnegates understatement. The Napa Valley auction, one of the most successful charity auctions in the USA, raises US$9.5 million dollars for non-profit organizations. Hong Kong generates at least as much at its many charity auctions.
Napa’s early inhabitants were an indigenous group called the Wappa. Hong Kong’s were the Hakka. The Catholic community provided the early foundation for Napa’s success; the Catholic community provided the early education for Hong Kong’s success. Napa’s famed golf course, Meadowwood was founded on the site on an old Chinese migrant camp, Chinese labour having been imported to tend Napa’s early investments in the 1800’s. Famed Fanling Golf course was founded by British migrants having been imported to tend Hong Kong’s early investments.
Napa’s success is due in part to its diurnal temperatures, which means sunny heat ripens the grapes by day and the chilly evenings that follow preserve the grapes’ natural acidity. In Hong Kong we brave stifling daytime temperatures and shiver thought the evenings as well — in air-conditioned restaurants. Fog is highly prized in Napa as it cools the ripening grapes during the warm summer temperatures. Fog is highly prized in Hong Kong as it cools the ripening Taipans during the warm summer heat.
Napa is home to the most expensive agricultural land in the United States. Hong Kong has some of the most expensive horticultural land in the world – our Botanical gardens. Both regions treasure wet soil: Napa specializes in mud bath treatments, first established in Calistoga in the 1860’s to detoxify and regenerate city-dwellers after excessive wine consumption. The Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt and the Mandarin Landmark all offer a rejuvenating and regenerating mud treatments for city-dwellers suffering from excesses.
Like Hong Kong, Napa thrives on tourism, with some three million visitors per year, second only to Disneyland in California. And like Hong Kong, Napa is a multi- cultural, lifestyle-driven society with pricy gourmet groceries and an innovative food scene. Napa vintners couldn’t function without their teams of hard-working immigrant labour sourced from south of California’s borders. Hong Kong tai-tai’s couldn’t function without their teams of indefatigable labour sourced from south of our borders.
The Napa community is busily shoring up the banks of Napa River. Hong Kong’s leadership is busily shoring up the banks of the harbor. Napa Valley homes are founded on preposterously steep inclines in the Napa foothills. Hong Kong homes are found on preposterously steep foothills midway up the Peak. Napa Valley’s iconic Sterling Vineyards features a steep gondola ride with staggering views as does Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and Lantau’s Nong Ping Skyrail. A number of Napa wineries have been disparagingly pronounced as ego-driven monstrosities. The same has been said of more than one towering Hong Kong edifice. Longtime Napa inhabitants grumble that elaborate faux chateau winery designs are bringing a touch of Disneyland to their rural community. Lantau residents lament that we brought a faux chateau and touch of Disneyland to their rural community.
Finally, no wine has captured the soul of Napa like Cabernet Sauvignon and its Bordeaux-style blends. And no wine has enraptured Hong Kong wine aficionados more than Bordeaux. Yep, Hong Kong is just like Napa Valley. All we need to do is finish filling in the harbor so that we can plant grapes on the valley floor.