Behnert, a Seattle-based art director, traveled to Napa Valley to work with the photographer on an Endless Vacation shoot.
As soon as I arrived at Solage, Calistoga’s newest spa, photographer Amanda Marsalis and her assistant Whitney Guenther greeted me on two of the glistening black beach-cruiser bikes that come with each Solage bungalow. What followed was my kind of business meeting: We sat down in the restaurant’s outdoor lounge to plan the shoot, and while we talked the cheerful staff brought out a series of impeccable dishes for us to taste. (Our favorite? Potato gnocchi with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.)
Plenty of work lay ahead. The next few days were to begin with 6 a.m. shoots, and our list of destinations was formidable. But that first leisurely afternoon—spent in the midst of barn-style buildings, stately pools and shimmering palms—inspired our portrayal of Napa Valley: as a place of immense comfort, well-being and tranquility.
Of course, we were able to see so many amazing things, but—as is usually the case on work trips—we didn’t quite get to fully experience them. At the sublime restaurant Redd, for example, the kitchen prepared some of the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever seen. But instead of eating the food, we spent our time taking pictures of it. Then we ran off to the next location, leaving the feast to be devoured by some other lucky souls. We spent the night in some incredibly posh places, but dropped into bed late and left before dawn, never touching the comfy robes or bathing in the cavernous tubs.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
There were also perks. At Castello di Amorosa, owner Daryl Sattui gave us a private tour, even showing us the castle’s torture chamber, complete with an actual iron maiden. We adored Taylor’s Refresher, St. Helena’s classic roadside hamburger stand, where we sipped Arnold Palmers and munched on fries at a picnic table bathed in afternoon sun. At dusk we zoomed around the paths of Meadowood Resort on chauffeured golf carts, glimpsing deer in the surrounding woods. Then we retired to crackling fires in our rooms.
Whitney even got to try her hand at modeling. As it turned out, there weren’t enough vacationers available to pose for pictures. So while I wrangled the light meter and other gear, Whitney biked back and forth on country roads, smeared her body with clay at a spa and jumped into a chilly pool at dawn—all while managing to appear relaxed! I’ve since decided that when I return to Napa, the only reason for getting up at 6 a.m. will be for a relaxing bike ride through the awakening valley.