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Final Entry: Guy Carl—Man vs. Wild

Guy Carl, CPA grew up fishing his way around the Napa Valley. An outdoor columnist for the Napa Valley Register, Carl is a partner at Brotemarkle, Davis & Co., LLP in St. Helena and specializes in work with small wineries. We caught up with him to see what Napa’s nature has to offer and how business has changed in the valley over the years.

What is so great about the outdoors?
Experiencing all the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the natural world really helps bring my mind and soul back into balance—especially after a long week of poring over numbers, the tax code and the latest FASB promulgations!

Where is your favorite pastoral hideaway in the Napa Valley?
Definitely high on my list is floating in a boat on the waters of Lake Hennessey on a warm spring day. I also really enjoy hiking the trails of Skyline Park in Napa’s newly designated Coombsville Appellation.

Tell us about the one that got away.
I’ve landed lots of amazing fish in my time, including one that even stood as a state record for a while, but those that get away are the ones you can’t forget. I suppose one that stands out is a big German brown trout that escaped me a few years back on a trip in Oregon. I had cast my lure near a submerged log and was retrieving it along its length in hopes that a big brown was hiding there. Sure enough, a giant trout launched itself from behind the log and snatched my lure! The lunker immediately leaped out of the water to my right, then zoomed to my left and caught air again, collided with the hull of my boat on a third jump, and then finally dashed away and snapped my line. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

How did you get into writing your column?
The gig with the Napa Valley Register began in 2007 when my father, who had been writing the paper’s outdoor column for 20 years, had become stricken with leukemia. After a very long, difficult and painful battle, he realized that he was not going to overcome the disease and asked if I wanted to take over writing the column after the inevitable. It was a very emotional decision for me during an incredibly difficult time. I accepted his request, not quite sure what I was getting into or for how long I would keep doing it. Since then I’ve really taken to outdoor writing and made it my own creation—and discovering a voice I never knew I had!

What’s the biggest threat to your neck of the woods?
As California’s population grows, and we claim ever more of its natural lands as our domain, the indigenous wildlife to these landwill face an increasing struggle to survive. This is nowhere more evident than in our natural waterways. The species most impacted here are the native salmon and steelhead trout. Dams have eliminated a vast percentage of the natural spawning grounds. Diversions of water to the state’s desert regions have become so extreme that some rivers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta now flow backwards from their normal direction.

What challenges do small wineries face in this market?
The biggest challenge for those just starting is the investment of time to create a fine wine. The financial investment needed to purchase the grapes does not normally translate into the sale of a bottle of wine until more than a year later. Add an additional four years if you’re purchasing land and planting a vineyard. This adds a whole new dimension to business planning and managing your operating cash flows over a longer time horizon than a typical business.

Got any tips on wineries to visit?
One of my favorites is Darioush Winery on Napa’s east side along Silverado Trail. Sign up for their amazing artisan cheese and wine tasting. If you want breathtaking views, visit Barnett Vineyards on top of Spring Mountain or Viader Vineyards on the east side’s Howell Mountain.

Has Napa changed much since you were a boy?
Nearly every plant-able space in the Napa Valley has a vineyard on it now, and new hotels are sprouting up in every city and town. Napa used to be more of a bedroom community for workers commuting to the Bay Area, but now the resident populations are made up more of folks who support the local industries.

Where do you think the future of private company financial reporting should be headed?
I would like to see a separate GAAP for non-public companies. Many of the new requirements add no value for users of small-company financial statements, and in many cases are confusing or misleading. It’s also increasing the cost of preparing financial statements to the point where many small businesses can’t justify the annual cost, preventing them from obtaining financing necessary to grow or maintain their businesses. It would behoove the economy to make financial reporting as simple as possible for small businesses. The separation could be accomplished by only applying the increased disclosure requirements to public companies, and perhaps private companies with greater than a predetermined sales level (maybe $100 million?).