Studio 1299A. Founder of Studio 1299A in St. Helena, Monica Stevens moved to Napa Valley in 2006 from Chicago. Prior to her move, she was already involved in the wine business working as a publicist for a variety of wine clients including several wine consortiums in South Africa, New Zealand and Ribera del Duero DO in Spain. Her only domestic client was Robert Mondavi Winery; she worked with both Robert and his sons Tim and Michael, supporting various wine events. When she met Robert she recalls she was drawn to his persona, “like a moth to a flame”. She later had lunch with him at Robert Mondavi Winery in early 2006 (Robert passed in 2008) and remembers telling him she was planning to move to Napa Valley in the next few months. She considers what he did for Napa Valley an inspiration and always appreciated his unrelenting tenaciousness.
A boyfriend at the time subscribed to Architectural Digest. Monica remembers seeing Poetry Inn on the front cover of one of the issues. She reached out to Poetry Inn when she arrived in Napa; her timing was fortuitous as an employee had recently quit and they were looking to hire someone else. Her first job in Napa Valley was at Poetry Inn, a Cliff Lede owned property in the hills east of Yountville. It was at Poetry Inn where she met her eventual husband and business partner, David Stevens. He had co-founded ACME Fine Wines in St. Helena in 2003 and was delivering wines from Hourglass to a client staying at the Poetry Inn.
Two years later she founded All Access Napa Valley – a premium concierge service focusing on securing reservations at small premium Napa Valley wineries. She continues to provide concierge services for clients.
David (died in 2023) was from small town North Dakota (Minot); he moved to California in 1975 (San Francisco) and worked for many years in the restaurant business. He began working in Napa Valley at the esteemed Tra Vigne Restaurant (was their Director of Wine Programs from 1997 to 2002) and then in 2003 co-founded a fine wine shop (ACME Fine Wines) with his business partner at the time Karen Williams. They took the shop from a small, cramped location to a much larger location. Today it is owned by Karen and has become one of the finest wine shops in the valley both in terms of selection of wines and customer service.
Monica and David founded 750 Wines on Adams Street in St. Helena in 2009. Their space was previously an office for real estate broker Jeanine Philips, the founder of Screaming Eagle. They rented from her until she sold the building to the Huneeus family (the founders of Quintessa Winery). The space was one of the go to places in the valley for securing access to limited production wines from premium producers. Monica remembers that wine writer Stephen Tanzer would sometimes use their space to taste and evaluate wines.
But then after David was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they decided to sell 750 Wines. The sale went through in early 2021 to Wine Access. Monica continued working with Wine Access for 10 months to ensure a smooth transition. But she realized an important part of her life was missing: being able to host highly personalized visits and tastings for wine enthusiasts and collectors. And at the same time continue to develop and build relationships with premium Napa Valley wine brands.
1299A is located just off of Main Street in St. Helena, off the beaten path, but accessible”. And like 750 Wines, 1299A is located in an alley, or two alleys to be more precise. And as Napa Valley based artist and the creator of the 750 Wines logo, Michael Roche told Monica, “the fun stuff happens in the alleys”. The most convenient parking is off of Money Way, a street which is more like an alley than a street, which parallels Main Street. Visits to 1299A are for serious wine enthusiasts and collectors. Monica has formed close relationships with many well-regarded vintners in the valley and as a result maintains a diverse collection of wines. She and her small team host clients by appointment seven days a week. She calls Studio 1299A her, “triangle of love and appreciation between wineries, clients and support of Jameson Humane”.
The digs are simply decorated with the focus being on the visitor and the personalized private tasting experience. Napa Valley based interior designer Richard Von Saal contributed a number of pieces including furniture to the inside. And each of these pieces is for sale to be replaced with another one of a kind piece after they are sold. Incidentally, the original table at 750 Wines, which was later sold to an area vintner was one of Von Saal’s early projects.
These are not merely wines; when one digs a bit deeper one finds that each wine comes with a story and often an intriguing one. Monica has built close relationships with owners or winemakers of the wineries they represent. And while their selection includes wines from well-established premiere brands, a large part of their portfolio focuses on newer brands.
Visitors are provided a questionnaire to help narrow down the experience to types of varieties most enjoyed, budget and wineries planning on visiting. Tastings typically include 6 to 8 wines. And the tasting fee is waived with a purchase of three or more bottles per person. While not allowed to sell wines on site until January 2026 due to a non-compete agreement between her and Wine Access, the orders are then forwarded to the individual wineries who make the sales and fulfil shipping. All wines are provided by the wineries for the tastings. And some of the wineries don’t have spaces for hosting their own tastings, so they refer all tasting requests to Studio 1299A. Monica doesn’t have an upper limit for the number of brands she wants to represent, but currently works with about 30 producers.
When you visit you taste based on the types of wines you enjoy, and you can be assured you are trying wines from producers with extremely limited productions. Because of long-term relationships, Monica has been able to secure wines not often found at any other retail locations. Despite being open only a week at the time of our initial visit to the space, they had already held a number of tastings and were still accepting winery brands to represent. Such is Monica’s reputation in the valley for quality and a personal touch, that when she opens a new shop, it’s not really like opening a new shop. She just moved locations and the winemakers she works with, and her customers follow.
Monica is an avid animal enthusiast; ever since she was a child, she wanted to rescue animals. In 2014 she approached David with the idea of starting a wine auction with the proceeds benefitting rescue animals realizing the moderate climate of Napa Valley would be much more suited for an animal rescue center than Chicago. David was immediately on board and was her strongest supporter. But so was the community – an impressive number of vintners and others involved in Napa Valley’s wine business become donors and supporters of their efforts. They became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and hosted the first WineaPAWLooza charity auction at Gamble Family Vineyards in 2014. Monica recalls they hosted that auction only three months after its inception. They were honored and humbled by the $450,000 they raised that year. They have since become among the top money raiser wine auctions in the country. Vintner Fritz Hatton is always the auctioneer for WineaPAWLooza.
The namesake for Jameson is in homage to a 180 pound Great Pyrenees that Monica rescued in Chicago and brought with her to Napa Valley. Jameson lived to 14 years of age. Some of the proceeds from sales of wine through Studio 1299A and from Monica’s concierge services are directly donated to Jameson Humane.
The auction was held at Gamble Family Vineyards for several years, then at Tusk Winery, it went virtual for a few years before being hosted at the Beckstoffer Farm Center in 2023 in Rutherford. By Monica’s quick calculation, this auction has raised over 14 millions dollars since its inception.
In 2018 with the proceeds raised from several prior auctions, 4.5 acres were purchased in Carneros off of Cuttings Wharf Road and the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch was founded. Its location is in the country but conveniently only about a 12 minute drive to downtown Napa. The former occupant ran Wine Country Pet Resort. At full capacity, the no-kill Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch houses about 80 rescue animals ranging from numerous cats, to dogs, pigs, sheep and even horses. Plans call for building an education center, adding small wind turbines to capture the often stiff Carneros breezes and installing Biopipe, billed as the world’s first biological wastewater treatment system. All water used on the property is recycled on the property.
Jameson Ranch Rescue Center has established relationships with other rescue centers and sanctuaries in northern California which is an important part of their networking in case they are at full capacity. The space services 10 counties. But through Monica and David’s wine network, donors are national. And if they can find the right homes for animals, they will do so although for certain animals its more difficult including horses and pigs.
Several local business have been extremely supportive of their efforts including the owner of the local Napa Grocery Outlet and Whole Foods who on a regular basis donate older produce including vegetables and fruits. For more information and to support their efforts, visit: www.jamesonanimalrescueranch.org