News Column

Timeless trucks

May 31, 2014

By Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

May 31--A funny thing happened to Napa photographer Lisa Harris on her way to documenting 50 wineries for a client.

First, she noticed that many had classic trucks parked on the premises. Then she realized that those classic trucks kept popping up, like a hood with a bad latch, in many of her photographs.

"By winery number five or six, it dawned on me how nice it would be to have a collection of photographs of the old trucks," she said. "That's when the obsession began."

Harris captured 60 of these timeless trucks in her self-published book, "Wine Country Trucks of Napa & Sonoma Counties," released in April. In the 150-page book, she captures an eclectic assortment of vintage vehicles, from cherished and chipped to gleaming and glamorous.

"To me, the old trucks are works of art," she said.

Originally, Harris envisioned a simple coffee table book. But she ended up collecting stories about each truck as well, weaving them into a tapestry that reflected Wine Country's earthy past.

"The book became more about the agricultural stories and adventures," she said. "Through lengthy interviews, sheer determination and sometimes mild pestering, I was able to discover their untold stories."

For example, Harris photographed a 1927 Ford Roadster that has hauled turkeys, hay and feed in Sonoma'sLovall Valley for its entire life. The truck, still used as a working ranch vehicle, enjoyed a checkered past.

"The valley had a thriving moonshine industry, and this truck was a moonshine runner," Harris said. "It made many a moonlit ride on the back roads of Sonoma."

Then there was the 1961 Willys Jeep that worked for the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey volunteer fire department in the 1970s.

In 2001, DeLoach Vineyards founder Cecil DeLoach, a retired firefighter, purchased the jeep and restored it to its former glory, placing it at his Hook & Ladder Winery in Santa Rosa.

"They still get visitors from the New Jersey fire department," Harris said of Hook & Ladder, where the shiny red truck serves as a mascot.

Harris also photographed a hulking 1928 Ford AA -- still boasting all of its original parts -- parked at Turnbull Wine Cellars in Rutherford.

The owner of Turnbull bought it 25 years ago from a Nebraska lumberyard and offered it an easy retirement, soaking up the sun while promoting high-end cabernet sauvignon.

In Healdsburg, a 1951 Ford Country Squire Woody, lovingly restored by Longboard Winery founder Oded Shakked, still cruises around town with surfboards overhead and cases of wine in the rear.

"That's a very unusual Woody, because it has a Country Squire emblem on the side," Harris said. "It's in perfect condition."

One beauty -- a 1952 International Harvester truck -- was restored to mint, 1950s condition outside, and updated inside with a Corvette engine. The sleek black truck was a gift from Suzie Reynolds to her husband Steve, owner of of Reynolds Family Winery in Napa.

Along with winery mascots, you'll find cafÉ mascots as well, which lend an air of retro chic to roadhouses like the Jimtown Store in Healdsburg and Fremont Diner in Sonoma.

Yet others are rusty relics, with one tire in the final parking place and the other in the wrecking yard. A 1946 Chevy flatbed, once used to haul grape pomace and wine pallets, has been put out to pasture at the south end of V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena.

Harris grew up in the South Bay, then lived in Oregon for 30 years before moving down to Napa a few years ago to be closer to her family.

Up in Bend, she worked as a real estate broker and lived on a ranch, where she kept an old truck for carting hay and making dump runs.

"His name was Wally," she said. "It was a 1971 Ford, faded orange with a lot of chips."

Harris uncovered Wine Country's hidden trove of trucks by scouring the Internet and through word of mouth. She would contact the truck owners, then set up a photo shoot.

"They'd wash the truck and put it out for me to photograph," she said. "They saw my vision."

Her first book-signing at Laird Family Estate Winery in Napa this spring drew an unexpected wave of vintage vehicle lovers and their trucks.

"It was epic," she said.

The books are available at 32 wineries and retail outlets in both Napa and Sonoma counties. For more information go to

(You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or


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Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)

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