Essential Guide to Napa and Sonoma

... as told to Cyndy Tanner

Andrea Kenner is the owner of Tamarind, a Healdsburg boutique that specializes in women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories.


In a sentence or two, how would you describe what you do for a living?
I am an entrepreneur, boutique owner, buyer, visual merchandiser and clothing designer. I love curating a global chic collection and bringing it all back to my customers in Sonoma County, California.

You love what you do because...
I love what I do because I have the license and freedom to be creative, to source inspiring products and to collaborate with talented designers. I have lots of friends in artsy professions who are often wearing interesting pieces. I love tracking down and forming relationships with designers when I see a product that excites me.

What are the challenges you face in your profession?
The biggest challenge is the nature of the fashion industry and the demands of the current day retail market. The fashion and retail landscape has changed so much: there are small boutiques with many new platforms, big-box stores, Internet shopping, and designers with their own websites. These make it more difficult to compete, but many of my customers value and appreciate a hands-on experience where they can feel the fabrics, try things on and have a wonderful shopping experience in a real brick-and-mortar store.

How did you end up in Napa, Sonoma, Marin?
I was born in Sonoma County, but I left as soon as I could so I could travel and see the world. I landed in NYC for fashion school at F.I.T., the Fashion Institute of Technology. I eventually moved back to California. It took ten years of trotting around the globe for me to realize how amazing Sonoma County is.

What are your favorite things about living in the Bay Area?
I love that we have everything you could ever want here. We’re an hour from the city, a few hours from the mountains and snow, thirty minutes from the coast, ocean or hot springs. We are surrounded by top-rated wineries and, of course, the food here is amazing.

You are personally best known for...
Even as a child I had an intuitive sense of style. All the years of playing “dress up” as a child evolved quite naturally and led me to a more formal study of fashion and design. Extensive travel in the states and abroad also contributed to my love of combining classic-style garments and seeking out unique designers.

Happily, this mix resonates with the Tamarind customer. In the planning stages of Tamarind I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to offer my clients, and now that I have been open for three years in The Barlow, I can also listen intently to what my clients tell me they love about the store. My customer base is diverse, with clients anywhere from their 20’s to their 80’s, but what they all have in common is a desire for quality and beauty. I even have some very stylish mother and daughter clients who love the store and even loan items to each other.

Many clients also like to support smaller designers with unique products that can’t be found anywhere else. I seek out exceptional fabrics, preferably linens, cashmeres and organic cottons. I look for things with a unique design that combine casual styling with luxurious fabrics. It’s not uncommon for me to dress a client in the store for an event or an elegant dinner party and send them directly from the store to the event wearing new clothing and shoes, and a new handbag and jewelry.

This aspect of my work is so satisfying. I was recently in Paris scoping out the fashion scene and was happily surprised to discover that many of the same designers I was seeing in the best stores are also featured at Tamarind.

Your recommendation for the must-do, not-to- be-missed experience in Napa, Sonoma, Marin?
Driving on Coleman Valley Road to Bodega Bay, going to Iron Horse Winery when the Oyster Girls are serving Oysters, having a picnic with bubbles, and going to Wildflour Bakery in Freestone for their cheese-and- veggie stuffed fougasse (bread).

They say that whatever you were most passionate about before you started school is a harbinger for adult life. What did you love to do the most as a kid? My favorite thing to do was play “dress up” with friends. We would imagine we were career women, and we styled outfits to go to fictitious work or to cocktail parties.

How would you spend a perfect day off in Napa, Sonoma, Marin?
The perfect day off for me is to go to the hot springs in Calistoga. We live thirty minutes away. We love relaxing in the water, getting spa services, having a picnic with a nice bottle of wine and then walking to town for cocktails and dinner.

What season or time of year do you look forward to in Napa, Sonoma, Marin and why?
October is the best time of year here. It is our Indian summer the weather is beautiful, and the general vibe is not like autumn in the rest of the country. There are a lot of events and outdoor parties, and it’s still warm enough go to the lake or to the pool.  

Any unusual or memorable job experiences along the way that you could share? Worst? Best?
My most memorable job was a recent one designing lingerie for Tart Collections. We built a family-like team, and it is so inspiring to collaborate and work together with others to grow a business.

What's on your nightstand/ bedside table?
Domino magazine and The New York Times Sunday Style section.