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New group sales chief for expanding Meritage; also, ‘Do you speak Sonoma?’

[caption id="attachment_30285" align="alignright" width="216" caption="Renderings of the Napa Valley Destination Council’s new visitor’s center which expects to open in the Napa Riverfront in late March."][/caption]

The Napa Valley Destination Council expects to open its new visitor’s center in the Riverfront in late March, leaving its previous location on First Street in Downtown Napa

The destination council expects to improve the visitor’s center with the new location – its neighbors will include restaurants by chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Tyler Florence.

Roughly 142,000 people visited the downtown center in 2009, according to the council. Although foot traffic will be lost on First Street, the council anticipates significant growth in overall visits to the entire region – the goal is to draw 240,000 annual visitors, according to the Riverfront complex developer, Channel Properties.

“Guests will be able to access information in multiple ways, including personalized service from our great volunteer ambassador team, through our Visit Napa Valley mobile application, and various printed collateral,” said Allison Simpson, vice president of communications for the destination council.

The new center will include a topographical map of Napa Valley illustrating the wide variety of wine-producing areas, as well as artwork by St. Helena-based photographer Chuck O’Rear, Ms. Simpson said.

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The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa has hired Rosanne Beals as its new director of group sales.

Ms. Beals has worked in the hotel and resort sector for the past 20 years throughout the Los Angeles, Sacramento and Napa regions, according to Meritage.

Ms. Beals previously worked for major hotel brands such as Marriott, Wyndam, Sheraton and Crowne Plaza.

The hiring of Ms. Beals comes as the Meritage continues an expansion that will add more than 131,000 square feet to the resort. It will include 165 new guest rooms and more than 12,500 square feet of event space, totaling 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The expansion, Meritage said, will enable it to host larger conferences and give more attendees the opportunity to stay at the resort.

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The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, with Healdsburg-based Firefly Creative Company, rolled out its 2011 advertising campaign “Do You Speak Sonoma?” earlier this month.

The campaign, developed by Firefly, “creatively employs words and phrases unique to the Sonoma County experience,” the advertising agency said in announcing the campaign.

Examples include “Sonomads” (people embracing the wanderlust of traveling to Sonoma County” and the “Full Monte Rio” (a day spent canoeing, hiking, wine tasting and watching the sunset over the redwoods),” among others that can be found at www.SonomaCounty.com/speaksonomaglossary.

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The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena was named one of the top 40 restaurants in the U.S. by Gayot.com, which described it as an “extraordinary Wine Country venue that has vaulted to stardom with chef Christopher Kostow since his arrival in 2008.”

Meadowood also named Boris Portnoy as its new pastry chef. Mr. Portnoy previously worked at San Francisco’s Campton Place. He was also named a “Rising Star Pastry Chef” by Starchefs and Northstar Magazine’s“Best New Pastry Chef.”

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Former Century Theatres owner Syufy Enterprises acquired Peacock Gap Gold and Country Club in San Rafael last week.

San Rafael-based Syufy said it plans “numerous improvements” to the facilities and partly private 18-hole course in the next year. The 50-year-old course is expected to remain open and fully functional during any planned improvements, Syufy said.

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Submit items for this column to Dan Verel at dverel@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.