oenophiles unite (or, lessons in carpe diem)

Midnight in Paris.  Show of hands of who has seen it.  If you haven’t, quit reading right now and go watch it.  We’ll wait for you.

Woody Allen for me is typically hit-or-miss, but this movie of his really resonated with me.  The crux of the movie is this:  we all long for the good ole days.  We all tend to glorify the past, whether it’s our own past or not (I can say this because I’m sitting here listening to my grandmother’s Benny Goodman cd while I’m writing this).  As much as we talk a big game about seizing the day, when the rubber hits the road, we still sit around comparing our present to what we are convinced were the better days of yesterday.

I’m ridiculously guilty of this, but, to be fair, I also recognize it and try my hardest to acknowledge the awesomeness in the present day.  This brilliant gift of maturity (one of my few, I’ll admit it) came to me as I was sitting on a deck in Corfu, Greece, way back in the summer of 1991.  My best friend and I had ridden a rocky, sleepless, overnight ferry across the Adriatic (where we were sequestered to the upstairs deck, and it was raining), fended off some very forward Norwegians, done a shot of Ouzo at dawn, not bathed in nearly a week and had survived on nothing but gelato for the past 72 hours.  We’d certainly seen better days.

As I waited for my turn in the shower–whose very cold water was slurped straight up from the ocean–I watched the most beautiful full moon I think I’ve ever seen.  It was huge and yellow and sat tethered to the ocean, just riding along towards the west.  Right then and there I knew that no matter how grimy I was or how tired I was or how sick I was of gelato and Ouzo, this was one of the best moments of my life.  The grittiness of the rest of it just made that one moment even that much more spectacular.

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ever since the Greece experience, I’ve had a thing for full moons…
Full moon near St. Helena, California–January 7, 2012

I am by nature a worrywart–which is, of course, an annoying little way to live.  Flying, in particular, freaks me out, especially now that I have children.  Flying worries me so much that I have a full ritual I have to undertake before getting on the plane.  My St. Christopher medals (yes, plural) jangle around, and I’m sure other flyers think the gypsy-girl next to them has lost her mind.  But despite this crazy fear, I still love to go places and refuse to be grounded or to let this skittishness in me be an excuse–I have that Greek moon to thank for this one saving thread of sanity, for this unbridled itch for adventure.

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Russ and I just spent the most amazing weekend out in Napa.  It’s no secret we love wine.  We’ve been out to Napa several times and though we don’t quite know it like a native, we feel we’re getting close.  No big tourist stops for us, thank you.  Sell your wine at Publix in Atlanta?  We’ll take a pass on visiting you in person.  But if you have an hour to spare and want to sit on your deck overlooking your vineyard and tell us your story while we taste your wine, sign us up.

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How’s this for laid back?  This dog set the stage for our weekend: slow, relaxed, happy.
outside Taylor’s Refresher in Napa, which is actually now called Gott’s Roadside but will always be known to us as Taylor’s…

We visited some absolutely spectacular wineries this weekend…Friday’s first stop had us at Black Cat where Tracey, the owner, humbly spoke of how her wine was served at the ESPY’s and how Samuel L. Jackson is a huge fan.  She only makes 1200 cases a year.  Her little tasting room was adorable and so was she.

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From there we headed up to Blankiet, where we joined up with half of the birds in California.  Seriously, thousands and thousands of birds were swooping and circling around the valley, performing a giant, black, liquid ballet.

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Talk about living in the past…the Blankiet estate is a castle built of ancient French and Italian stone.  The tasting room is something out of King Arthur.

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one of the little nooks off the Blankiet tasting room

Saturday morning found us greeting the day with the great John Caldwell.  We adore this man and his wines.  He is chock full of fantastic stories, and he knows how to show you a great time.  Plus, his vineyard is breathtaking.

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We hit Tournesol next, and it did not disappoint.

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IMG_6901with Anne and Bob Arns, the adorable owners of Tournesol

We had the best time hanging out with the Arns family.  Bob loaded us up in his rebuilt bright yellow Citroen and bounced us down a road a bit to show off his unbelievable guest properties.  On the way, he took both hands off the wheel, raised them up and looked over at us and emphatically announced, “I am just SO HAPPY to be here!”

The feeling was mutual.

By that point, Russ and I were bubbling over with happiness.  It was 65 degrees and sunny in January, and we were not just in California, but in Napa Valley.  We were happy in that way that feels like warmth is just radiating off you, and you can’t stop smiling.  Everything was gorgeous and fun and exuberant.  And so we took our joyful, happy, ebullient selves into the very scientific and clean and crisp Vineyard 29, 20 minutes late.  Hmmm.

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Our host was the most serious, devoted and knowledgeable 29-year-old we’ve ever met.  He certainly knew his stuff about the wine, and the wine was incredible.  But after spending the day with two sets of corduroy-clad, relaxed owners who laughed and told jokes as we stood in the sunlight, heading deep into a cave after a laboratory tour by a meticulous, straight-laced, fast-talking dude a decade younger than we are was like walking into a Saturday Night Live skit.

Yes, we got the giggles.  And yes, we ruffled his feathers.  But we also ordered some of his boss’s wine, so there.

By far the most amazing experience we had was our visit to Amuse Bouche’.  On Atlas Peak.

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John told us all about his wines and how we were tasting some he had opened (Au Sommet and Pharoah Moans) only because he was hosting a writer from the Wall Street Journal later that evening.  He told us that if we had come later in the day, he would have sent us down the hill a bit to pick our own tomatoes and herbs before taking us through the dairy to grab some goat cheese made that day from the goats on the property; then he’d walk us back up to the pizza oven to cook our lunch.  On a clear day, you can see Lake Tahoe.  A group of sheep sauntered by, nibbling grass that was growing between rows of grapevines.  Then we saw the Picasso.  It was one of those kinds of days.

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We wound down our trip with visits to tiny Switchback Ridge and Failla.  Kelly at Switchback poured her wines on her father’s back deck–which had also been her grandmother’s back deck–in the shadow of the mountains surrounding her ancient vines.

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Her dog wandered in and out of the rows, and her brother-in-law waved as he drove by.  The science of family–that’s what we like.

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The owners of Failla were hosting a Steelers party, and the winery buzzed with children and smelled of smoky barbecue.  We tasted with a young couple from Sacramento and–in the most ultimate of small world stories–discovered the woman’s great-grandfather had been a doctor in my own hometown.

Failla was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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So, now to tie Midnight in Paris, a backpacking memory from college, and the here-and-now all together.    We all have a Greek moon somewhere in our lives.  It’s the inspiration for us to step out of our shells and try something new.  It’s the courage to commit to an adventure.  Most importantly, it’s the awareness of the present moment and the understanding that time is fleeting.  It’s cognizant memory making.

Find your Greek moon and grab on tight.  Today is the yesterday you’ll look back on tomorrow.

Cheers, all!

“…just pay attention. You might learn something.”
Midnight in Paris, 2011

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