Archive for August, 2014

I wrote a lot of this post in August, but then I got nitpicky and didn’t publish it.  I’ve kept the date I originally wrote it to keep the blog in sequential order, but it wasn’t finally published until January 9, 2015. 

(Napa Valley generally, assume St. Helena specifically unless otherwise noted)

My dear friend Philippa invited myself and two other great friends, Carla and Valerie, to accompany her home to St. Helena California for a long weekend this summer. Philippa had a wedding, and this was going to be one of numerous trips home in 2014, and she thought it could be fun to combine the wedding weekend with a girl’s trip to the wine country.

Truthfully, my responsible self felt that I had already exhausted my reasonable allotment of vacation time and money for 2014. However, my justification self remembered that several plans had been cancelled in 2013 due to ankle problems, and that I had sworn that I would do all the fun things in 2014, after five months being in a boot in 2013. Additionally, as a life rule, such exceptional invitations should always be accepted with glee.

California is a spot I have been meaning to visit for most of my life. To date, I have had a dearth of travel experiences west of Utah. I went to Hawaii in college, but I’m not sure that really counts. Somehow I always get caught in the mountains of Colorado.

We flew out of Charleston early Thursday morning, August 8th. Everyone else arrived at SFO around noon PST. I got stuck in the Dulles airport with mechanical issues, arriving in SFO around 8 pm PST, and ubered to the restaurant on Yountville, just when everyone else was finishing dinner. It was a wonderful weekend full of friends, wine, laughter, and sunshine. Without further ado –

Things I learned in Napa

1. Everyone who lives in St. Helena is involved in wine making. Small vintners, medium vintners, real estate agents, grape growers, landowners, wine sellers – the list of participants is vast.

2. Everyone involved in winemaking has a strong science and agricultural background. They have undergraduate degrees in biology for UC-fill in the blank, with a masters in Agra-genetic engineering from UC-pick a different one. It’s amazing, and impressive, and makes for excellent wine fueled Agra-science lessons about fault lines and soil density, runoff, and the importance of sunlight differentiation depending on the slope. I FEEL smarter. I LOVE agra-business.

3. I actually made up the degree of Agra-genetic engineering, but I did learn that grapes come in different hybrids, many of which were brought over from France, with cool names like Dijon 809. That’s not a mustard folks! It’s a grape! (actually, I think Dijon is a region of France, but Dijon 809 is a grape)  I had no idea. Previously, the entirety of my grape knowledge consisted of the fact that white wine could be made with red grape, sans skin.

4. People in Napa have strong ties to the wine regions of France. There are a lot of French people who moved to Napa to work in the wine industry, and all the Napa people have spent time in the French wine areas.

5. Everyone who has a dog and works at a vineyard brings their dog to work with them. There were dogs everywhere. It was awesome. Briscoe sniffed everything in my bag when I returned home with great disdain.

6. It is possible to cook quinoa in a manner that is both delicious and satisfying. I thought this to be a lie, perpetuated by veggie loving communists, and I only ate the quinoa because it seemed to be the culturally expected thing to do in California, expecting to take a few polite bites and move on, but I ended up having seconds. I need to get that recipe and figure out this magical trick.

7. When wine is aging in barrels, a noticeable amount evaporates, so the barrels have to topped off occasionally. The evaporated portion is called the “angel’s share”.

8. The state of California does not allow shark tagging because there are a bunch of activists who are against this project.  This is sad, because Mary Lee, Katharine, and Ocearch have taught me a lot about sharks.

9. The Napa Valley Vintner’s association is something like the tourist bureau and better business bureau all wrapped up in a beautiful barn like office made of reclaimed timber. Bernadette would be proud. Part of being a member of NVV involves donating a barrel to one of the annual auctions, Auction Napa Valley and Premier Napa Valley. A barrel is 25 cases of wine, or 300 bottles. The proceeds from Auction Napa Valley provide funding for healthcare and education for the entire region, especially for migrant workers and their families.  I think this is totally amazing.

10.  In Napa, you need a different set of clothing depending on whether you are standing in the sun or in the shade.  (From the brief time I spent in San Francisco, you need a coat all the time, especially in the summer.)

11. Wine out of the barrel is delicious, as are grapes off the vine.  I expected grapes off the vine to be bitter, but I found them to be extremely pleasant.

12.  I am too old to do backhand springs, even on a trampoline.  I should never do another backhand spring, ever again, under any circumstances, regardless of how springy the ground beneath me happens to be.

13.  According to Pavi’s daughters, Eliana and Alessia, my southern accent is significantly more pronounced in the morning, when I have just woken up.  I can only assume this is because I have yet to hear myself in comparison to the other people around me, and I am not yet awake enough to possess the mental capacity to enunciate properly.  I thought this was an interesting observation.  I’m aware I modify my speech when I am in places where I can hear myself, I guess I just never thought about at what part of the day I made the modification.

14.  If you are out to dinner with a person you do not know very well, and everyone has been drinking wine for the greater part of the day, and the person you do not know asks you a question about an important decision they are about to make, or not make, you should not give emphatic advice on the subject.  Regardless of how convicted you are on there being no question as to the proper choice, just stop talking.  STOP. TALKING.

15.  Chickens can easily mistake a wine glass for a food container.  Freshly gathered eggs do not require refrigeration, but that does not mean you should take the eggs out to dinner with you.  Eggs make poor dinner companions.

16.  Any time after 10 pm is late in Napa.  The days are too glorious to not get up early.

17.   I’m determined to work harvest next year.


















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