My buddy Heath is so wild for wine that he has a tattoo of a New Zealand vineyard on his arm. Last week I felt like wine had gotten under my skin as much as his. Wine crowded out all the “shoulds” in my life: work, gym, Christmas, and my disaster of a closet. The result was a very good week indeed. I’ll write about all the people with whom I spent time, including Heath, in coming weeks. For now a short recap of one of my best weeks ever.
Chatted with Carl the money genius who pours wine at Taste at Oxbow. Carl is a financial consultant who occasionally works at this very comfortable tasting room, in Napa. Why I'm not sure, perhaps a chance to work with people and not numbers. Sounds geeky, but discussing GDP, currency rates and economic indicators over a glass of say, Mahoney Pinot from the Las Brisas vineyard in Carneros, is a nice switch from the usual swirl and sniff.
I had time to talk to Carl because I had missed my rendezvous with aforementioned Heath who is now unemployed after working at a custom crush facility. When we finally met up I picked his brain for two hours and was wowed by how this 25-year-old has learned so much about wine in the three short years he’s been drinking it legally.
Joey Brinkley, vineyard assistant for Grgich Hills Estates showed me around a biodynamic vineyard on a hill looking over American Canyon. The vines may be “sleeping” but this ecologically diverse little farm was buzzing. Hens were a-laying, birds a-chirping, bees a-buzzing and microbes a…. doing whatever microbes do. Joey sent me home with some biodynamic eggs. The meal I made from the eggs and the high I got from the vineyard stayed with me all day.
The last night of wine class had us tasting some very famous wines, – 1999 Echezeaux Grand Cru, 1979 Mouton Rothschild, and 1970 Graham Vintage Port. But for me, it is not the finish of the wine that lingers, it is the people. Oscar, a Spaniard who in an earlier class had winced about Americans’ use of paper plates, sang us a very sweet song from his country that is traditionally sung when one is drinking special wine.
Checked out the Wooden Valley tasting room in Suisun Valley and met the chatty Ron Lanza who introduced me to Roger King of King Andrews Vineyards. Ron grew up in a family wine business and his story echos the stories of family vintners in Napa, before Napa became Napa. With a background in ski resorts, Roger's story is less pastoral. When I asked him what Kirkwood Ski Resort was like in the 70s he got a far away look in his eyes and memories of sex, drugs and rock and roll danced across his face. Then he muttered the mantra of all of us who have lived large and are still around to tell the tale, “I’m lucky I’m not in jail.”
There's a story there. Stay tuned. I intend to tell it.