Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pleasant Valley Tuesday

Act 2, Scene 1

Today's action moved from the big city to wine country as we rented a car and drove to Napa listening to an outstanding R&B throwback station playing the likes of Pebbles, Janet Jackson, the Jets and the Whispers.

Our plan was to play wine tourists, like the couple on bikes we saw pedaling winery to winery with a baby carrier on the back of his bike. Our adventure began without bikes or babies under a cloudless blue sky at Heitz Wine Cellars. Started in 1961, the winery's tasting room was cozy, with a fireplace and small dog asleep on a dog bed on the hearth.

After tasting through wines that cost more than I get paid for writing an article, we bought a bottle to take outside and enjoy, only to discover a shady patio and men trimming vines on the pergola overhead. After being in a concrete canyon the past few days, shade had lost its appeal, necessitating a change of scenery to the front piazza and a sunny bench.

We saw the wine train chug by laden with eager wine tourists, a picaresque old-style train that would have been at home in a '40s movie. That bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was soon history, as was a good chunk of the afternoon, a fitting welcome to Napa.

Scene 2

After cruising through downtown Napa, which looked like more a pre-fab shopping destination than the center of a long-time winemaking community, we stopped for lunch at Gott's Roadside, a sprawling outdoor burger joint that began life as Taylor's Roadside back in 1949. The old Taylor's sign was showing its age, but then, aren't we all?

Joining the long line of people waiting to order outside, we were behind a hip-looking couple (with a muzzled dog), the kind who go to a burger place and order kale salads because the $22 lobster roll is sold out. Tragic, in other words.

Far more humorous was when the cashier asked for a name to call out when our order was ready and my smart-assed companion said Lord Vader. Hearing that on the speaker got a few snickers from other patrons and got me a bacon cheeseburger, onion rings and chocolate shake, all of which I inhaled after such a vigorous day of tasting wine.

Scene 3

At Mumm Napa, we sat inside a sunny patio facing the vineyards to do their Heritage Collection tasting - including the gorgeous 2009 DVX Rose - and a bonus, the Santana Brut, named after Carlos, who apparently visited the winery three times and now has a wine named after him.

Our affable server Jim, wearing a hat with a chin strap, shared his back story when I asked. Seems he'd ended up in Palo Alto after he and his wife set out to investigate three cities: Sante Fe, San Francisco and Seattle. 

When the wife got sick (actually pregnant), they ended up staying in California. "That baby's 27 now," he told us. "We never made it to Seattle."

Other facts gleaned: his first show was the Carpenters at the University of Georgia in 1970 and his draft number was 170, although he was never called up.

"Does your job involve asking questions?" he asks of me.

That and eating and drinking, Jim. Sure does.

Watching the sun set over the hills behind us, colorful people watching in the tasting room and observing the near-constant line of tourists posing for the requisite photos (not that we did) in front of the Mumm Napa sign just outside the patio all but ensured we had endless entertainment as we closed the daylight hours sipping bubbles.

The kind of place that puts a spell on you for better or for worse.

She's a black magic woman and she's trying to make a devil out of me...

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