A place for friends.
After parking my car in the dirt lot I was greeted by a large piece of art that looked like a wine bottle, a trickling fountain and flowers blooming in large weathered wine barrels next to a babbling creek. Tables and chairs were scattered across the lawn like autumn leaves falling from the trees, clear invitations to sit down and stay for a while. I took a moment to breath, just like a good bottle of wine.
I had a free Saturday for the first time in months. A friend, who recently went though a hard time in her life, and I decided to spend the day together. As kindred spirits , I thought a winery would be a good place. What a great place to spend time with a friend. We’d meet for lunch, do a little wine tasting, a little laughing, a lot of just being together. Helping each other through dark days over a bottle of wine, or two, seemed like the perfect solution to my woes, and hers.
When I arrived at the winery it was very early, long before it was open. I wanted to have some alone time before my friend arrived, take some pictures and relish in the peace and quiet. It was late September and, although I know very little about wine, I knew there would be ripe grapes on the vines. Getting darker, sweeter and more succulent by the day. The grapes, ready to be picked and turned into a bottle of joy, salvation or escape. I’m not a sommelier or a wine connoisseur, but I do know one thing. I like wine.
While I waited for my date to arrive I wandered through the vines. Marveling at the intricacy of shaping the vine to grow in the right direction. Looking at the grapes, the leaves, the vine itself, with it’s knots and bark fascinated me. I could see where the vintners had trimmed them to keep them healthy and strong. The similarities of the vines, and the wine they produced, to life was not lost on me. How many times can it be cut back before it dies? What kind of nurturing is needed for it to grow and produce fruit? Some of the leaves had already begun to change color a bit with crimson tips and golden centers. More proof that autumn was in the air.
Moving from the vineyard toward the main building, I thought I’d explore the grounds and see where the restaurant was. As I walked past the tasting room, I came upon a man who approached me exuberantly, with his hand outstretched to shake mine. He introduced himself as Craig, a member of the family that owned the winery. Nothing in his voice was pretentious. He was happy to be here and it showed. We talked for a bit and I revealed that I was meeting someone and taking pictures for my tiny little travel blog. He was ecstatic and interested, offering some tips for me to visit the vineyards as well as additional help if I needed it. He also told me to come see him later, when we were interested in a tasting. I promised I would.
When my companion for the day arrived a couple hours later I was starved. We were seated at a table on the patio of the Creekside Grill, with the vineyard behind us. We looked out over beautifully manicured lawns in front and enjoyed the soft breeze. It was a perfect day, the kind of day you’d pay for, if only you could. We talked, laughed, ate and re-connected. The food was great, the conversation even better. At the end of lunch we headed to the tasting room. After briefly exploring the gift shop, we found my new friend Craig and, for the next hour, were introduced to flavors that awakened the sommelier in my soul. We tried the Chardonnay, the White Cabernet Zinfandel and others. As my friend tried the sweeter wines, I shifted gears into the reds, with their deep, complex flavors that made you long for more. Together we tried the Reserve Zinfandel Port, straight from the barrel, which was delicious. It was smooth, rich and blissful. A perfect synonym for my day. Last up we tried their crown jewel, the Almond Champagne. How is that I did not know about this stuff? They sold over a million bottles of it last year and no one thought to tell me? Light, festive and I believe their description of it describes it best, ‘…pairs well with hot tubs, fireplaces, picnics and weekend brunches.’ I was instantly transported to a mountaintop chalet, relishing the roaring fireplace, and this celebration in a glass, next to my Prince Charming husband. However, like those cheesy ads on TV, I could hear the commentary in my head saying, “But wait, there’s more”. Craig poured a fresh tasting of the Almond Champagne and then grabbed a tall, thin dark chocolate colored bottle and poured in just a touch of its contents into my glass. It swirled around, a vortex of deliciousness that turned my glass of champagne into a rich and complete dessert. No fork necessary. A rich perfection that was as smooth as butter and as heavenly as a warm bubble bath. The magic he poured into the champagne was called Decadencia. Made from a century old vine, this chocolate port, added to the champagne, was wonderful. I bought several bottles. At one point during all the enjoyment on this lovely Saturday afternoon, Craig introduced me to another employee, who, like all the employees I came across, smiled, was kind and offered his assistance. It seemed everyone was truly happy to be here. I know I was.
My friend and I spent the remainder of the day at Wilson Creek Winery sitting at a table with a lovely view of the creek, listening to it babble away the rest of the day. As night fell over the winery, and our day came to an end, I got into my car waving goodbye and hoping that the wind would blow us together again soon. A good friend, a good day and a good bottle of wine is the perfect anecdote to whatever ails you.