I admit it: I talk to my dog. I know that he doesn't understand me, beyond the simple Sit, Stay, NO!, come here, and Good Boy-- but I talk to him, none the less. I try to explain to him that I am terribly sorry that he can't go for a walk yet, or that he doesn't have to hide under the table when we come home, or why he doesn't have to be afraid of the fireworks outside.
He looks at me with understanding eyes, as though his thoughts were bursting out in attempt to communicate back-- but no matter how much his expression might reveal understanding, I know that all he hears is "Blah, blah, blah Gavin, blah, blah, blah, park."
I spent much of my weekend feeling a little bit like our clumsy, dumb oaf of a mutt, as I tried to blend into the background, smile and nod with understanding, and swirl my wine glass without spilling. That's not at all to say that I did not enjoy our jaw-dropping weekend in Napa Valley (and Hidden Valley, and Pope Valley)... it's just that I knew how very undeserving & out of place I really was. The expression "Casting pearls before swine" came into my mind often.
Confession: I am almost completely ignorant about wine. I know that I like some of it, that I don't like others, and that Two Buck Chuck is something to laugh about with an air of disdain & superiority (and then quietly slip into your Trader Joe's cart and say it's for cooking). I am a bit like a dog trying to understand their owner when I'm around the wine savvy, hearing words that I know but don't quite comprehend, and trying with all my might to grasp meaning.
Since moving to San Francisco, I discovered that it is very uncouth to lack understanding of wine-- and as one who subscribes to Bon Appetite, Cook's Magazine & Martha Stewart Living, and is fairly passionate about food, I find this embarrassing & unacceptable. Ah, the life I lead.
Since my step-sister married a wine maker and moved to wine country, I have brushed against the upper echelons of the wine world-- and this weekend, sat down to dine with them. The only word I can think to describe my current state is Satiated. My mind is full (swirling with details about wine making & tasting), my heart is full ( from all the beautiful scenery & experiences), and my belly is... stuffed (I don't think I will ever be hungry again).
I have been searching for ways to describe the weekend Chris & I spent with my parents at my step sister's home. I am tempted to tell every interesting story, to paint every beautiful detail, and to draw you into every lovely experience... but I know that it would be a bit like Gavin's attempts to communicate his thoughts to me through his little doggie eyes.
Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves pulling up to the gate at Palmaz Vineyards-- a small, family run winery where we had reservations for a private tour of their $100 million, 15 story-deep wine caves. After parking, and stepping out into to 100 degree heat, we were casually introduced to Florencia Palmaz, a friend of my step sister & her husband from their boccie ball team-- the founder's daughter, and the most interesting, lovely, gracious billionaire I have ever met.
She showed us around the Willy Wonka-esque cave, deep underground, through a maze of wine barrels, giant shiny rotating vats of wine making equipment, and information that made my head spin. It wasn't until later, after touring other wineries, caves, and vineyards that I understood how truly special and extravagant this winery was.
We sat down to a gorgeous view in her office, as she passed around wine bottles and dropped juicy tidbits of family history (their immigration from Argentina, battles between feisty, spunky parents, etc) and threw out phrases like "Since you're in the industry, I'll tell you that...". Much to my horror, I had accidentally chosen the spot next to her at the elegantly set table, complete with at least six different wine glasses & gourmet hors d'oeuvres, and tried to curb my blank stares, fumbling swirls of wine, and complete ignorance of how spectacularly perfect each sip of wine was.
After our intimate tasting, she pulled out a set of keys, and walked over to what looked like a maintenance door saying, "This is not a part of the winery, but is my father's personal collection". My mouth fell open when we walked into a car museum, complete with the car the entire family had raced (including the little Hot Tamale of a mom who popped her head into Florencia's office earlier to ask if we had seen the two guests she had lost in the wine caves), and the first Porsche to win Le Mans (which Steve McQueen made a movie about).
Despite my ignorance of both wine and race cars, I knew enough to know that what I was experiencing was truly special.
The rest of the weekend was a caloric blur of incredible food, tasting & touring with personal friends/wine makers, driving through beautiful scenery, and playing with the dogs at Hidden Valley Lake. Our last vineyard stop was up in the mountains, off the beaten path, overlooking a breathtaking view, and talking with the winemaker's wife about the wild boars, bears, porcupines, & coyotes that roamed around the property-- outside the tent that their family was temporarily living in while they finished construction. Quite the opposite picture of our first winery, but equally interesting, delightful and enjoyable.
As I sit here Monday morning, I don't know that I will ever want to eat again-- and definitely have had my fill of wine for a while. There was a moment inside one of the beautiful wine caves when I just couldn't taste another sip or take in another fact. It reminded me of our safari a few years ago: While sitting in front of a pride of lions on a huge rock pile, Chris' mom quietly asked, "Do we have to look at anymore lions?" As amazing as it was, after seeing 30 lions, and sitting in a hot, dusty car for 5 days, she was done with "amazing".
And that is where I am right now, in my messy apartment-- full of good food and contentment, smiling at my two beautiful bottles of Palmaz (graciously purchased by my parents) and happy to be home. Our pup, Gavin, has not yet emerged from the bedroom, and I am sure that his heart & mind are equally full of wonderful memories of the wine country that he got to romp around in. Too bad neither of us can quite communicate our experiences.