After an obscenely frigid, punishingly long winter the streams of warm air and brilliant rays of sun amidst a playful blue sky seemed to bring all that has hibernated during the darkness of the cold dreary months alive and celebrating the approach of a carefree uninhibited lifestyle. As I sit here on my porch sipping a glass of Merlot I can’t help but think of a recent trip to Napa where I spent sun-kissed days nestled between interlocking rows of an ambrosial vineyard sampling various creations of skillfully fermented grapes and a variety of delicate and pungent cheeses.
Napa Valley is a destination that can trick the mind into believing that there is truly no reason for any kind of traditional career-but instead- life should be spent drinking and eating off the land that Mother Earth has graciously provided. You start to say to yourself “I could be a winemaker” waking in the middle of the night to prune the sweetest fruit from swirling vines and dragging the heavy baskets to be churned and mixed until a perfect fermentation has occurred and the skin has coated the juice so that diverse hints of floral and oak saturate this beautiful fusion of flavors. Thoughts of living in the lackadaisical countryside milking cows and growing organic vegetables during the day while eating out at posh Michelin Star/James Beard restaurants nightly, and sampling some of the world’s finest wines as a weekend errand, stalk your psyche. You decide you will abandon your crappy suburban town where the weather sucks, nothing grows, and Vitamin D pills are a daily requirement to ward off suicidal thoughts for 6-7 months of the year.
There was so much to love and crave during our visit to Napa and we truly did and still do contemplate moving to sunny California particularly because of the intricate experiences one can have with such indulgences. One experience that my husband and I reflect upon quite often was a visit to a quaint winery that belonged to a couple furiously in love with the breathtaking valley, its grapes, and one another. The O’Brien couple visited Napa as breezy lovers on their honeymoon. As they swayed on a wooden swing looking out onto the horizon of rolling hills, drizzled with vineyards and stunning flora, Mrs. O’ Brien turned to her other-half and made him promise that they would one day own a stretch of land just like the one they were rocking above. Mr. O’Brien promised his sweetheart that he would make her dreams come true – well, three dot com booms and 20 years later, the couple opened The O’Brien Estate Winery in the heart of Napa Valley.
One of the most perfectly spent days of our trip was in this whimsical grape plantation swinging on a wooden bench hidden among the maze-like rows imbibing Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc just as its owners did 20 years ago. The staff treated us like old friends that had come to visit their “humble” home, sharing stories of romance and the sassy labels that sparked the beginnings of a poetic business. It was what I had dreamed of doing since we had booked our getaway – a quintessential wine country experience-no frills, no tours- just you, your lover, the soil, and the grape.