When you come from Nantucket, driving through Napa Valley, with huge mountains everywhere you look, can be super overwhelming. In a word it’s awe-inspiring. Add to that, fields and fields of symmetrical rows of grape vines. It is just pre-season for the vineyards so everything is pretty quiet. Even though the pickers are nowhere in sight, we are told there is much going on behind the scenes. This area is farmland and all about one industry. Nantucket used to be that way at different times in its history. Imagine how quiet things were during the whaling era when every able bodied male was off to sea for months, even years at a time.
When I first came to Nantucket as a child, tourism was in its infancy and most year ‘rounders made a living from scalloping. The energy level of the town was what might be described as “laid back.” For three weeks we’ve made the small town of Calistoga, CA home. And now, after two weeks the pace I normally operate on is slowed down to where I am questioning if I will ever get back my “normal” energy level. Maybe this is what a vacation is for.
But here in Napa it’s all about the wine and eating well so I’ve tried to put myself in the position of imagining living here in order to write about being at home wherever you are. After all, home is usually the place we are most comfortable so getting comfortable away as quickly as possible should make the experience better, both while doing it and on reflection. That’s what I try to do. I ask questions and engage the locals in conversation about their place. Since I go to places that are pretty wonderful, the people living there are passionate about their place and enthusiastic when talking about it. It does help that I’m used to interviewing people about their homes and the way they live, and asking why they love the place, as I do for my books and articles.
The modern building where they have wine tastings daily at the Hall Winery. The artwork is casually found throughout the grounds
where you can sit and sip under an umbrella, in the garden, or overlooking acres and acres of vineyards.
I have never been to this part of the country so am a novice at wine tasting protocol. Armed with lots of advice from those “in the know” I have embraced it without expectations. Not that I don’t trust my fellow Nantucketers, but everyone’s experiences are different.
Not really being of a mind to go from wine tasting to wine tasting during the day, we approached this activity rather gingerly. I’m not so knowledgeable, nor is my palette so sophisticated that I “get” the subtleties between a so so wine and one that is very expensive. But the wineries are housed in spectacularly interesting buildings, from positively medieval looking castles to ultra modern buildings that house magnificent works of art. Some rival small museums. The grounds are just as interesting and noticeably immaculately tended. Since this is California after all, the people do live up to their reputation as a friendly bunch, and wine growers far exceed that description. Passionate might be a good description. And if nothing, I admire, even revere, totally respect everyone everywhere who is passionate about their home, where they live and what they do. It is deemed not only acceptable, but encouraged to drive right into private/public property for the sole purpose of looking around and experiencing the property. And that is what we have been doing! What a treat to be an encouraged voyeur.
Sculpture garden at Hall Wineries
But this experience has ruined me. I now want a grape vine arbor over my deck. No market umbrellas, no awnings or over-hanging eave can compete. And when you see the picture of the terrace at the Peju Vineyards you will start imagining a smaller version for yourself. Sitting under the grape vines, contemplating the garden, transporting all this to Nantucket is a wonderful day dreaming “what if” kind of experience. It’s always fun to perfect our homes and traveling is a wonderful way to get ideas. Especially when travel takes you far from what you see at home and opens up the possibilities – even if it’s a day dream. Next week I’ll share my experience at my first ever wine tasting at a vineyard owned by Nantucket native Ehren Jordan, Lucille Jordan’s son (Jordan Real Estate)
I want a grape arbor just like this one on the patio of the Puju estates. The wine tastings are given inside the stone building and visitors are encouraged to wander out here to view the garden and contemplate the wine.