Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Bubbles and Bites

For this artist, it is important to see and have new experiences in the form of classes, museums, or short trips. They recharge me, give me a fresh perspective, and more often than not provide new material for artistic expression. This time, my adventure of renewal included shaking up my taste buds, as my eyes feasted on acre upon acre of gorgeous vineyards.

Elaine Weiner-Reed - Wine Country California 2019

Part 1: Napa and The Wine Trolley

Two days, six vineyards. 
It all started with the wine trolley…
and we thought it really might end there at one point. Really…

     My summer’s third “escape” was a condensed five-day roadtrip with my sister. Destination: Wine Country, California. My desire to revisit that beautiful region crystallized over the last year as I poured through eight or more books in a Bibliophile Mystery series by Kate Carlisle centered in San Francisco and Sonoma County. I had not been to that region in over 25 years, so the time was ripe. Pun intended… It was, after all, harvest time! Not only that, but I could not believe my good fortune with the timing of the trip because the weather was cooperating and our days were to be a succession of hot and sunny – too hot for the Californians, but perfect for me. If you read my last article ( A Girl, A Tree, and A Good Samaritan) you can appreciate how sorely I needed that sunshine to lighten and brighten my way forward.

     I arrived sometime after 3:00 PM and hopped in my sister’s car, headed west. It only took about an hour to reach Napa from the Sacramento airport, so we were relieved to be able to check into our room right away. Tucked away in a corporate park, our spa hotel welcomed us with a surprise bottle of Prosecco in our room which was complete with real wine and champagne glasses. It is amazing just how welcome real glass can be after hundreds of hotel stays offering only paper or plastic.

     The first full day of our trip started and ended at Model’s Bakery in the Oxbow Market in Napa. In the morning we had coffee and their to-die-for breakfast sausage sandwich on a feather-light English muffin with a marvelous mystery sauce. Normally I skip breakfast, but that day we had to eat for we were boarding the Wine Trolley promptly at 10:15 across the street from Oxbow. Since it was near 90 degrees already ( I admit it was really hot), we chose to sit in the open section of the trolley, facing outward…baking. Prepared for just such situations, my sister impressed everyone by pulling out sunbrella, hand fan, suntan lotion, and face towel from her Mary Poppins-like bag. Despite our laughter, I admit to ducking under the sunbrella with her as we sat 30 minutes longer in direct sunlight.

 Sisters' Napa Wine Trolley Adventure

     Finally, 27 of us were all-aboard and the trolley set off, our adventure underway. And I do mean adventure… I mentioned that some of us chose to sit in the open, facing outwards, right? Little did we know our travels would take us on highways – yes, four-lane, sometimes physically divided highways where the speed limits were at least 60 miles per hour. Despite the heat, a harness and helmet would have been welcome as the shock-less trolley bounced out bottoms on benches as we careened past historic landmarks, most of the trolley driver’s stories (half-heard over traffic noises) featuring tragedy, mayhem, and losses in the Valley. I wanted to splay myself on the ground in thanks at each destination, wine-tasting becoming farther and farther from my top-ten list with every re-boarding of the trolley.

     Perhaps it was the circumstance of concentrated vineyard visits, but there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” By the second winery, my sister and I had opted to share tastings. Fortunately, the second winery, Whitehall Lane, was our lunch destination. It was one of my favorite vineyards, one where we got to pick and taste different grapes, experiencing the differences between a cabernet and a pinot in a whole new way. There, my sister and I grabbed garden chairs, bringing them into the wine cave and tasting room to savor a glass of Sauvignon Blanc as we dined on a picnic lunch of baguettes, salads, and sweets catered by Sonoma’s “A Girl and A Fig” restaurant. The food and company were great since our trolley-mates were a congenial collection of newlyweds, birthday girls, and wine enthusiasts.

     The third winery is a blur, but on the highway headed to our fourth and final winery, a loud noise frightened us, bringing home how unsafe that trolley ride could potentially be: It turns out that a 12-wheeler explosively blew out a tire while speeding past us in the opposite direction on the divided road. White knuckling it, we thankfully were not struck by any flying tire shrapnel. By that time, I think that those of us on my and my sister’s side of the trolley were all wishing for alternative transportation as we collectively breathed in relief, listening with one ear to more dark tales of Napa history by our trolley driver, nicknamed by me as Happy. By the fourth winery, Andretti’s, my sister went wineless and I skipped the stand-up tasting in favor of a glass of red wine recommended by a fellow visitor. We were now well into our fifth hour and rather dreading the last leg of our rock-‘em/sock-‘em ride back to the market square. You can be sure there will be future drawings of the trolley adventures in this artist’s sketchbook!

Elaine Weiner-Reed - Napa: Best Seat in the House

     Did I mention that our Wine Trolley ride took place on Friday the 13th? Probably irrelevant, right? Anyhow, we finally arrived back at the Oxbow Market, each of us quickly wishing each other well, tipping “Happy,” and hastening on to our next wine country destination. As for me and my sister, we purchased food for the night, took it back to our room, and recuperated enough eventually to dine on our balcony. Our lovely view of the rising of the full Harvest Moon over Napa’s hillsides was accompanied by live music from a neighboring balcony party. For the rest of our last night in Napa, we relaxed, took a swim in the deserted pool, wished on the moon, and laughed about our day’s experiences, planning a more leisurely self-guided trip through Sonoma beginning the following day. This time, we vowed, no more than one or two vineyard visits per day – the better to remember and savor the tastes and vistas. 

          Until next time, live creatively and fully.
                      Yours in Art,

 © 2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed (EWR)
      All images and content remain the property of the Artist. No reproductions or prints are authorized. All rights reserved.

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