I am back with colors from my trip over the holiday to the winery valley in California, with Albatross couple.
Great fun is always achieved when I visit them and southern california. They never fail me, no matter it is when I came planned, or unplanned (missed a plane once in LAX and had to stay over), nor is the sun shine or male albatross' cooking.
But this time, when Albatross suggested a Sideways tour, I was more than eager to make it. I enjoy the movie very much, and over the years, I have grown fond of good wine and the people I have enjoyed while drinking them. I used to drink only red, lately I began to enjoy white as well.
I took the liberty to take days off although it is only 2 months into my new job. I needed a vacation, a time off, and a time away from New York. A space.
So here we are, after the firework at New Port bay, a late night picnic listening to the ocean, adoring th scent of flowers opening quitely in the darkness, fencing strangers' houses, we drove north. We followed the trace of Miles and Jack, we are buddies on a break.
And a small paradise it is. It is so quiet, and it is so green. It is hot at the day, but cold at night. It is the shining stars extra bright at the night sky, the yellow barren hills dotted with low green oak. It is everything that New York is not. It is a time with friends, relaxing, uncomplicated and amusing.
Previous night we did a little re-watch of the Movie to get us refreshed with the details. We drove along 101 with a Sideways tour map, we were determined to follow the foot steps of Miles and Jack.
First stop is this little winery-Sanford located on the winding road of Santa Rosa, Almo Rosa, is the name of the tasting room. This is where Miles asked Jack to inhale and imgaine the smell of mushrooms, earthy floors of forest...and later found Jack was chewing a gum all along.
A little shed is the tasting room, like a farmer's house, yet it has the best Pinot Noir of the whole valley, I did not even have to wait till the end to know.
Chris, the guy in the movie is still there, working, smiling and a bit shy, wearing his cowboy hat. I said: Chris, can I do something really bad? Can I be a total tourist and take a photo with you?"
"Sure." He seemed happy. We all took a photo.
We tasted 5 different wine:
2005 Pinot Gris
2005 Pinot Black
2005 Pinot Noir-Sta Rita Hills
and 2005 Pinot Noir-La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Even before the trip, Albatross told me California wine is said to have outperformed French wine in blind tasting. I was doubtful. I am a sucker for French culture and cooking and wine culture, I only bought French or Italian wine up to before the trip, a typical timid wine drinker, who do not yet have her own taste.
But I truly enjoyed the wine we were having at Almo Rosa. That simple place, kind of out of the way on the wine tour, is like those typical well kept secret, low-key, confident, proud but private, open up only to people who know, and know better.
Of course, if it is in a movie, it is hardly low-key, but I think the Sideways director, that strikingly handsome and talented guy who also directed the Election and About Schmidt, chosen this winery for a reason.
I bought 2 bottles after the tasting, Pinot Gris, for Albatorss couple, 2005 Pinot Noir-La Encatnada fro myself. That latter turned out to be a relationship tinted with unfulfilled longing.
Later Albatross found out from wine magazine that the 2005 Pinot Noir La Endcatnada is one of the top 10 wines being produced here in the valley. Why I am not surprised.
One thing is certain, I became a believer of Pinot Noir, as well as California wine.
This dog greeted us with affectionate eyes and a intimacy as if we are families. It is in the winery where Jack and Miles run into Stephanie.'I should be spanked." She said. Jack was all worked up.
Albatross think the actress who plays Staphanie is far from pretty, but I find her amusingly vibrant. I am wondering what the dog is looking at in that green valley. I later found that this is the breed that called basset hound. If I will ever get a dog for myself, it will be. They are a scent hound and long ears helps that. And their face could look sad.
In the wine tasting lounge, we were treated with 7 type of wine from sparkling wine to Port, was all-round light, fun and smooth. The grape is Australian. I especially enjoyed a Chardnnay that says will be the best if it sits for 1 to 2 years. It peaks, but the tricky part is that you don't really know when. Albatross bought a bottle.
Maya said wine has its own life. She talked about that you imagine the year when the grape was harvested. The rain. Maybe she was not talking about this, maybe I was imagining. I was thinking of the year of 2005, seeing how the grapes were ripe in this valley, so far away from me, from new york, from my life at that time, my pain, my love and joy, yet, we waited, yet we met one day, when its richness brings its memories of sands and sun to my palate, I know all has been worthwile, the waiting from both life is fulfilled. We were both growing all these years, and we loved each other when we met.
This is my blog, so I got to be so cheesy, and spelling lots of words wrong.
We had dinner that night at Hitching Post, its meaning is almost like the rural home town where my family was originally from in China. Life is really interestng with all these coincidences. I of course a descendant of some farmers tracked back 3 or 4 generations. But beyond that it could be some noble family in Ming dynasty or who knows where.
I do look a bit foreign with my fair skin, round eyes, full nose and sometime bad temper.
Albatross couple and I are from the same coastal province of Shandong which is actually the home of most famous wine producers in China, for its sandy beaches and sun.
In deciding the selection of wine, of coures it had to be a Pinot Noir. Miles and Jack had Highliner, not sure which year, but the film was shot in 2003.
We decided to be a little adventrous, espeicially when the lovely waitress comfirmed she think that the 2003 Bien Nacido, which Abatross picked is indeed better. So it is. Year 2003 is an eventful year. We drink for that.
Wine, because it ages, it is almost like it has a soul and a memory. That makes tasting it irrsistibly nostagic.
Food was delicious and flavorful, a very typical home cooking of rural homes. The three of us had 4 appetizers and shared a 26 ounce steak, we were beyond full at the end and had to forego the dessert and port.
But there were not many lookers in the restaurant. I don't see a Maya or a Jack or a Miles, being frustratinly sophisticated. But they do have photos of Sideaway crews on the wall across the bar. This photo reminds me of Ducth painting.
I could not resolve the problem of Flash. I am amazingly lazy and unsophicated when it comes to certain things.
Next day, we visited the Danish town and waited for 40 mintues for a table to have Pancake in Paula's Pancake house, where Miles and Jack had one of their breakfast.
Then we drove to the winery where the four of them sneaked out of the wine tour to see the barrels room, where Maya talked about that wine has a life. Maybe so, but this winery is not very impressive with the type of wine it is offering. Being the most expensive for tasting, $10 vs. $5 in Alma Rosa, this winery provides worst wine. Its tasting room has fatastic view of the valley and dipping vinegar for snacks, but otherwise look like sourvier store of theme park. I love the simpler Alma Rosa who focus on the wine itself.
Being bigger does not mean it is necessarily better. And Miles is totally right about Merlot. Don't drink Merlot, and don't date anybody who does.
Fortunately this winery locates at the winding and hilly road that runs through the wine country. We were treated with some of the most beautiful sceneries of this green valley and barren yellow hills.
I am always taken to winding and desolate road leading to the far horizon or red barns, and white fences in farms, farms with horses.