Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back From The Green Valley

I have been absent from this blog, from early this year. Much have happend since. To put it simply, I am more at peace with my life and myself, simple life, simple truth. I am happy. So I decide to return.

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 Chardonnay

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.

The bluest of the blue of the sky, leaf's shadow made by the generous sun of California. Under the sun, all colors are stronger, more open and honest. It make you feel so strongly about the force of lives, of the fact that you are living.

Wine tour is only part of my stay in the Southern California, there is also the beach of Crytal Cove, the people and French bistro in Laguna beach, but that belongs to another story for another day.
Let's fast forward to LAX when I departed. Albatross dropped me off on his way to work. I checked in my suitecase. I walked toward the security gate, with my red bag with books, Ipod, electornic devices and green bag of laptop, and in a brown paper bag, I was holding my beloved bottle of 2005 Pinor Noir-La Encantada.
I was feeling relaxed and gratifying with my trip and great time here among the wine country and the seaside town. My eyes were full of sunshine.
I passed securitiy with no alarm rings. But security guy stopped me after staring at the monitor.
"You can not take this on aboard. You should have checked it in" He is holding my beloved Pinot Noir. Its red signiture of Alma Rosa right infront of my eyes.
"But it is not opened. I got it from the winery here." I feel like a 2nd-grade feeling defenseless. I am on the verge of tears.
The young security guy looked sorry. You can leave it with your friend. Or check it.
He stood with me quietly while I was weighing all the options.
I decided to give it a try. He escorted me back out.
I walked back to the counter. My luggage was alreayd off the belt on th eway to the plane. I called up Albatross who confirmed that he can not come back in time.
My plane was leaving in 20 minutes. I don't intend to miss it.
For a second, I was thinking of opening it and taste it, but I know that is not the point. I want to take it back to New York with me. I don't want to ruin it.
I took a deep breath and went back to security. I looked for the nice security guy, I want to gave it to him, but he was nowhere to be found.
I put it through security again hope I can get some luck this time, no, of course not, a lady hold it up in her hand, you can not take it.
I said, you can take it away. but someone please take it home and enjoy it. It is a very good bottle of wine.
I saw it was taken to the security desk on the side, the woman sitting behind it picked it up and read the label with amusement. I called out: Don't throw it away please. Drink it. She put it infront herself on the desk. Temporarily, it was not tossed.
I took the last look at it and walked toward my gate.
Back in New York, that evening, I went to my wine store asking for Pinor Noir from California wineries.
Wang shook his head. I don't have any Pinot Noir from Claifornia. I have a Pinor Gris from Italy.
What is up with all these wine from Italy and France, wang? Do you know California have the best wine now in the world? Or Oregon?
I left the store empty handed. Luckily I have the wine tasting sheet from Sanford winery and I found the wine and winery online. They ship to New York. I ordered the 2005 Pinot Noir online, to be shipped immediately. I won't drink it. I will keep them for a long time. They are special to me. I will open them for dear firends and special occassions.
In my message, I said: I did wine tastng in your winery 2 weeks ago. Please make sure this shipment is for one of the Vineyard Designated wines, 2005 Pinot Noir, La Encantada.
They produced 1500 cases only. Some of them belong to me, I believe. I occasionally think of that wine that I had to part with at LAX. I wish someone have taken it home and enjoyed it.
Wine tasting sheet thus describe it:
The "Echcantada" shows quintessential Pinot Noir characteristic of cherry-berry fruit, brown spice, a little-forest-floor earthiness and a thought-provoking deep, dark complexity...still a happy wine but showing a more serious side as well.....
That sounds my type of wine.


Albatross said...

if I was you -- I might have drunk it in that last 10 mins -- like I always did -- but I really can not picture you drinking it at the checkpoint ;-)

newyorkexpress said...

I am glad I did not do that either. But to think about it, I would have another option: rebook my flight, ask you to come back and we can drink it sitting on the curb of the airport drop off area and people watching....good time.

chinadoll said...

I am back as well .... is that amazing .... Long time no see have been missing you . SO many things happened ...

newyorkexpress said...

Chinadoll, i have been missing you would you reopen your blog? Like I did? Have you been well? We still need to have a drink..

chinadoll said...

actually I opened another blog

Little Owl said...


So as you said in leaving, your blog is reopen. Such a lively post,( like the pictures of barns and fence) must be all the great wine:)
And I can really imagine you calling out to the security: "do not throw it away,drink it" :)
we(J&J)enjoyed seeing you again.

newyorkexpress said...

J&J, nice seeing you again! ;-)

If I have known better, should have opened the wine at our BBQ night...;-(

And so miss your sweet oranges...

BTW, Little Owl is also the name of a very lovely restaurant in West Village in New York,,,lovely name and lovely blog of yours, thanks for stopping by, sure to see you around?