I’m sitting here at my posting perch, sweat dripping down the center of my back, glass of ultra chilled French Provencal Rose in my glass…the heat in the room causing my glass to weep and send little droplets of cool water between my fingers, down the base of my glass and settling into the denim that stretches across my knee. My mind and my mouth full of stories from the past four days, my energy…my head and my heart making me weep and spill my droplets through stories to my husband and now here in my ever waiting, always ready to hear blank Word file. Home, I’m home and even with my face smelling of the proper skin cleanser, my ass snuggled into the spot that I’ve been molding for years, in front of the television I have on but ignore, even here I feel like I left part of my home when I got on that plane yesterday afternoon.
As a few of you might know I just spent the past couple days tasting, laughing….laughing a lot, learning and putting not only faces but gestures, voices, smells and “texture” to the names and people I have been so touched by for over a year now. Really kind of a strange thing about this whole blogging business, to be so close, feel so much love, adoration and admiration for a person or people whom you have yet to look directly in the eye…share a meal with or felt tucked firmly in your embrace. There tends to be lots of proclamations of “friendship” and “love” in the blogosphere and on Facebook, the words tossed about without all that much meaning behind them but….for me, with these four men, I can say that I truly love them and even sight unseen I would walk through broken glass for each of them. Trust is a very real thing for me, it is not something that I just give…gotta earn it and trusting anyone with my heart, well…something that is even harder. I can drink like a fish, curse like a sailor and talk sex without batting an eye but opening my heart, handing over something that is in fact, (no matter how “hard” I come off) very fragile…almost never happens and here I was sitting in my room at the Travelodge in Healdsburg slipping a sweater over my head before running downstairs to the waiting Ron Washam……..The HoseMaster of Wine. A man that long before I set eyes on him held my heart in his very gentle hands, the man that was to be at my side when I walked into a restaurant for the meeting with three other wine professionals, three other dudes that melt and also have a little slice of my heart.
“Well there’s Tom” I said as I gave my shirt one final tug before walking into the bar at Estate restaurant. Tom Wark, the one responsible for shining a little spotlight on this silly blog when he did one of his bloggerviews of me on his blog Fermentation. The cat that I talk cocktails and ideas with and someone that while not a reader per se has always been supportive of my voice here in this place. Now here he was hopping off a barstool, giving me a big ol’ hug and introducing me to his beautiful fiancée Kathy. After a few minutes of chit chat I hear Ron’s voice, “Charlie” (Ron had the advantage of meeting almost all of us before this dinner, popular thing that he is) and I turned around to see, finally see the face of Our Puff Daddy, Sir Charles…My Charlie. “There she is” he said just seconds before giving me the sweetest, tightest hug that I could have spent five minutes in. We all met Charlie’s lovely wife Terry and opted to be seated at our table while we waited for the last member of our party.
Boy girl boy girl seating implemented and then began the pulling of wines from wine bags that has always been the ritual when I have attended a dinner with people that are truly passionate about wine. I was first up with my bottle of NV Camille Saves Brut and as expected it was Charlie that was the first to challenge me. “Now Sam, how can you like this and not like California Chardonnay?” goddamn it Charlie. “This wine is as rich and as full as many California Chardonnays” he continued and thus began my favorite part of events like this…the debating and passion filled conversation.
As I was explaining to Charlie that while this wine was in fact rich and full it was not sweet on entry and did not have that oily feeling that I dislike about many of the Chardonnays I crack on I happened to see a tall, thin guy with bottles in his hand looking, well looking like he was looking for something. “John Kelly” I said as I jumped from my seat and gave him a hug. John, (winemaker and part owner of Westwood Winery) and I have spent many a late night, (we are both nocturnal) shit talking and behaving like those obnoxious kids in bunk beds whose parents are always yelling at to shut up and go to sleep. He has more than once told me that I am like a little brother to him, (yeah flattering that but whatever) so my banter and comfort with him was instantaneous. He slipped in beside me at the table, perfect…the bunk bed kids at the dinner table.
I popped the second bottle of bubbles, a 2002 H. Billiot Brut and once again Charlie was quizzing me. “Now why would you pour this wine second? The other wine is fuller” he said and that was when I figured out the difference in our palates. The Billiot was actually a fuller, richer and deeper wine but the entry was leaner, drier and more mineral and lemon driven. The Saves was all up front and full of baked apples and buttery crust but the finish was less serious, less layered and nowhere near as palate coating but that was what made me get it. Charlie is used to primary fruit, he tastes that first and then delves deeper into the wine where my palate is startled by primary and has a hard time getting past that in order to move on. Now before anyone goes thinking I am saying anything negative about this man’s palate just stop, nothing could be further from the truth and in fact I see it as more of a flaw in mine. Noticed it at many of the places Ron took me over the weekend, my palate would just seize up…and I hate to say this, burn a little and then from there I had a hard time trying to find the rest. Just different.
Before too long the corks were being extracted from bottles; the 1996 Edizione Pennino Zinfandel magnum, 1990 Fonsallette Syrah magnum, 1985 Stags Leap SLV Cabernet, 1978 Chalone Pinot Noir, 2004 (I think) Failla Syrah, 2008 Piuze Chablis and a 1970 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve. Bottles open, glasses being poured, tasting, smelling, four or five different conversations going on around the table. “The 78 is fading” "I think this wine is corked” “No it’s not corked” “I can see why you like this but I prefer” “Charlie I brought this for you” (bottle of Pastis so he could pay up on his Boston Celtics suck bet. Oh and Charlie I would love to take the credit for that little maneuver but you have to know that had Washam written all over it) rapid but respectfully the voices locked and engaged while plates of food passed this way and that. Active, passionate, rambunctious, laughter, head shaking, more glasses more wine, more food….family. I felt as at home at that table, with those people, the way we all feel about wine, about each other…home.
I felt so full by the time we had to say goodbye; full of admiration for these remarkably knowledgeable men, full of adoration for the women that love them, full of wines that I would never had tasted had it not been for them….full from spending the evening with people that are holding bits of my heart. Full….my heart was full.
Sunday afternoon Ron and I had been invited to attend a blogger tasting, lie Ron had been invited and I was allowed to tag along…a vertical of Ridge Lytton Springs along with a couple vintages of Ridge Montebello. Quite an eye opening event for me in a couple ways. First of all these are wines that I have little experience with but had always wanted to spend time with. I know that they are considered by many to be some of the best and most age worthy wines in California, that appeals to my inner geek and I could not wait to try and get a better understanding of them. And to be there with someone that had such a long history with them, hear his take and have him help me…could not wait. We sat at the rather subdued table and I was quite honored that Christopher Watkins, (448 A Ridge Blog) took the time to welcome me personally, thank Ron for being there…he had the nicest things to say about both our blogs and seemed genuinely happy that we were able to join them. Christopher was a very welcoming guy, a snappy as hell dresser and not all that hard on the eyes if you get me.
We were on the third or fourth wine, my nose buried then leaning in and chatting with my internet husband about what I was getting, waiting to hear him share his impressions and while we were kind of low speaking…..we were the loudest ones at the table. I looked up and everyone was pounding away on their phones, ipads and laptops. We kept plugging along, the wines truly fascinating for me to taste and smell but I could not help but notice that at this table, the table of “friends” one of which has even poked me (whatever the hell that is) on Facebook….the one sitting right next to me and never once said hello or introduced himself, none of them were talking to each other. Sure they were sending messages out into the ether, know how I know? One guy finally said something to the woman, the woman with the same wine in her glass that was sitting across from him, “You haven’t tweeted in seven minutes” what....the.....fuck? You have these tremendously fascinating, these incredibly interesting wines in your glass, sitting around the table with people you seem to like and you are counting tweets?! I’m sure that was exactly what the winemaker had in mind when he was pruning, harvesting, crushing and aging these wines…a bunch of self appointed wine experts counting each other’s tweets. I simply don’t get it and truth be told it robbed me of all the bits about wine that I love. The sharing, the talking, even the arguing….the passion and emotion were replaced by thumping thumbs and tweet counting. Pissed, I was actually pissed at how little the wines and for that matter, the people at the table were being respected. Wineries really want this? This number crunching, this vacant ether puking to who….the other jackhole across the table at the same event?
Don’t get it, don’t like it and these two events were a perfect example of why. One night tasting, laughing, sharing, arguing, feeling with a group of people that have been wine experts, collectors and lovers for…well a couple of them for almost as long as I have been breathing, people that live in the moment they are tasting and drinking and then sitting around in a numbers crunching lab with people that feel more comfortable fondling their “pods” than talking to their neighbor. Just in case you couldn’t tell, easy choice for me. Just like sex it can't be just about the facts, feels empty without the passion and love and I just aint doin' it.
Had a fantastic trip and I would like to thank Charlie Olken, John Kelly, Tom Wark and their lovely spouses for taking the time, (those poor women) to meet me for dinner, to share such heart pounding wines, your time and your hearts with me. You simply cannot know what it meant and I am not writer enough to make you feel it. I love you all, honestly you are so in my heart that there are not words complex enough to describe how much that moved me, how much and how often you move me. To Christopher Watkins for allowing me to expand my palate by letting me attend the tasting, so sorry if it comes off like I am trashing your event…I’m not. You were wonderful, the wines compelling and mind changing, and while the situation was not my thing, those wines absolutely were.
To Joe (Suburban Wino) for the invite to your late night backyard affair, you and your family are adorable, you and I agree on so much as far as the blog world is concerned and I rather liked your random ipod music. It was wonderful meeting you and just as you said to me, “you are exactly how I thought you would be”.
To Ron Washam for the driving my ass around, the hotel reservations, the tasting appointments, the dinners, lunches, laughter, musical stylings, the stories, did I mention the laugher and for showing me what the heart of a truly remarkable human feels like. It is an honor to live in that big heart of yours and an honor to love you. I love you with all of my heart and knowing you has made me a better person.
I sit here with these sweaty drops on my jeans, in my space, my home…feeling homesick. Twas one hell of a weekend. One that I shall never forget.....