Yesterday we got a Zipcar and drove north on a perfect Fall day. We had a 10 am appointment to tour Hendry Ranch in the heart of Napa Valley and taste the high-end wine they produce.
For the next 3 hours my son and I learned more than we ever thought possible about growing grapes, making wine, and drinking it from George Hendry, a second generation vintner now in his 70's. He talked about his successes and failures as we walked though his vineyard, where 11 different varieties of grapes now grow. We learned all about the cork-screw top controversy, becoming convinced of the merit of sealing wines like a Pinot griggio with a 17-cent screw top as opposed to a much more expensive cork.
This is a relatively small vineyard, with 12 employees doing virtually all of the work. Since harvesting and bottling this year's wine is done, they were working on removing and replacing diseased plants. Speaking of which, George claims you can't make a good-tasting organic wine.
We toured the facility where the wine is made -- start to finish -- where finish sees it bottled by an Italian machine that cost almost half a million dollars.
No wine tour would be complete without a tasting. We tried 11 wines, ranging in price from $13 to $55 a bottle. George, who also doubles as a gourmet cook, made the connection between wine and food as no one ever has for me before. It was finally time for us to leave, after our private tour and tasting. We bought a few bottles, found some delicious fish tacos down the road, and headed on to the next adventure.
My son was convinced that I was going to hike to the summit of a hill with a view in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. I had my walking stick along, but I didn't have hiking shoes. I enjoyed the first part of the hike, as we gently ascended through a rolling meadow.
But when the going started to get tougher, I opted to take a nap on a bench while he pressed on to the summit. It all seemed rather idyllic until the sun started to dip and I realized just how alone I was. He finally showed up with evidence that he had reached the top.
I was very happy to have his company as we hiked back down Bald Mountain. The moon was our only source of light by the time we reached the car.
Dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley (where we were somewhat underdressed) capped off a perfect day. We both slept quite soundly.
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