Far Niente, Far Away


Romantic Notions
I have always wanted to follow my romantic side and escape for a long a weekend to California, spending my days biking and wandering the rolling hills of the wine counties of Sonoma and Napa Valley, and my evenings tasting the sweet flavors of red and white wines grown in this region. I am still working on the notion of a full weekend, preferably with just my husband, but I did get to do a tour of one of the best vineyards in the state and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

This grand day adventure was a couple years ago, but every time I see the pictures I am taken back to that magical day. We were in California for the Vineman, a Half Ironman Triathlon that my husband and sister were competing in, and we only had one day to explore the vine region, but we tried to make the best of it in every way.

Thanks to my brother-in-law we had a reservation at Far Niente, one of the more upscale and traditional vineyards in California. I had mentioned to him my girlish, romantic notions of what a vineyard tour and tasting might be like and he confidently informed me that if I only had time for one tour, this was the place for it. Trusting his excellent taste and good judgment I agreed wholeheartedly.

Wine Country
When the day dawned and we found ourselves driving through the slightly brown rolling hills of Sonoma Valley I was in awe at the tidy fields of vines, tenderly cared for over the years and the unique personality of the area. Glancing over my left shoulder I exclaimed to my husband “Oh look at that one on the hillside” just as he obediently turned on the blinker after the GPS directed him to go left. “Wow, do you think that is where we are going?” I asked, as if he had been here before!

Soon my questions were answered and we turned into a tree-lined drive complete with row after row of perfectly tended, lush, green vines all heavy with grapes. As we turned the corner a large stone structure appeared covered with ivy and surrounded by fields and fields of flowers. It was if I blinked and landed in Disney World, the place of young girls dreams!

Wine Making 101
Entering the ancient looking structure I felt like I was on a Tuscan movie set, my eyes searching, I saw rows of bottled wine and pictures of barrels perfectly arranged. When our tour started we were led down a spiral staircase into a dark, cool cave, which much to my delight was lined with more barrels of wine than I could count. We learned about the fine art of growing grapes and how they actually produced higher quality wine if they were forced to overcome variations in temperatures. In fact, the wine tasted best if the vines were challenged. We learned how the barrels came from different parts of the world depending on the type of wood and desired flavor of wine.

I was almost as captured by the wonderful fields of carefully tended flowers and manicured lawns, as I was by the lessons in wine making, but I was struck by the complexities involved and the creativeness involved. Honestly, I had no idea all that went into making a distinct and tasteful glass of wine. No wonder there is so many choices at my local liquor store!

The day was especially wonderful for me because it was spent with both my parents and I still remember the joy mirrored in my mother’s face as the fields of flowers and rows of immaculate vines, too, mesmerized her. As time marches on and life continues to challenge me, I hope that I too, am better in the end, for all that I face. This day is etched in my memory; the flavors of the wine and the smells of the flowers serve to remind me of special days remembered even if they are far, far away.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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