I love Christmas! What a wonderful time of year! --Friends and family getting together to celebrate human consciousness, the arrival of Jesus. What better time to enjoy wine? I say that with a smirk, but the truth is that wine, beer and spirits sell more during this season than the rest of the entire year combined. I had a friend ask me the other day, "Do you think it's tacky to give wine to your kid's teachers?" Maybe she asked the wrong girl because I had to laugh. At our office party today we played one of those gift giving games where each person draws a number, then you pick a gift in order. You are able to either unwrap a new gift, or take something that was previously opened. Among glassware, candles, body washes and other Christmas trinkets there were three bottles of wine, a bottle of Crown Royale and a bottle of Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur. Guess what everyone fought over? Not the candles. If wine doesn't suit your taste, then go ahead and get your teacher/attorney/mother-in-law something from Bath and Body Works. I'm sure she'll re-gift that body lotion and head to the wine shop for some real relaxing.
If you can believe this: Everything on the table below is completely edible, including the wine bottles. Look closely and you will see Sunny, Bubba and Pete too! Great job Rose!
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Todd and I hit the road Thursday to take care of some final business before heading back to Virginia Beach. I couldn’t believe it was our last day in California, and it was flying by. We tasted some cool stuff in Healdsburg, enjoyed an In-N-Out Burger (my first—it was amazing) then met with Pack And Ship, who’s helping us with our direct to consumer sales online. It had been a slam packed week and an eventful afternoon, so by the time we got back to the Larson place, I was ready for bed. We got out of the car and I was dragging my feet when Molly yelled across the driveway, “See you guys tonight!” The girl is awesome- she runs the tasting room at the vineyard and manages the Captains House with energy and enthusiasm that’s totally contagious. SO, I chugged a Redbull, put on my cowboy boots and Todd and I were out the door.
Tom Larson designated the winery premises and tasting room this night for Sarah Cess, whose friends came together to have a spaghetti wine dinner to raise money for her and her family. I heard a brief story about Sarah my first day at the winery—An incredible young woman, wife and mother fighting ovarian cancer.
I imagined the night would be easy going and slightly somber—slow jazz music and decent food. Boy, was I was wrong.
The only thing I was more wrong about was the woman we were coming together for: not fragile or frightened, but fierce and focused, full of joy and laughter. I count myself blessed to have witnessed this woman’s courage and the community, some of the finest people I’ve ever met that pulled together to celebrate her.
Over 200 folks came to the winery that night to eat, drink and be merry. Rock and Roll music by the great band Ten Foot Tone (click to follow link) played until midnight.
I think everyone felt an awesome sense of accomplishment at the end of the night—we partied our asses off! At $25/person on top of T-shirt and wine sales and a silent auction that featured Becky Larson’s vacation rental in Tahoe, you do the math. ;)
When we embarked on this journey west to Larson Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California, Todd expressed enthusiasm for me coming with him. “You’re going to love this place,” he said, “It’s just your style.” This warmed me and I took it as a compliment, although I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. When we parked in the driveway in the early morning dark and I opened the car door, three wet noses welcomed me. I knew what my sweet husband had meant. Yellow Sunny, chocolate Bubba, black Pete have become some of my favorite furry friends, and I’ve had a LOT of furry friends. The dogs roam the vineyards, take morning jogs with guests, greet all who come to the tasting room, and hang out back of the Captain’s house where Todd and I stay. They have come to rely on me for bacon in the morning and some kind of fatty leftovers from the grill at night. By now, they know my footsteps and come running to the back door when I walk across the deck. These three bubbas have done everything to reinforce my experiences and love with Labs.
Pete is chill as black labs go. Laid back, head of the pack, coy, but first to alert.
Sunny is obsessed with food. Not to say the others are not, but none are as focused on edible items as Sunny. I like to sneak out back and call Pete for vittles first—he sits politely and patiently, tail tapping the ground while I pick out the best pieces and feed him by hand. He wont eat off my plate if I set it on the ground—I guess he finds it rude—so when Sunny comes scrambling, nosing me in the rear end, I make him sit, put the plate on the ground and he pounces.
Bubba is sweet and simple. Not the brightest, but athletic and sensible. His favorite past-time is running, and he loves the opportunity to lead the way through the vineyards, bravely chasing off birds and rabbits, turning around with a proud, approved grin, tongue hanging.
Earning their reputation as the winery welcome crew, The Larsons thought the Labradors deserved their own wine, so dedicated a Cabernet Sauvignon to the boys: Three Lab Cab.
Our route takes us from Sonoma north to Bodega Bay, rolling between the hills. To our left cattle farms act as a buffer from the cold wind that comes from the deep, dark Pacific and mangles the sparse trees like skinny ladies on top of the hills with big fluffy hair being whipped off their faces. The sun was starting to sink behind the hills, highlighting the distorted silhouettes, and I laughed with my camera in hand while my handsome driver pushed the rental car to the limit for our destination.
In his many trips to Cali, Todd had never been to Bodega Bay, and since I had never seen the Pacific, we decided to share these new things and capture the sun set over the ocean.
Californians inhabit the warmer hillsides to the east, leaving the oceanfront along their northern coast largely undeveloped. The drive though the countryside felt strangely like home, closing my eyes, the farm smells of mud and cattle like Big Pa and Mema’s house. Had the space where we drove been cut short by forests and buildings, freeways and sub developments, I may have been truly confused; however, the scenery goes on for what seems like forever. Todd comments, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think we were in Montana.” I giggle, and Todd shines a cool grin in my direction. The Dixie Chicks are correct: open spaces are truly freeing. In this moment the weight of career and society are so far away, I feel like a child and laughter grabs me uncontrollably.
We pass the marshy bay south of Bodega and turn left, the mighty Pacific finally revealed. This moment I have longed for as far back as I recall. The roar of the crashing waves, the expanse of salt water before me, I hold my breath to heighten my hearing and begin to cry. Standing on the steep hill side, the wind pushes my hair back like the skinny lady trees and I laugh through tears.
If you’ve never seen the sun set on the Pacific, put it on your list. Although the finale was blocked by low fog, I knew where the sun was behind that gray blanket and imagined myself standing on the edge of forever. The feeling is burned in my brain like a tattoo.
The engine of our economy car was buzzing as we made our way out of San Francisco at 2am Pacific time. Todd and I had been going for 26 hours by the time we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. It was magnificent to my sleepy eyes. A warm peace fell upon me when we finally turned down Millerick Road to the Larson Winery and into the driveway of the Captain’s House. The cozy farm house oozing of history and tradition of Sonoma is our residence for the next 5 days. I woke up this morning like a child at Christmas, after 5 hours of hard sleep to a loud “BAAAH!” Hungry goats and sheep were ready for their breakfast and so was I. The clouds and rain departed and the sun warmed the day, welcoming me to my first California experience. Todd and I took a quick spin though the quaint township for some egg burritos and cream for our coffee. Palm trees like giant fluffy umbrellas tower over the Spanish mission and courthouse, reminding me of Florida’s St. Augustine. Rolling hills of evergreens and Eucalyptus trees guard the flat rows of vines. The terrior is truly unique, as Steinbeck described Salinas valley, but even more beautiful here. Green grows all year, but for a few Bradford Pears of a bright red and the vines in their rows whose grapes have been harvested. I have escaped the Eastern Fall for a few days and watch willow branches sway in the wind, leaning over the river where I write. I hope to meet Tom Larson and his family today and express my earnest enjoyment of their place in this western world of wine.