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.
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.