Napa Made Me Do It

I have appreciated wine for as long as I have legally been allowed to consume it. An appreciation that sprung from my father’s own respect and intrigue for what was in his glass. He has this knack for knowledge, something I have always admired and adored about him, so while sipping on a glass he would impart a little of his wisdom about what's in it upon me. Little did I know that he had kick-started, what would be, one of the greatest passions of my life and a focus of my career.

For about the first decade of my drinking years, wine was my tipple of choice, I would only drink beers at house parties, considered Stella the golden child of brewing, enjoyed a G&T, and saw all other spirits reserved for nights of bad decisions.

Originally from West Coast Canada (west coast best coast!), I spent my university years studying theatre down in Southern California. On many a summer holiday I would hop in my car, Oscar – because he was green and grouchy, and road-tripped my way up north. There was one common thread throughout all my trips, one stop that always had to be made; Napa Valley.

Napa became a place of joy. The landscape was utterly stunning, rolling hills covered in trees that resembled broccoli bushes. The weather was warm, but didn’t come with the dry heat of Los Angeles, and the setting sun bathed Napa in a golden blanket. In fact, I don’t know if it was ever midday or midnight in the valley, for in my memory the Napa sun is always at golden hour.

And the WINE! It was in Napa that I had, I believe (Dad?), my first sweet white wine at Castello di Amorosa – a winery with a medieval style castle constructed out of stones from legit castle ruins from Europe – in a small tasting room befit of any old nobility. Was it kitsch? Yes. Do I still remember it with the utmost enjoyment? Most definitely!

At Inglenook, named Rubicon Estate when I visited, the gentleman in the tasting room provided us with more wine than we paid for (because in Napa tastings cost money), and higher quality wine than we paid for. I left with the most expensive bottle I had bought to date, a Rubicon Cask Cabernet 2006, as a present for my dad. We drank it together and, much to my delight, he still has the empty bottle on display.

Then there was Sterling vineyard. A gondola transports you up to the winery as you take in the scenery below. At the top each wine is presented to you at various points along a self-guided tour of the winemaking process. While on a balcony overlooking the vineyards we tasted a 2007 Chardonnay, I believe it was the Reserve. My memory clocks this as the first super ‘buttery’ Chardonnay I had ever had and it blew me away!

I have heard many wine folk talk about that bottle that changed their life, that opened up a new world for them. I have never fully been able to identify that specific bottle because I don’t think I have one. For me, I think it is the Napa Valley that was a game changer, complete with all its experiences that remain in my memories and my senses.

I even have memories of driving along the main drag, saying to my friend how maybe one day it would be interesting to get a degree in viticulture (I meant winemaking, but didn’t know the difference at the time). Life’s twists and turns have actually led me to working in the industry (though not winemaking) with wine continuing to play a larger and larger role in my life.

I am now have a partner who loves wine in the same capacity that I do. We are both fortunate to work in a company that harbours and supports our passion, and together we are learning as much as we can about the wine world – this year he went and did his first vintage and I completed my WSET Level 2 with hopes of completing level 3 by this time next year.

I am ever researching the vast world of wine and ever fascinated by what I am learning and thought you might find some of it equally intriguing. In that, it is my intent that future wine-related Schmooze Letters exhibit this exploration and discovery. Will you go on this journey with me?
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