Skip to content

For Richer or For Poorer

January 29, 2010

Today, Ren and I were granted a wonderful experience by two of our favorite people. A family friend of my brother’s, Carolyn Ferris Parker and Damian Parker (Director of Winemaking at Joseph Phelps Vineyards) introduced us to, as some have called it, American Eden. Napa Valley has everything for a wayward pair of food and wine hedonists. From the hundreds of tasting rooms with their ornamental and hardly used spittal vases to Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc and French Laundry, there is room for the most Dyonesian and gluttoness. With names like Insignia and their newest Bacchus, our first stop was clearly Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Thanks to the setup from Damian and Carloyn, we first sat down with their head of hospitality, one Mr. Steven Pavvy. Steven, alike to us, had not always been a wino. From minister to software engineer, it took him six different career paths to discover that wine was what he should do with his life. He described the ins and outs of the business and actually partially inspired our current more journalistic blogging venture.

After an hour and a half of amusing and informative chit chat, Steven sent us to one of St. Helena’s most delicious diner turned gastropubs, Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Selling everything from fish tacos to real free range steak burgers and Bud Light to Opus One, Taylor’s incorporated both the chic and the rustic sides of America’s Eden. At around fifteen dollars, I enjoyed the the fish tacos. They came perfectly prepared with enough crumbly tilapia and fresh pico de gallo to make any mouth water. Ren got one of the burgers. She has never made me feel so jealous. Each bite she took created a slight popping sound as the freshly cooked beef juices flooded her mouth and left the air smelling of dreams come true. We shared a lemonade, which tasted fresh squeezed, but who knew? The rest was so good it didn’t matter.

After Taylor’s had done us in, we meandered into Dean and Deluca. That’s right New Yorker’s, there is one in California too. Looking over the high priced items like pink salt slabs from Afghanistan and candies from Spain was fun. Thank god we were already full or we would have spent all of our money. They had some fun licorices that had filling in the middle. They reminded me of my Grandfather and left the same gooey remnants on my teeth that my dentist had warned me about all those years ago.

Finally, we gave in and returned to Joseph Phelps for the second part of our day as royalty. Steven had known our weekness. He had left us a complimentary seminar on Le Naz (the nose) with one of his able front men, Michael. Michael poured each of our glasses and began to tell us all of the different hints the olfactory sense can pick up. I can’t really go into it here since you really have to have the wine in front of you, but let’s just say that it made a believer out of me. I now look at the back of the bottle and try to pick out the fruit or wood motes that are listed. Some still seem mischievously concocted, but now quite a few smell legitimate.

In essence, it was a perfect day. Ren and I picked up a bottle of their 2007 Chardonnay and went gallivanting back to our most wonderful host and hostess’ house. After a delicious dinner at Pearl Restaurant, a rustic California cuisine restaurant and oyster bar where we enjoyed their signature polenta, chicken verde, and beef tacos, we returned late with Carolyn to welcome home Damian and sip on one of the many reds in their cellar. We would have to get to bed early because the next day was to be just as full.

The next morning, I awoke in a sweat not because of a nightmare but because of the excitement. Damian was going to give us a private tour of JPV. As we neared the vineyard one last time, we saw them spraying their grapes with a composted mix of chicken manure and grape skins. A wonderfully rich and organic way to fertilize the soon to be bottle of Insignia that would surely rest on some lucky person’s table. Damian took us into the barrel room, showing us hundreds of new French oak barrels. The smell of delicious of red wine permeated the room. That image was emblazened on my mind for the rest of the day. After the tour, Ren and I bid Napa farewell and we set out on the long drive home.

When we got out of the county, we did the only thing that felt right. There was too many good and wonderful organic things in our bodies. We had to make a pit stop and it wouldn’t be pretty. We stopped at McDonalds and flying over the bay bridge back to San Francisco, I licked the surely cancer giving big mac juice off my face. Then we saw this guy, a remnant of why everyone can’t have good wine. He wanted weed instead. How silly. So in turn we did what any young couple would do, we gunned it down Hwy 1 with Ren hanging out the window trying to snap shots of the view and me edging a little too close to the guard rails to see if I could scare her back in.

In conclusion, it was amazing, and for one weekend, Ren and I lost our retail working cynicism and lived the life that we hoped one day we would deserve, a life in Eden.

– Chris with photos by Ren – I guess she dodged the guard rail 😦

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: