…before I leave America…


Having a billboard time at Jacuzzi vineyard (looking a bit too happy in fact)

Roll on New Zealand, I said in my previous article, but did you notice that I mentioned a brilliant wine tour I did whilst in San Francisco? Well this is certainly worth discussing because it was my favourite day in America bar none. There were certain things I didn’t want to do on my own, for example Disneyland, so after changing my mind several times decided to throw caution to the wind and embark on a wine tour around the famed areas of California’s very own Napa and Sonoma. At a relatively pricey $69 and being the youngest by far, I didn’t want it to be one of those occasions where you feel that it is in fact a very excruciating experience that drags as slowly as large sections of Californian highway. Our itinerary for the day was pretty simple: three vineyards – two in Sonoma and one in Napa, a spot in rural California for lunch and a audio tour along the way.

The first vineyard was called Jacuzzi, isolated by acres of rural farmland and other vineyards, there was a somewhat exclusive feel to the visit. Our tour guide for the vineyard was a mixture of teacher and seller, advertising the prices of the wine before giving information about the textures and flavours within the wine. This dialogue by the way, the marketing of the wine is what drew me in to the tour. I enjoy the fine dichotomy between knowledge and pretense within the wine industry, especially because most people that seem to go on wine tours are aspirational; they want to live that middle class dream of visiting wine valleys because it’s tasteful and a way to appreciate ‘fine’ wine. This I find great to watch. The vineyard’s story includes the very beginnings of the jacuzzi because the family moved from Italy to America to work in the automation industry, whilst discovering the therapeutic qualities of the whirlpool. Later on they focused on making fine wine, and being Italian certainly added an aura of legitimacy to how fine the wine really was. Whipping up five samples, which we drank just as quickly, we were carted to the gift shop where we could sample more wine, until we were so sodden mentally, we would say the magic words: aah, yes, this is the one. I’ll take it, four bottles please! I also stumbled across the homegrown olive oil section of the shop, where I went wild for the smooth sweetness of the undoubtedly expensive and exclusive bottles literally gorging myself on the oil without pause for breath. There always was something about samples that made me lose my dignity…

The next stop was (somewhat surprisingly for such a sparse area) across the road. Disappointingly I didn’t get the name or can remember the somewhat noteworthy history of the building (something about imported carp fished from Europe) but I vaguely remember the wine being pretty drinkable. By this point of the tour, I was trying to fuse my two favourite things: wine and chocolate, by finding a wine that had ‘dark, deep hints of chocolate intermixed with shades of blackberry and plum’ (I aimed to remember that description.)

To demonstrate how small a world we live in, I got talking to a couple who knew my local area very well, much to my appreciation, they even referred to how much they loved Croydon, and because of this, I forgave the fact they were from Kent. As the last couple of days were spent in a degree of solitude broken by occasional conversations with shop keepers and cafe workers, I was delighted to speak to someone other then myself for a couple of hours. Anyway, this is a tidbit, an palate cleanser for you to enjoy whilst I slowly refer to my life over the last couple of weeks, so I’ll breeze through the rest of the day. At lunch we stayed at a jolly little American village (which I kind of preferred to the huge expanse of the big American city) where I stupidly managed to miss a historical house from 1852 (I’ve worked out that I like any tourist event where people wear costumes, put on accents and show you some random trouser press or other tool from the era whilst getting wildly excited over it) only making up for it by splashing out with a wildly luxurious lunch.

Heading to the final vineyard, named Madonna, I was genuinely amused by the old-fashioned Italian guy showing us around. He made some worthy Madonna-related jokes in his wry presentation, which by this point at the tour I found almost shamefully funny. Although it’s difficult to describe, the tour came together in a kind of camaraderie and gave a nice sense of unity to the whole tour. As you may have read in my Emotionally Involved piece, you can guess I would have quite enjoyed that, especially knowing it was a one-day only affair and nothing more. I’d give it a 5 for sure and would recommend to all the wine lovers out there. It made my American adventure.

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