"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet." -James Oppenheim
There's been a little more June and a lot more tiny adventures this week in the heart of the Valley. Certainly there were plenty of opportunities to continue avoiding the laundry and weeding. Sunday afternoon seemed ideal for a drive out to a secret garden. Dr. "Babe To You" and The Brit-- (aka my sister and bro-in-law) immigrated from the Frozen Central Plains last fall and are enthusiastic explorers, so off we went.
If you've not been to Dancing Oaks nursery, it's a treat and well worth the long country drive. You're likely to be greeted by a fat cat or a three legged dog on the winding paths through lush shrubberies and flowers. Giant cardoons spill out of statuary on water gardens, exotic vines trail over split beam trellises. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and the porch inviting for a rest.
But Sunday we never got there. As we headed down Suver Road, the skies started clabbering up and a sprinkling of rain hit the windshield. We saw the sign for Airlie Winery and took a quick turn down 2 miles of nowhere. Moments later we were being nosed out of our open car doors by the resident Irish Setters. Owner Mary followed and set us in for a flight of some incredibly tasty local libations.
Mary is an inspiration. After 20 plus years working at the telephone company, she went for her dream of owning a vineyard. "If I'd had a clue about what I was doing, I would have been to scared to do it." She's an ideal hostess; down to earth, funny, smart as hell and laid back. She plied us with tastings and wine trivia as we sheltered from the rain. The covered table on the patio looked out over the pond and grounds and the dogs ran guard duty chasing rabbits while we talked. Mary told us about the 2008 dry Gewurztraminer. "Gewurz is German for Spicy, and the rest refers to the region where it originated. But Julia Child said it meant 'Spicy tears,' and I like that explanation better." I don't usually care for Gewruzts myself; they can be cloying. But the spice was evident in this one, as were the hints of fig and apricot referred to in the tasting notes.
Midway through the reds, a car drove up and out came locals with a platter full of treats, telling Mary, "We worried you'd be hungry out here." We were strangers until then but they joined our table and shared stories and their food. Matriarch Betty was recently widowed and had moved from her isolated home to a place on her daughter's land. She'd moved to Oregon years ago from what was then small town Santa Cruz. Ken told a great tale about burying cookies around fellow scouts' sleeping bags when he was a child in the hills of the John Muir. His dad had told the boys about the feral hogs in the area, and they didn't believe him. They did when they woke up to snouts rooting around them. Daughter-in-law Jan works in county mental health and we acknowledged the challenges of the current system and lack of funding. We chatted and snacked and tasted the day away. It was a great afternoon, and though the rain never let up we were completely content. The Brit, who'd worried he'd feel obliged to buy a bottle if we stopped, happily walked out with a case-plus assortment of everything we'd tasted. It wasn't the afternoon we'd planned, but it was the one we needed.
Keep your eyes open. You never know where you'll stumble across a great time.