These past two weekends have been busy. My friend from college Ryan – who I also studied with in France – came to visit. It just so happened that a French friend of his – Sylvain – would be in town at the same time and the first weekend we all went to Napa.
I had to put more thought into the Napa trip than usual because I’ve cancelled my memberships there in favor of Paso Robles, a much more laid back town with fabulous fruity reds. Since they had not been to wine country before I wanted to ensure they saw Napa since it is the most famous. Since we are had a connection or are French I thought Chateau Montelena would be a good choice since its famous chardonnay put Napa on the map by winning the ‘Judgement of Paris’ back in the ’70s. As expected there were tour busses which made me cringe but as it turned out most of them were not there for the tasting. I didn’t know it but this winery was owned by Chinese before the Judgement of Paris and so had a lot of Chinese influence which those bus loads of Chinese tourists were there to see. So we didn’t have to wait long for a tasting. The wine was decent but I did like the Zinfandel and bought two bottles.
Next was Sterling Vineyards which is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. With my memberships and the fact that I have to drive back, I never wanted to go too far north. Since we were staying the night up in Calistoga I wanted to visit these northern wineries as I probably won’t be back in the area for a while. Sterling was pretty and I enjoyed being up on the mountain and the patio outside where we shared a bottle.
It was then time for lunch which was had at Sam’s Social Club. When I go wine tasting in Napa I like to go early to avoid the crowds and give my guests a good, hassle-free experience. That is the reason we hit two wineries before lunch. I then asked them if they wanted to continue visiting wineries but when it was discovered our hotel – Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort – had a pool they decided we should just stay there and drink beer; and that is exactly what we did.
We were in that pool for hours and speaking french so no topic was off limits. I noticed however that one lady was watching us and paying attention to what we were saying. I introduced myself and learned she speaks french! So we all had a good laugh because she understood everything, and like I said no topic was off limits in our conversation! So we ended up talking to her and her friend until it was time for dinner which was at Solage – the only restaurant in Calistoga with a Michelin star. Sylvain ended up having a very long conversation with the sommelier while Ryan and I played bocce ball with a few people we had met.
The next day we were all feeling a bit rough which is what happens when you drink wine and beer pretty much all day in the sun. We had a very nice breakfast and then took a leisurely drive down the Silverado Trail stopping only at Clos du Val for a quick tasting and then a bottle out on the lawn. Clos du Val holds a special place in my heart because this is the first winery I became acquainted with when I moved to San Francisco. The reason is because I worked at Japan Airlines and Japan Airlines served this wine in their first class cabin. Also, the JAL flight training facility was in Napa and thus employees plus big bosses would always go to Clos du Val due to the special relationship. Unfortunately the flight training center is now closed and the relationship over; sometimes I wish things would just stay the same, I get tired of all the massive change we’ve had over the past decade.
That concluded our travels and we then drove back to San Francisco where we said goodbye to Sylvain who was returning to France in a few days. Ryan was hanging out with me for one more weekend.
That next Friday I met Ryan in San Francisco and we then met up with my other friend from college Ana. She has decided to move to Florida and was having a gathering to say goodbye to everyone. We first met at Schroeder’s since they had the best beer on tap. It was then off to the Americano and then Ryan and I took a short leave to go to the Giants game which was just down the street. Then it was back to the Americano and I ended up catching the Bart back home.
Since we had been out a lot I decided to make Saturday a relaxing one. Ryan came over early in the morning and we went down to Santa Ramen in San Mateo. There was a Japanese festival going on and we spent an hour or two there then it was back up home. The weather was spectacular so we opened a bottle of wine and sat out on the patio talking about life, the past, the future, all the while being amazed that we hadn’t seen each other for seven years and it has been sixteen years since our studies in Lyon, France.
Life really is short and it is great to catch up with long term friends, especially those select few that fit into the best friend category. These are those who you can pick up with just as though no time has passed at all even though it may have been many years and life has changed dramatically.
The time now is 6:40 AM and I’m back in my routine after two crazy weekends with Ryan. We promised not to let another seven years pass before meeting up but one never knows what life will bring. It is best to make the most of it when meeting up with old friends and from the two weekends we just had I do not believe anyone could accuse us of doing otherwise.