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The winemaker is coming home for the weekend.

cooking makes me miss him

I admit it: I am pathetic. I have not turned on the stove since he left. I have not gone to the grocery store, except once and that was to buy paper towels and a frozen burrito. I subsist largely on tomatoes from the employee garden at work (sometimes with cottage cheese bought from the convenience store across the street).

My saving grace is delivery from Sake House. I've already ordered the Chef's Dinner Bento (with sushi, a California roll and gyoza) twice in the past five days. And I'm tempted to order it again tonight, while I spend my Friday evening doing laundry and watching really bad movies that I am too embarrassed to rent when he is around.

Sake House sushi is actually good, unlike the other delivery sushi I've tried in the past. (We used to order from this place that made both Chinese and Japanese food, and the Japanese portion of the menu was really bad. The sushi rice was all mushy and gross. And the California roll was just a big clumpy mess.)

to those drunken biznatches

at Slide last night:

You are lucky I am not a violent person. Because after you hit my elbow, causing me to spill my Chardonnay in my face and all the way down the inside of my cowlneck sweater (yes, my bra was soaked), I wanted to destroy you. And all you said was, "Oh, sorry."

I would've loved to smack you and dig my nails into your eyeballs and dump an entire magnum of red wine (yes, red!) on you. But instead, this is what I wish for you:

May you be walking down the street, preferably in suede shoes or a suede jacket, and may some completely drunk person who just ate too much Mexican food throw up all over you. And may chunks get in your hair.

May the guy you have been eyeing all night at the party walk in on you in the bathroom and find you changing your tampon. And may he run away screaming.

May you break the heels on all your favorite shoes.

May you get dumped in public.

May you eat a spinach salad.

And you will not be alone in the hell I have in mind for you. There were so many drunken biznatches at last night's winetasting. You will have friends. You can all pose for the event photographer together in ridiculously short skirts. And then brazenly ask my friend Jenny's fiancé if you can sit in his lap -- while Jenny is right there next to him!

So awful. The one thing I really hate about wine is that it's a magnet for yuppie scum or wannabe yuppie scum. Good lord.

pay to play

This morning I was greeted by an e-mail inviting our founding winemaker to participate in a radio interview. Said interview would also include a listing on the station's Web site. Said interview would be broadcast nationally.

And said interview would cost $795. This is "a sponsorship package."

Are you kidding me? Since when is it okay to pay for media coverage? I am absolutely horrified. And this isn't the first time I've seen this. I can't even tell you how many magazines (by the way, regional "luxury" lifestyle publications are the worst when it comes to this) have tried to pull something like this: "Give us cases and cases for our event, and we'll mention you in the next issue!" And TV is guilty as well: "Pay us X amount, and we'll do a feature on your winery."

Honestly, if you need to pay people to talk about your wines, are your wines really even worth talking about? Probably not.

This worries me. If more and more media are using these "sponsorship packages," how much information out there is actually legit? Or is most everything we see, hear and read just one big ad? This is frightening beyond belief.

Thankfully, my winery has ethics. We don't "pay to play." And I'd like to believe our juice is good enough to stand on its own. (And that I'm a good enough PR person to win attention for us without having to fork over any cash.)

if you look closely

... you can see the sun rise.


I owe you: You made me actually leave the house. And eat a homecooked meal. (Did you know I haven't cooked at all this past week? I haven't turned on the stove. I haven't bought any groceries. I have subsisted on tomatoes from the employee garden at work, cottage cheese and protein drinks. And "Grey's Anatomy" on DVD.) And you made me dance to silly reggae music in a dim bar with a drunk girl visiting from New York, a restaurant manager and your neighbor. Bless your heart.

when there is nothing left to burn

I have been watching the hills of Napa burn since I got here this morning. They say there is vineyard land in danger. And 50 homes. And the fire is moving, and it is so windy today. (The photo above is from the Napa Valley Register.)

We are fine. We are on the other side of Highway 29, far enough away. But I still worry.

I've felt this way many times before. There was the Parkhill fire in Santa Margarita, where 1,400 acres burned. It was a Sunday, and I was the only reporter in the newsroom, so they sent me. I was wearing flip-flops and a tank top and the photographer had to teach me about wind direction and the best way to drive in close to a fire without killing myself. At one point, the flames jumped the fireline, and CDF shoved me in one of their trucks.

I remember a woman trying to protect her house. Like me, her toes were exposed. She was carrying buckets of water and pouring them on her lawn. Hosing off her roof. I remember chasing after her. Wanting so badly to help. But not knowing what to do, or if I -- a stranger with a notebook -- would be allowed to do it.

brix recap

I tried to stick to my plan. But there were magnums of 1977 Reserve Cab, 1988 Napa Cab and 1992 Stags Leap District Cab (in order of preference: 77, 92, 88). So I succumbed and had Cabernet with my Mahi Mahi (to hell with it all).

But I did have an amazing South African Sauvignon Blanc earlier in the evening -- a very unusual, almost earthy/hay-ish nose (okay -- I know the combination of earth and Sauvignon Blanc doesn't exactly conjure up the best image, but I was a fan -- and maybe I'm biased because I like South African wines and sometimes they can be very "dirty"), a nice light body, very crisp, good acidity. And I wish I could tell you what it was, but I didn't get a good look at the bottle. All I can say is that it was a Burgundy-shaped bottle (odd) with a screwcap, and the label was triangular and possibly had an animal on it. And one of the board members brought it with him, so it may not even be available for purchase in the U.S. -- the guy could've gone to South Africa to get it, for all I know. And at my table (there were six of us, I was the only woman -- actually, I was the only woman with 11 men) the reaction to the SB was mixed. I believe I was the only one who really, truly loved it. Everyone else felt it didn't taste the way SB should taste.

Which begs the question: How should wine taste? I understand the notion of varietal characteristics (obviously, you are not going to have a Cab that tastes like melon), but shouldn't there be some room for deviation, particularly since wine should also be an expression of terroir and terroir varies so greatly?

Which brings me to another interesting topic (I am in a rambling mood this morning): One of the board members was recently in Champagne. He said he had seen hillsides leveled to make vineyards more accessible, but then the soil that was brought in to complete the project was from another part of the region. Um, doesn't bringing soil in from somewhere else completely and totally undermine terroir? I would argue so.

A lot to think about. Meanwhile, he is in Paso Robles, also beginning his day. He does punchdowns and takes readings and prepares for more grapes to come in -- maybe early next week, he says. He has forgotten his running shoes. He is tasting as many local Paso wines as he can -- EOS Zinfandel last night, and maybe tonight that bottle of Tobin James Petite Sirah. I tell him to go to Di Raimondo's cheese shop because they give you as many samples as you want and it is impossible to resist the cheese once you have had a sample.

I miss them.

I am not going home tonight. I am staying here in Napa, where I will have dinner at Brix and then sleep in a hotel room afterwards. I will talk about my "plans" and "strategies" in a "casual" setting. I will likely order the heirloom tomato salad to start, followed by either some seafood or something vegetarian. Even though everyone will think I am strange because I am not eating red meat to go with red wine. But I will insist. Because I am not in the mood for red meat right now. Nor will I be in a few hours, when I am in the middle of said dinner. (Is it impolite to insist on sticking to white wine when everyone else has moved on to red? Will a lighter red like Pinot Noir pair with pan-seared sea bass? Can I get away with it? What about grilled polenta cake? Will it all be too much? Will I say something stupid? Will all these Brits think I'm a ditz? I hate that word.)

This is all part of my workday for today. And it is nice to do something different every day, to be involved in bigger decisions, to actually love my job, to feel challenged.

But I am tired. And sort of lonely. And I won't get to come home to my ginger cats.

Sometimes I just wish I could sleep for a very long time.

young woman with growling stomach

Trying not to get stuck on things. The best distraction: a good restaurant with a good friend. So Jenn and I are going to Va de Vi tonight. (This is her much belated birthday dinner.) And I'm armed with advice from Dr. Murad, so I'm definitely going to order the chocolate lava cake.

The last great dinner I had was Wednesday. We went to Medicine Eatstation. It was sort of a celebratory thing for the new job, the new adventure. So we indulged and had the nine-course tasting menu, complete with sake pairings. One word to describe the experience: Amazing. Another word: Clean. Yes, that's right. And by "clean," I don't mean bland. I mean not overdone. Not greasy. And with a beautiful, streamlined presentation that incorporates all five colors of traditional Japanese cooking. I loved everything, from the kabocha squash dofu to the soba noodles to the "old fisherman contemplating the sea" sake.

Which brings me to this: If you were a sake, how would you describe yourself?


I miss you. Already, this space seems too big. And too quiet. (I don't listen to music the way you do. I don't whistle well. I don't sing in the shower.)

I miss the single argyle sock rolled up under the couch. And the smell of freshly-made popcorn when I come up the stairs. I miss the two-person dance parties we had here; we were good at making the cats think we were crazy.

It is weird. I lived alone for so long that all of my plants had names. I remember crying the day you moved all of your things out of the storage locker and into the apartment. I remember thinking: This is too much. I am overwhelmed. And we fought once because I threw away the stack of newspapers you had been saving. And now, anything other than you is not enough.

But the absence is only for a few weeks. Five at most. Maybe six. And when you come back, you will have so many stories to tell. I want to know what the cellar smelled like, and if your hands turned purple, and for how long. (What were the bins named this year? Did you help make the Port? Did you have to work through the night to bring the grapes in on time?)

I want you to tell me about the sky; where you will be, there will be so many stars. And tell me about the oaks. I loved those oaks, the way they stood, gnarled, on the tawny hillside.

Like me, they wait.

in the air

I believe we are on the cusp: It is harvest, the beginning of great wine. It is Friday, the beginning of the weekend.

And it is almost time for him to leave. This will be new. For both of us. In two days, he will move south, and he will be gone for at least a month. And if that month goes well, he will likely leave again in the spring, move even farther south. (Chile? Argentina? Australia? New Zealand? Wherever there are grapes, he will try to go.)

It is strange. In the past, I have always done the leaving. I was always the one to make the announcement: up the coast, across the country, to the city.

And now ...

I will fill my days with books and films and dinners with friends. I will spend time walking to the market, running on sand, climbing stairs, making things. I will write many letters.

It feels like fall. The light is changing.

adventures in public relations

So. At work, we collaborate with a graphic artist/humorist who creates cartoons that we use on some wine labels and on fun things that we sell in the tasting room -- T-shirts, playing cards, calendars, posters, etc. The artwork is great -- similar to what Ralph Steadman does -- so naturally, it draws attention from the press. People want to interview our cartoonist. They want to chat him up, ask him about wine and art and politics. They want to write about him and include his photo with their articles.

So I have been calling him. Pretty much daily. And he lives in France, so I have to get to work very, very early so I can call at a decent time. But no one ever answers. The phone just beeps at me and then hangs up.

Out of desperation, I sent him a fax. Yesterday.

And I was so, so happy when I came to work this morning and found a reply from him.

And then I read the reply.

The first sentence: "As bizarre as it may seem, I haven't answered the phone for a good fifteen years."

Apparently, he only communicates by fax. And that is how he plans to handle all of his interviews: Reporters must fax in their questions. And he will fax back his responses.

Which is just great, since I'm sure every reporter is dying to break out that fax machine from the '80s. But at least this is better than hand-writing letters, licking envelopes and sending them via air mail. Let's just hope the reporters think so, too, and still want to do the story.

steak frites

We were at The Wedding. It was almost the end: The cake had been cut, the guests were sitting with drinks and many empty glasses, the bridesmaids' shoes had come off.

We were sitting at the foot of one of the head tables. (Yes, there were more than one. This was An Event.) I was drinking a cheap Cab. The bartender had overfilled my glass, so I couldn't swirl. Not that it mattered. Swirling is not important when you are at A Wedding.

That is when she laid down. Flat on her back. Right there, next to the table. She hadn't caught the bouquet, even though The Bride had aimed for her. ("Who was that other girl?" we said. "Where did that other girl come from?")

"It's been 11 years," she said. "Since high school! I feel like I give him filet mignon, and all I get back is French fries."

what I don't love about long weekends ...

... is coming back to work and playing catch up.

But what I do love is the extra time to try new restaurants. And this past weekend was full of new eating experiences. First stop was Tablespoon, where we dined Saturday night.

I'd describe this place as upscale comfort food. The specialty is mac & cheese (by the way, the appetizer size is large enough for an entree). And the Caesar salad is divine. (Can you believe that Caesar salad can be divine? At Tablespoon, it can. The secret is the warm, housemade croutons. I would love to be buried in those croutons on a cold winter night.) And the Chanterelle mushroom and leek tamale (see my amateur attempt at photography) was absolutely fantastic. And we finished off the meal with a plate of cookies, fresh from the oven. Yum.

I am definitely going back.

is it time yet?

So, so hungry ... but we aren't going to brunch until noon ...

no pink after labor day?

I noticed it right away this week -- school is back in session. Kids with backpacks shuffle along the sidewalks. The really late ones chase the bus. And I find myself pitching holiday stories to the magazines. Already, I am thinking about what we will be drinking for Christmas. (I am also ordering glow-in-the-dark candy-corn printed collars for the cats. Do not laugh. They will look smashing.)

Fall also means the end of Rosé season. It's like "no pink after Labor Day." People start thinking about wines for the cooler months, the Cabernets to pair with meatier dishes, the Ports for sipping in the evening. Restaurants begin redoing their wine lists for the holidays.

But really, San Francisco's summer is only just beginning. Here, September and October are the warm months, when we finally escape from the fog. So Rosé season isn't quite over for us yet. In fact, I wonder if Rosé may even extend beyond a season. There's talk of doing a Pink Out! event in the winter; an e-mail has already gone out to producers to see who's on board. And Rosé is actually one of the most versatile food wines; I can see it pairing well with the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.

So I say let's keep the pink going. Some of my favorites: the 2005 Fleur Vin Gris, Clautiere Grenache Rosé and Taltarni NV Brut Taché.