Billy and I took a drive out to Napa in a convertible. It was a beautiful day and we cruised under the hot sun with the top down. We visited three wineries and enjoyed some quality time just the two of us. It had all the makings of a perfect trip, and still, I struggled to shake my disappointment. Napa just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. There, I said it.
To be fair, it was lovely—seriously, it was a great day!—but it didn’t stand a chance against our trip to Sonoma. Mind you, it’s totally possible that what I really loved about Sonoma was the fact that I experienced it on the back of a motorcycle. It was my first time on a bike and from the moment the engine started and I wrapped my arms around Billy, I fell in love. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more free—being that close to the world, no barrier between us, it was if I could just reach out and touch it. I’ll never forget the sound of that Harley Davidson reverberating through the crisp fall air; it echoed deep inside. It was one of the best days of my life.
Driving through Napa, I struggled to process the comparison, my disappointment, and the fact that I was the one responsible for my own struggle. The problem was not the day itself, but the fact that I fought against my experience of it. I didn’t want to feel the way I did. You’re in wine country, for God’s sake. In a convertible. With the love of your life. Pull it together! No matter how hard I tried to snap out of it—look, wine! nature! cheese!—I couldn’t redirect. Until it was over, when I realized that I had missed a great day.
As I sift through photos from the trip, I’m grateful for a second chance to experience it. We went to three wineries: V. Sattui Winery, GrGich Wine Estates, and Frog’s Leap. I’d definitely recommend all three, each for different reasons.
V. Sattui Winery was my brother-in-law Nick’s recommendation. I’m glad we went because I really enjoy their wine; Nick always pulls a few bottles out of the basement for holiday meals and so it has always felt special to me. The grounds were beautiful. I especially loved the hedge of roses that line the path as you walk in. The main building at V. Sattui looked like an old Italian monastery. Eh, monastery sounds dull. It looked like an old Italian villa. The wines were very bold, which I love.
Then we visited Grgich Wine Estates, a recommendation from our friends with whom we were staying. It’s an important vineyard to visit because it was the owner’s Chardonnay that won first place in a blind tasting in Paris, an event that put American wine on the map. We did a wine and cheese tasting on their patio, which sat right on the road, a negative that was outweighed by the fact that we got one-on-one time with Justin Hills, one of the owner’s sons, who facilitated our tasting. We heard all about the history of Grgich Wine Estates directly from the family. It was that personal touch that really left a lasting impression.
Our last stop was Frogs Leap, a must-see recommendation from my sister, Kacey. It was far and above my favorite vineyard. Frogs Leap is off the main drag, which made all the difference.
You walk into this big old farm house and drink wine on the back porch overlooking the garden. Everything about it was gorgeous—their grounds, their aesthetic, their wines. It was the best part of my day. As I sat there on the porch, I could feel the fog of discontent lifting and I was finally able to settle into the present moment.
Sometimes it’s hard to just let an experience be what it is. It’s hard to embrace discomfort, even and maybe especially when that discomfort is a product of the mind. Because let’s face it, driving through Napa in a convertible on vacation with the love of my life was not a hardship. It was a fine day. No, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but it also wasn’t what it could’ve been.
My resistance was my resistance; it belonged to me, not Napa. I know that resistance all too well—I know what it tastes like and I don’t like it. I also know that the only way out is in. If I want to deliver myself from my own suffering, I must first accept the moment for what it is. Only then can I can touch my experience like I touched life on the back of that motorcycle. There is potency in all of it. Napa reminded me to drink it all in.