(This article was written in March 2002 about the recently opened Agua Dulce Vineyards. It’s more of a tale of how excited we were to have a winery close by because we were missing Napa, and a babysitter.)
I definitely gave Eddie fair warning in advance. He had a choice. He could either buy me an early birthday and Mother’s Day present or not. It was completely his decision. But there was nothing else, I wined, that I really wanted. And it’s not like he’d never seen me drink copious amounts of red wine in the past before. But this time I had him over a (wine) barrel because I suddenly had a sitter for Samantha and off we went. Ed and I could partake on a relaxing three-hour tour to visit our very own neighborhood, actually if we can consider Agua Dulce in our neighborhood, winery. And I was betting pretty good odds at that point that I would be coming home with what I was wishing, begging and “wine”ing for.
I went the first time on one of my girl’s only weekends while Eddie and Samantha were safely tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains for another Indian Princess adventure. My gal pal Mandy had been there the prior weekend and surprised me with a great tasting Zinfandel. (That had, at press time, just sold out!) I just couldn’t wait another minute for an opportunity of a free weekend to arise again! So, rather impromptu, I ran over to Trader Joe’s for a few picnic essentials first: low fat gourmet cheeses, crunchy red grapes, crusty sourdough bread, and bits of chocolate.
I checked things out that first visit rather quickly as I promised myself that I would see it in full when I returned with Eddie, as I wanted to share it with him because we had always shared a great interest in wine. I was so impressed with their winemaker, as I believe they have yet to bottle their own recently harvested grapes, that I bought a few bottles for home. Then they gave us the usual spiel given at every winery about becoming a “founding member”. Ed and I have never become members of a winery before, though in our youth, we had the beginnings of a decent cellar from our frequent visits to Napa, Santa Ynez and Temecula. Since we’ve had Samantha there just aren’t as many opportunities.
Would I be able to convince Eddie to become a member of a brand new winery to make up for that loss? One that we were betting could make just as excellent a wine from their own harvest as from other’s? Mandy convinced me that drinking any brand of wine, as long as it’s a hearty red, seemed to satisfy me lately. And after all these years, it also seemed to me, that Eddie might be feeling sentimental as well about wines. So…as I said…Eddie was duly warned and I was betting that the salivary glands in his mouth would be on overdrive, matching my own by the time we would arrive.
We missed those carefree wine-tasting days. We missed staying at the cozy Bed and Breakfast establishments that catered to their clientele with daily Eggs Benedict to coat our stomachs for the long days ahead sampling wines. We missed the picnic areas overlooking the vines and long sunsets. We missed visiting Willie’s Wine Bar in Paris back… oh…too many years to remember. We missed enjoying a cellared wine with friends more frequently. And we were particularly green with envy recently when one of Eddie’s captains gave us a particularly nice Cabernet with their names included on the labeling!
So, now back to my visit to Agua Dulce winery with Eddie in tow this time. We were surprised to find that many of our neighbors had thought a visit that particular Sunday was in order for them as well. The smart wine shop was filled with young and old alike tasting whites with mustards, salami and pretzels, reds with jalapeno or Cabernet jelly, a dessert wine that had to be poured more than once into our glasses because, well, it was almost empty anyway, with chocolate chips to sample. The atmosphere became more conducive to chatter, not unlike a neighborhood sushi bar after everyone has sampled that day’s specialty, and soon we were comparing our wine notes with others.
Guests were contented to stroll around perusing the wine merchandise while waiting their turn at one of the two polished oak bars. The owner was called upon at one point to answer queries about upcoming vintages, weeding problems, sugar percentage, the depth of the topsoil, age of the vines planted, wine courses taken and the upcoming “members only” harvest dinner. When the spiel on becoming a member was given to us later, this time abbreviated to suit the waiting crowd, the momentum had reached a crescendo for me. With rosy cheeks aglow and promises of a romantic evening at home later…I waited, mouth literally watering, for my mate’s response.
So, you guessed it dear reader, Ed and I were on the same page once again. The added 15% discount for members would help with our own upcoming neighborhood wine tasting party costs and selections. Our name stenciled and hammered on a sign over “our” row of vines, alongside a couple of other names that we recognized, fed my ego just perfectly. We told ourselves we were “shopping local”, at least as locally as a winery got to the SCV! And we felt right in selecting the option to pick up our wines at the winery every quarter as opposed to the possibility of letting them sit in full sun on our doorstep waiting for us to collect at the end of the day. (And that way we could take advantage of a free member’s tasting, along with a free guest. Or we might just wait to receive that first newsletter announcing the date the new vintages would be ready for tasting, thereby maybe being able to get our hands on the new hot and hearty Zinfandel before it, like it’s predecessor, sells out!)
See you there I hope! In the meantime, I remain yours, in softened-artery health,