Thursday, July 26, 2012

Napa -- and Vine Village

It's hard to imagine a more total transition than going from the simplicity and somewhat primitive living in the deep forest to a visit with my dear friends Walt and Sylvia in Napa. There was a thought that after two full weeks of immersion in the forest, I might initially have a little trouble with the transition, but that turned out to be not the case. I think it might have lasted about as long as it took for me to hop out of the hermitage pickup and into Sylvia's little silver car. Thank you again, Geri, for the ride down to the gate.

I've known these people since 1979, when we all worked together at Beringer. Now we're all older and retired, but the friendship has remained strong and they always welcome me warmly into their home. Any visit with them is a joy, but this one had an extra added attraction that was, in a different way, as inspirational as the weeks at the hermitage.

Sunday morning Sylvia and I took a little drive through the valley and, naturally, ended up at Beringer. This may be the first time I've ever had a good chance to take a photo of the Rhine House without traffic being in the way. And even with this opportunity, I still didn't get the 'beauty shot'. The tree is in the way. I worked in this building for a couple of years -- my office was the one on the left corner, second floor, with the little balcony. Great memories abound of this place. Afterwards, we stopped in Yountville and had lunch in a little cafe behind Michael Chiarello's 'Napa Style' shop. He has a full-fledged restaurant in the same complex, but we shared a super vegetarian panini at the cafe. It was a good morning.  And for that matter, a good day and a good weekend.

Early morning from the terrace of my guest room in Napa. San Francisco is hidden by the fog in the distance. I kept meaning to get this same view in full daylight, but somehow never managed to do so. I like the soft morning light, anyway. One morning, a California quail hopped up on the stone ledge and walked around, keeping me entertained for awhile.

Vine Village in Napa is a home for special needs adults, people who would have no other place to live without the dedication of supporters like Walt and Sylvia and many others. The annual auction which we attended Sunday afternoon is a major fundraiser for them each year.

Sylvia and I spent a couple of fun hours on Saturday setting up this center display table that featured the lots for the live auction. As you might imagine, there were some fine wines and some fine non-wine offerings here.

A mass of eucalyptus trees on the property contains a rookery for cranes and herons. When I was there on Saturday (sans camera, of course), many of these residents were at home. By Sunday, the activity seemed to have sent most of them off to quieter surroundings.

Another rookery resident.

One of the fine wines Walt brought along to share at the table.

The live auction began with Kate Hanni singing 'You Are so Beautiful' and 'Higher and Higher' with the residents. Kate, aside from being a beautiful person with a beautiful singing voice, is also the person behind recent legislation that stops airlines from stranding passengers in a plane on the tarmac for hours on end. All of us who travel owe her a debt of thanks!

The residents really enjoyed being part of the singing!
A big part of Vine Village is the art center, where residents as well as day attendees spend much of their time. Each year, some of the resident's artwork is chosen to be placed on bottles of good wine, and the auction lot includes the wine plus the original artwork. The art is pretty darned good, too.

An artist with his art, and the corresponding wine bottle.

It was a fabulous afternoon -- fun as well as inspirational. It was great to see a few people I knew from 'back in the day' at Beringer, and to meet so many new people as well.

So now -- from the extremes of the hermitage and Napa, I'm back in my humble abode somewhere in the middle between the two. It was a wonderful trip, and I am so ready to return to California! When the plane landed in San Francisco, I felt that I was coming home. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make it happen, but there's plenty of time to work on that over the coming winter.

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