Lost in Wine Country

Author’s Note: I’ve been busy securing a new job and trying to get back on my feet here at home, which is why I’ve been delayed in finishing these stories. Now that I’m a little more stable, I’m ready to get fired up again. Now where was I?

Oh yes. San Francisco, with my impounded car now back in my possession, but also $500 poorer.

Caught up in the chaos of the city, mirrored by my own burdened mind, I found myself longing for the quiet, open freedom I had back in middle America. I hadn’t appreciated it at the time, but suddenly all I wanted was to be away from the city and back on the road, flying down the breezy highway, needing nothing but an occasional stop to eat and brush my teeth. I filled up on $3.69/gallon gas, crossed back over the Golden Gate Bridge, and headed north. My eyes and ears relaxed as the concrete faded away and the hilly vineyards of northern California’s wine country came into focus.

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I met up with my girlfriend, Tyler, at Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena, where she works as a certified sommelier. She took a short break from work to go wine-tasting with me at the St. Clement vineyard down the street.

(She declined to be photographed).

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When we returned to Beringer, I went on a guided tour of the place and learned about its fascinating history. Beringer Vineyard was founded in the late 1800’s by brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer and stayed in the family for several generations. During the Prohibition era of the 1920’s, most vineyards were forced to shut down. Beringer, however, stayed in business, thanks to a loophole discovered by Bertha Beringer, daughter of Jacob. The federal law permitted alcohol consumption for religious purposes, so Beringer sold wine to churches for communion. After Prohibition was repealed, Beringer became the first winery in Napa Valley to offer public tours, and it remains a popular tourist destination to this day. Leave it to a rebellious, wine-loving female to get things done!

The following photos are all from the tour. The ones taken inside the cave are a bit dark, so you may have to click on them to see them clearly.

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^^^ (I want this cat’s life immediately.) ^^^

After the tour, Tyler got off work, and we drove separately to meet at her place about an hour away.

The narrow roads curved and winded up and down the path of the mountain for about 40 minutes before finally spitting out onto a real street. We’d gotten separated early on, so I was following my phone’s GPS rather than her car. But as soon as I reached that main drag, both my phone AND the laptop charging it died.

So there I was, in a strange place with no directions, no form of communication, not even the address of where I’m supposed to go. And I really had to pee.

The stress of lost-li-ness weighed heavily on me and I literally didn’t know what to do.

Keep in mind that this is still the SAME DAY my car was towed in San Francisco.

Peeing came first. I was in a safe-looking, upscale North Cali neighborhood, so I went up to the nearest house and knocked on the door. An older gentleman answered it, looking puzzled to see me, yet kind nonetheless. I told him my situation and he let me use his fancy guest bathroom. He graciously let me borrow his phone to look up the winery’s number in the hopes that they could connect me to Tyler. But, of course, the place was closed. I didn’t know Tyler’s number by heart, and the man said they only had iPhone chargers in the house, no Androids. What a perfectly concocted mess this was. The demonic entity responsible for pulling this together really deserved some of type of award.

I thanked the man for his help and told him I’d figure something out, still not knowing what I’d do. I figured I could go to another house until I found one with an Android charger, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

I kept driving the same direction as before and came upon a sign that said “Sonoma left, Downtown right.” I knew I had just come from Sonoma, so that couldn’t be right, and downtown sounded promising, even though I had no idea which town it was referring to. I banged a right and found a Starbucks almost right away. I swerved into the parking lot, procured an iced coffee and a Wi-Fi password, and plugged my laptop into the nearest outlet. I messaged Tyler an SOS via Facebook, she replied with her address, and I scribbled the directions on the back of a receipt in my purse. I felt so relieved.

Thirty minutes later, I arrived at Tyler’s apartment, where we relaxed by the pool for the rest of the evening.

That night she and I journeyed 3.5 hours northeast to her friend’s family cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Riding in Tyler’s passenger seat under the dark, starry sky, it felt so good to be driven along by someone else for a change, after ten straight days of relying on just myself.

Our weekend in the Sierra Nevada is up next. See you on the mountain.

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