“It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”
The Napa Valley has always evoked a Twilight Zone sense of feeling to me. As soon as I exit right off Interstate 80 and onto Highway 12, I turn the bend around the first foothill and embark into the mysterious region where I immediately begin to lose the tension in my shoulders and my deep breaths end with a smile. I’m fortunate to live near one of the most prominent wine regions in the world. Only 83 miles from Downtown Sacramento, my family and I set out to meet my brother Brandon and his friend Christian at VJB Cellars. On an absolutely picturesque 65-degree day in late March, we were blessed with a slight breeze and a gentle sun. It was the perfect day to be out wine tasting. In the past I’ve driven around and through Napa but have never taken the time to sip the creations that originate from the region. While I’m familiar with the quality of the wine, I also associated the tasting rooms to be filled with wine aficionados who are unwelcoming of novice consumers like myself. Fortunately, this was not the case at VJB Cellars.
As soon as I walked into the courtyard of their Kenwood, CA property, a welcoming staff member asked me if I needed help. Given that I was pushing a stroller onto the grounds, I must have looked a little lost but I reassured her that my family was there to take part in a tasting. I assumed I wouldn’t be allowed in the tasting room with my son so my plan B was to find a table and order food. Being that their expansive menu was on the top of my mind for a week leading up to our visit made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on anything taking place inside the building next to me. However, to my surprise, the kind woman made my day and directed me to the wine tasting room where I was allowed to bring my son and enjoy myself. Those inviting words brought the biggest smile to my face!
Upon entry I was greeted with hugs and more smiles from my family. But the best part was the person standing on the other side of the bar. My brother Bryen is a Wine Educator at VJB Cellars and guided us through our afternoon tasting. For months, he had been enthusiastically speaking about his new position and this was the first time we got to see him in action! Bryen poured five different glasses of wine beginning with the delightful 2017 Chardonnay, then moving onto a 2016 Freisa, followed by a 2016 Primitivo, the 2016 Estate Negro Amaro and ending with the 2016 Estate Nero d’Avola. With each sip I did my best to engage all my senses but by the time our final glass was poured the only thing I needed to satisfy next were my hunger pains. I organized my brother Brandon and his friend Christian to order some tasty treats for us while I ushered our parents back out to the courtyard.
Food and wine pairings have always been a thing for me. This day trip was the party my palate had been waiting for! We ordered a Margherita pizza and one Vegetariana pizza from Red Rooster Pizza as well as a Combo Butcher’s Board from La Cucina.
VJB Cellars prides themselves on “experiencing great wine and delicious food in the company of friends”. I can testify that they are true to their motto. Though we were dining with immediate family, fellow patrons at tables around us were surprisingly friendly and the staff running around serving hot, wood-fired pizzas created a joyful environment. It made me happy to see other well-behaved kids enjoying a beautiful day in the courtyard too. My family and I don’t have many opportunities to enjoy moments like these. But when they do happen, we are thankful to create new memories together.
The vast Napa Valley will always be a place where I lose my sense of time. Perhaps I relate to this region because much like the grapevine, I thrive in dry summer heat and prefer mild winters. It is here where I reconnect with the earth and my curiosity grows as to what kind of roots may be established. The potent elixir in my glass is my portal to the unknown.