Having exhausted the lists of wine-themed movies and books recommended in my recent columns, I’ve resorted to sorting through wine travel photos and videos to relive the pleasures of past adventures. I’ve become lost in another time when one could soak in the beauty of the creations of nature and man.
One trip in particular has captivated me all week, a trip to northern California wine country several years ago. Allow me to recount that experience, as previously reported in Grapevine columns.
Arriving at our destination, my wife and I roamed the countryside, driving from the valley floors to the steep slopes of the mountains surrounding Napa Valley and the undulating terrain of Sonoma County. We found ourselves immersed in the allure of the countryside, marveling at the natural beauty and bounty of the region.
On the valley floor, along the two main arteries running up and down the valley, it was easy to lose sight of the broader landscape and beauty of the Napa region. It was not until we climbed the hillsides that border the east and west of the valley that our perspective changed. Looking across the wide expanse of the valley, we understood the unique terroir that has elevated Napa Valley to the heights of oenological prestige.
In the mornings the fog hovers like a warm blanket, coddling the vines and protecting them from cool nights. As the sun burns away this layer, the vineyards radiate from the intense sunlight and heat. The waning afternoon sun casts a surreal glow on the valley floor, rivaling the brushstrokes on any artist’s canvas.
As we drove west from Napa Valley, up and down the slopes and turns of the Mayacamas Mountains, we headed toward the coast. Our destination: the isolated West Sonoma Coast wine region and Fort Ross Vineyard.
Driving past the natural beauty of Point Reyes Station, densely populated with soaring eagles, snowy egrets and 490 other aviary species, we continued to our destination atop the town of Fort Ross.
We were not prepared for this encounter with nature. From the turn onto the road winding up the mountainside to the winery, we felt the temperature dropping and the wind picking up. We counted 17 switchbacks and hairpin turns along the harrowing, narrow two-lane road, rising 1,500 feet above the ocean below us.
Though treacherous, the ride rewarded us all the way to the top. With each switchback we were treated to a unique view of the surrounding forests of tall, lush pines. With each hairpin turn, we witnessed long vistas north and south along the coast.
We arrived at the winery by driving higher and deeper into the woods along a dirt trail until we came upon the modern tasting room and a new, mesmerizing vista. Sitting on the veranda, taking in the vistas from the 1,700-foot elevation, we began to understand the unique characteristics of this region.
The view of the redwood tree-adorned mountains below was shrouded in fog, yet we were immersed in the warmth of the sun radiating above the fog line. Views of the rocky shoreline of the Pacific Ocean stretched for miles to the north and south.
We accepted an invitation to tour the vineyards in the estate’s creaky old pickup truck. We eagerly accepted, perhaps a bit too much so. The rusted truck traversed the mountainous estate with aplomb, climbing up and down the steep terrain. My wife and I clung to the door handles as we precariously ascended the steep slopes of multiple narrow ridges. The next minute we were gripping the dashboard as we descended to the next ridge at severe angles, both vertical and slightly horizontal.
We stopped to catch our breath at a plateau that seemed at the top of the world. Standing under a lone oak tree at 1,700 feet above sea level, we drank in the vistas of the individual vineyard blocks stretching above and below us, undulating along the natural ridges and valleys of the property.
We felt we had found the epitome of man’s symbiotic relationship with nature.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @sharingwine.