Sipping Wines in the Valley on St. Patrick’s Day

The Napa Valley Wine Country Tour pulled us out of our hotel beds the last day of our four-day visit to San Francisco. Breakfast and lunch were provided in the touring limo for fourteen, so all we had to do was walk ourselves to the meeting point across from Macy’s on Union Square.

Driver Tim reassured us that we would not be disappointed with the wines he would introduce us to at the various wineries.

In well-cushioned seats, we glanced around the oval touring car at our companions for the day. Across from us sat three white women: a sixty-year old, sandwiched between her two thirtyish daughters. Further up, sat two Asian sisters in their early thirties, both petite, though one was perky and flexible, the other quiet and cautious. Following the bend of the oval was a Hispanic couple in their mid-forties, two rather nameless Caucasian women in their late twenties, next Paul and I–the not-so-young groovy white couple– and finally two fifty-year old white women friends.

First stop was Jacuzzi Family Vineyards where we tasted eight wines, two white and six red. My favorite was Rosso Di Sette Fratelli, a 2007 Carneros merlot. This wine was advertised as “complex layers of chocolate, tobacco and berries finishing with silky tannins.” I thought this an incredibly smooth merlot for a wine with this much flavor.

Our next stop was Homewood Winery. Here we sat on stools in a little house with no walls, facing a woman who taught us about wines while she tossed in personal anecdotes. Out of white wines, here we only tasted red. The one I liked best was a Homewood 2007 Eldorado, a petit syrah. This wine surprised me with its soft, almost buttery finish. I also liked the 2005 merlot tawny port which, with a little accompanying chocolate, made me smile from ear to ear because of the happy burst of sultry chocolate mixed with rich, deep berry sweetness on my tongue.

Back in the touring car, the distinct personalities of our traveling companions came out. One of the two daughters across from us turned out to be an Episcopalian minister, on a birthday vacation getting a break from her parish, her husband, and thirteen month old son. Her sister looked like a proper yuppie, but by day’s end was resting her head in a rather wobbly fashion on her mother’s shoulder.

Of the two petite Asian sisters, the perky one turned out to be the mother of a twelve-year old. When one of the other passengers heard this she said, “Then you must have been twelve when you had her.” And in fact at the end of the day–around five p.m.–when she curled up on the seat to sleep, and with her back to me, I could have taken her for a twelve-year old.

But, I was most drawn to one of the fifty-year old Caucasian women, who said she had her four children young and was now hungry for independent life. Throughout the day and into the late afternoon, she reminded me of a horse unbridled in an open field, her eyes wide open, flecked with light, shaking her mane with glee.

Jewels and Clocks

Looking for art experiences in the San Francisco Arts Monthly, I spotted “Cartier and America” at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park. While Paul was off having lunch with his son, Jesse, and two attorneys, I treated myself to this exhibit.

All I can say is, “Wow!” I am glad I did.

The SFA Monthly claims the exhibit

covers the history of the House of Cartier from its first great successes
as the “king of jewelers and jeweler to kings during the Belle Epoque

through to the 1960s and 1970s, when Cartier supplied celebrities of the days with jewels and luxury accessories.

I came away with wonderment at the visual images of Cartier’s mystery clocks–the hands of which seem to float in the air with no signs of the working mechanism.

The diamond tiaras made me see how such a spectacular adornment could render a mere pretty woman with means into the stature of beautiful queen. These jewels draw the viewer’s eyes to the top of the head where they bedazzle the hair with the glory of flashing light and glimmer of color. Just looking at them from the outside of a glass box made me immediately enter the Belle Epoque as an onlooker exclaiming, “Oh my, oh my!” squeezing my eyes shut, only to pop them open as me now and say, “God, how lovely they are!”

And, I guess I just have to mention Grace Kelly’s 10 carat emerald cut diamond engagement ring from Prince Rainer III, accompanied by a film clip of her wearing it in “High Society.” I, like the women to either side of me at the exhibit, stared at it. I don’t know what they were thinking but I was thinking…it’s so large for a diamond ring, but that cut is such an exquisite form: so simple, so over-the-top gorgeous, so perfect for such a beauty as the young, classy Grace Kelly; a fairy tale jewel for the princess of a fairy tale. I couldn’t help it. I was swept away.

Picnic in the Park

I am thinking of a tableau I came across once. Paul and I were strolling through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was spring. It had just rained. We had encountered a few redwood trees originally planted in a cluster. I imagined trying to wrap my arms around each one. That it would be an impossible hug.

Further on, the lush green foliage unfolded along the path where we walked. The tender green leaves sparkled with moisture in the early afternoon sunlight.

We entered a grove where three women were gathered in front of a park bench. Two middle-aged, one old. The youngest one was leaning over removing the contents from a wooden picnic basket and setting it on a blue and white checked tablecloth spread out on the grass.

The old woman sat gracefully down on the bench, lips lifted, toes up. The second youngest one sat next to her, legs spread wide, resting on the heels of her sneakers, her hands palms up holding the stems of three plastic champagne glasses through her fingers.

The youngest one stood up, the bottle between her knees and pulled hard on the cork. With a loud POP it flew off. Then she poured.

The three women clinked glasses, sipped and laughed. A circle of women, one mother, two daughters.

Looking straight ahead as we passed them, we pretended we hadn’t seen the glory of their moment in the park.