New Winery, Old Friends, Perfect Alchemy

My husband, daughter and a few of our closest friends sink into extra deep couches at a new winery on the Sonoma Square. I am between edits on my forth-coming novel, and am determined to enjoy the novel’s setting while I wait.

Rancho Maria, on 1st Street, next to the (ever delicious) Harvest Moon Café, is a cool oasis on a hot day.

The wine maker, Sebastian, whom we’ve met on one previous visit, makes us his guests. He grabs a seat with us as he explains each healthy taste he pours. He is engaging, young, personable, and most importantly, makes darn good wine. His family owns the ranch, and Sebastian grew up around “wine people”- friends and family in the Healdsburg area.

Listening him talk about the grapes, the delicate alchemy in a red blend, the way the sun comes through a Cabernet, is a lot like poetry.  His admiration and commitment to his family comes through as he describes the ranch and it’s busy workings. This is truly a family owned winery, the type we need to support. And these wines make it very tempting.

The main character of my novel, The Vines We Planted, grew up on a similar ranch. In the novel, Uriel splits his time between the family’s two businesses – the winery and the horse stables.  Like Sebastian, Uriel is young, philosophical, and hard not to like. As the wine maker talks, I feel a strange blending of fiction and life.

My girlfriend is waving eagerly to strangers as they pass, urging them to come in and join us inside. It’s too hot out there, and inside are refreshing cool whites. A mother-daughter pair wanders in, a man buying wine for a special dinner that evening, two couples who see the appeal of our sofa seating. The room quickly fills. We chat and laugh with strangers, and compare tasting notes.

This is wine country living at its best – to drive past acres of vineyards on our way here, to greet the wine maker with familiarity, to enjoy a perfect Zinfandel in the company of friends.

Just down the block is the Sonoma Mission, where the first vines were planted, over 100 years ago. Sonoma has transformed in many ways over the years, but this moment, sharing the taste of the fruit of the valley, is timeless.