Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 138: Diamond Mountain Road...


I'm always amazed that The New York Times has home delivery in the Napa Valley...a status symbol...

Madonna's former estate?


Hey brother, can you spare me a few million?

Ultra premium wineries..




Oops...loaded this thing twice...

Some stately Redwoods!



A vineyard near the top...my turnaround place...

I was supposed to take a class in Vallejo, California today. I was supposed to spend eight hours, starting at 7:00 am, being tortured to death by a computer seminar. As if we don't spend enough time as nurses in front of computers, we are now being trained to be even more proficient at wasting our time charting that which will never, ever be read again.

We were supposed to take this class at a companion hospital, so I dutifully got up at 5:00 am and drove the one hour drive to Vallejo. I had kind of an idea as to where the hospital is. How hard can it be to find a street that is named after the State that is north of California?

I couldn't find it. I could find Florida Street, Tennessee Street, Carolina Street, Ohio Street, but not the street of the State I was looking for. When it got to me being an hour late, I gave up.

I have a free day! I was tempted to hop the ferry in Vallejo and ride it to San Francisco. I could wile away the day at the bar that Jack Kerouac hung out at (Vesuvius) and go to the great bookstore next door. Or I could go to the Asian Art Museum and admire the 2,000 year old Buddhas they have in their collection.

Instead I opted to call my boss to grovel: "I'm a bit of a neo-luddite. I have no cell phone. No GPS. No lap top with a wireless connection." Nothing was open at 7:00 am in the failed city of Vallejo (this city had to declare bankruptcy and police response to their incredibly high crime rate is in the hours range of response). In short, this is one of the more frightening cities in the Bay Area--close to becoming a failed city.

After making the call, I decided to take a hike. A long hike.

Outside of Calistoga, there is a road that meanders up into the Mayacama mountian range. Diamond Mountain is famous for producing incredibly good wines. In fact, the best wine in the world (for the year 2003 named by some snobby wine magazine) came from this district. Time for me to head up the road.

Small cottages and redwoods flank the narrow one lane road. Not much traffic this morning. It is an uphill walk---which goes for at least three miles up the mountain.

I come to a large villa that is for sale. This might be the place that Madonna lived in. I can see the many patios and the manicured yard, along with a small hobby vineyard. It is listed for sale by Sotheby's International. You will never see my "off grid" dilapidated straw and mud house being listed for sale by such a prestigious realty service.

I stop off to explore two ultra-premium wineries. A Labrador greets me. The hostess of Von Strasser (this winery is by appointment only) is seated outside, drinking wine with a couple of customers.

I am dressed in my new hiking pants. My old hiking boots are covered in mud from Concow. I have my hiking stick (complete with a tired turkey feather attached). Frankly, I don't think many people hike up the mountain to this winery. And frankly, I don't think they don't really need my business. (I don't know if I would serve someone who looked like me!)

The hostess was elegantly dressed and wearing way too much makeup. She was attempting to look somewhat casual, but with a sophisticated Napa Valley Idle Rich Aire to her.

I asked if I could look around and walk to the next winery. I tell her I'll stop for a tasting on my way back. She didn't seem too excited by that prospect.

I dinkered around and attempted to find someone home at Reverie Winery. No one showed up. A sign gave a few hints as to where to look for the wine host. I didn't look.

On my way out I walked past the Von Strasser winery. the hostess looked the other way as I walked past. Must be the mud on the boots and my ridiculous hiking stick which prompts the Trustfunder to ignore me. I decide not to have a tasting and go back to climbing the road.

In this money saturated valley, many of the boutique wineries are run as hobbies by those who like the status of owning such. They already have plenty of money. Recession or no recession, many of these folks have their inherited millions to rely on. They don't need pudgy, weird looking hikers with muddy boots and turkey feathered walking sticks in their business establishments. They'd rather hob nob with the guests in their Jaguars and BMW's.

Can't blame them.

Up the hill we go. Through beautiful redwoods, up to where the road branches off. I take the road lesser travelled (in honor of Robert Frost) and continue to climb higher.

I'm not wearing a watch, but the (new) pedometer says I've gone 6,000 steps. I turn around at a vineyard that must be close to the top of the mountain. Napa Valley has good rules for hillside vineyards. Thanks to strong environmental regulation, new vineyards must be on a flat space on a hill side, to prevent agricultural run-off. The Wineries hated these regulations, but because of them, you can now see steelhead and salmon in the Napa River every once and awhile. Before such rules, the river was dead.

Diamond Mountain Road. A great walk! And when I finally get to the point where I can do some uphill running: This will be a great uphill run!

Make sure you dress appropriately to visit the ultra premium, boutique wineries...

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