We itinerant consultants never know where our next client will be located - so I was delighted to hear that I was leaving the Northeast winter cold and spending my next assignment in California's Silicon Valley. Suddenly all my friends I never see back East were scheming to plan a "Girls' Weekend in the Napa Valley".
We assembled almost the entire crew: Wendy, Deirdre, Nicole, and Jeanne, an expatriate who flew all the way from London for the weekend. Nothing quite makes me feel special like the sight of three busy career women and one much busier mom taking time out of their lives to coordinate a weekend to visit little old me! ( I'm sure the location had NOTHING to do with it!)
It was a beautiful warm day, with bright sun and cotton ball clouds. After an overnight in San Francisco, we arrived at the tony Auberge du Soleil just in time for our noon lunch reservation. Imagine a country inn on the Mediterranean - decorated by the French.
The Auberge is the kind of hotel where you need to reserve a room months in advance, so we were grateful to be able to dine at a roomy table out on its terrace overlooking a sloping hillside draped with grape trellises - simply beautiful! We enjoyed incomparable French-Californian cuisine, an unconfirmed celebrity sighting (Mary Stuart Masterson), and a fantastic Rombauer Chardonnay. Smooth and intense with hints of hazelnut, pear, and vanilla, you just don't get that kind of taste from an under $25 wine (although the Auberge marked it up quite a bit more!). We resolved to hunt it down and buy it before the weekend was out.
After lunch we visited several vineyards, trying to stay off the beaten path and focus on vineyards that don't sell their wines outside of California. Our first stop was the much touted and very crowded Silver Oak vineyards. They have a (deserved) reputation for producing exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons and little else. An eye-popping charge of 10 (TEN!) dollars allowed us a taste of the one and only Cab they were selling that month, a '97 Alexander Valley which was already selling for $57 and was likely to double in price over the next few years.
We sat outside, drenched in California sun, and sipped our wine while admiring the luxury cars that speckled their driveway. That outrageous $10 charge also covered a souvenir oversized red wine glass with the Silver Oak logo tastefully printed in silver. What am I supposed to do with one wine glass? I gave mine to Nicole, who has a collection from previous visits.
No one bought the snooty Cabernet.