A thousand lives : My time as a winemaker in Napa, California

Arriving in Napa, California, was a little bit like going back home. Going back to “civilization” as only a European snob can say it. I just came from two months in the south of the US, where, let’s face it, everything is either fried or deep fried. Where all the restaurants are the same kind of joints, serving the same kind of food, with the same kind of accent.

I got there, and it was instant love. It’s just the cutest, most distinguish little town. It’s all European deli with really fancy delicate food. It is restaurants with a “concept”, with a nice decor, imaginative menus. It’s Americans at their snobbiest. The kind of Americans that spend every holiday in south of France or Italy, and talk about wine and fine cheese and traveling. California was for me like being back in Europe, expect sunnier, wilder and little bit more “in your face”.  Napa was the easy lay back small town, with distinguished rich people, talking about culture and being snobs.

It was my first stop in California because I found a job there working in a vineyard. That was always one of the things I regretted not doing in Australia. One of the arrows missing from my quiver. Working in the fields, in wine. The dream.

I absolutely loved it there. My bosses were this couple of retirees who had spent a fair bit of their time traveling in Europe. I would spend my days with my little cowboy belt, working on the vines with my secateurs, cutting the little regrowth so the main vine would have more strength. It was a long and tedious job but painless and easy. And I would work alongside people. Either my boss, talking to me about what we were to eat. My boss’s wife, talking to me about books and movies. Or their only employee, talking about his studies and Mexico.

For lunch the boss would always take me to town, we would go to this fancy Italian deli, buy the best food, come back home with fresh bread and pastrami, delicious expensive cheese and salad. And in the evening after work, if it was a good day, he would open one of his own bottle of red wine, offer me some fancy cheese and crackers, and we would sit there, in the delicate color of the evening, surrounded by vines. I loved the work, I loved the wine and I loved the people. They were brilliant. Old travelers, cultured, with their vineyard in Napa and their beautiful house in San Francisco. They were living the life, quite comfortable about what they had achieved, in what they were doing, and in the glorious and easy future ahead of them. And I just thought, well, I wouldn’t mind being here, quietly working the fields, when I’ll be their age. Winemaker it is.




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