There is little I would hesitate recommending whole-heartedly in Nomaville. Order blindly from any menu in town and chances are you will be pleased. Up the ante by selecting randomly from the wine list and your pleasure will likely double. About the only notion I’d suggest avoiding is sleeping in a vineyard, especially during harvest. Though the premise has a romantic aura, no doubt stoked by the likes of Kerouac, Steinbeck and possibly Thoreau, it’s also illegal. Even for a mild midday picnic, which is how my woes began.
Despite the fact that most vineyards are clearly marked “Forbidden,” they are irresistible as picnic spots, in part because they are verboten (German always sounds sexier for some reason). This, of course, has been the dirty little secret of tourists and townies alike for decades and has always added a delicious transgressive quality to the wine country experience. So spurred by writerly hubris and an unending desire to impress my wife, the Contessa, that I remain impulsive, raffish and court danger like the old-school newspaperman I’ve never been, I goaded her to dine amongst the vines. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself that “trespass” and “press-pass” share an etymological root, so in a pinch I could always claim I was on assignment, though such a ruse has only worked once for me and resulted in having to eke out a thousand words about my “special night” in the Museum of the Moving Image with Daisha the docent.
Anyway, the Contessa and I uncorked the wine and noshed our overpriced savories deep among the grapes, far from the traffic whooshing yonder. It was probably the third bottle of plonk that led to our inadvertent upgrade from picnic to camp out. Of course, we didn’t realize it until the morning, when a harvest crew ringed our picnic blanket and, silhouetted by the rising sun, made kissing noises until we stirred. After a round of hasty introductions, wherein I tried to convey that my wife and I weren’t some kind of wine country hobo duo living off the fat of the land, we were kindly dispatched to the roadside by the vineyard manager. Apparently, we were adversely affecting the terroir, though I’m more inclined to think the terroir was adversely affecting us – specifically my coat, which had accrued elbow patches made of mud sometime in the night. The vineyard manager was not impressed with my “Waning with the harvest moon” story, but said he wouldn’t press charges if the Contessa revealed her true name to him.
“Francesca,” she lied and I fell in love with her all over again. The vineyard manager chose to believe her and we trundled our picnic kit off to the car without the assistance of the law – just a modicum of shame.
When we returned to our Springs digs, I was eager to take a shower and change my clothes lest I get infested with phylloxera or something. As I sifted the topsoil that had accrued in my pockets in the night, I unearthed a California quarter appropriately emblazoned with a likeness of John Muir, a Sonoma Valley Music guitar pick and a tiny green worm. The first two treasures went on permanent display on my bathroom windowsill. The wriggling little vermicelli I transported in a matchbox to the Peace Lily that lives in the corner of my office on the Three House campus. I put a wine cork in the dirt as a memento of its former life, if only in the abstract. Now, I watch the worm weave through the dark leaves like an Edenic serpent and know, quietly, that it’s also watching me.