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Winering

winering
Willem Claesz Heda: Still Life with a Gilt Cup (1635)


" … we already live in a destination now …"


I remember when this valley evoked not a single notion of wine. Decades later, its very identity seems inexorably tied to the stuff. A place once revered for peas became one renowned for wine, with wineries dotting the rural byways and tasting rooms lining Main Street. It's a small city story many aspire to replicate, from backwater to tourist destination, from home town to boom town. I woke from my Rip Van Winkle dream to find myself living in The Napa of the North and I doubt that I will ever successfully adjust to this shift. Cute Crap Shoppes have taken over my once practical central business district. The Goodwill Store's moving out beyond the edge of town, some tourist attraction soon to follow into its space. Barrel Tasting Weekends, periodic seemingly spontaneous celebrations, bring grid lock to downtown and lines of expensively-clad tour bike riders wandering around in circles.

The Villa Vatta Schmaltz still sits on the same three way corner it was built on a hundred and sixteen years ago when this was the edge of civilization and streetcars swept through our streets.
It's watched changes over time. It got left behind itself for a time, but seems to be catching up again as the city surrounding it adapts to more than the mere passing of time. With the wine came not only the tourist traffic but also the workers who struggle to afford housing in a place where 'values' increase at over twenty-five percent per year. Prosperity trickles selectively and not everybody seems that interested in changing. Those who want everything to stay the same disappoint themselves but understandably so. Those who long ago found their Eden here near the end of the Oregon Trail might take umbrage when stragglers decide that Eden desperately needs a modernizing makeover.

The Muse and I and our dear friend Mark were toodling around our valley yesterday afternoon, and it being Spring Release Weekend, one of those curious wine-country celebrations, I suggested that we might stop by an old reliable winery and take a taste of their current vintages, just a sample. Pulling up in front, I notice that what was once a single pole building, more shed than edifice, had become, in our long absence, a compound comprised of several buildings, lawn, and outside seating areas. Stepping inside seemed more like entering a high end restaurant, with scurrying maitre d' and hurrying staff. Did we have a reservation? We had not imagined ever needing one. The woman contemplated our presence and decided to gift us, with exclusions. We could not be seated inside, so we'd have to agree to be banished to an outside table. Service might be slower than otherwise. We agreed to the fifteen bucks per flight and were eventually seated.

My mind wandered backward to our first few months after we relocated here twenty years ago, before this valley had been redefined as a wine destination, back when the nascent "industry" was a few former lift truck drivers and a couple of school teachers, teaching each other the business. Then, The Muse and I had been advised that we might find some decent wine at the end of a nondescript dirt drive. There, we found a small vineyard and a cinder block pump house and little else. We parked and started poking around. Eventually, a gentleman sauntered up wondering if he could help us. We'd interrupted his pruning. We explained that we'd heard a rumor about one of the better wineries being near there and he smiled. Opening the pump house, he announced that we were welcome to Bunchgrass Winery. Inviting to sit on cinder blocks inside that cool building, he commenced to open a bottle and pour us each a taste. We bought a case and later learned that the winemaker lived just down the end of the block across from The Villa. That was the industry before it became a destination, before this valley got reframed as famous for being famous or something.

The wine came in pretentious flights, four one ounce pours, each with a story. A young man told the tales as if he hadn't told them a hundred times pervious and left us to try the wines for ourselves. Mark possesses a solid gold palate and I need a thesaurus whenever tasting wine with him. He was not impressed and could explain why. These wineries each survive largely on legends and myths, the stories more inspiration than fact. My palate's not in any way refined, but I knew without tasting any of those wines, just from their scent, that my mouth would consider each to be foot wash. We played nice, none of us feigning projectile vomiting, and exited without purchasing a bottle. Their offerings started at forty bucks and topped out in the hundreds per bottle, quite the price for foot wash and airs.

I suppose that I'm just another aging fellow fawning after my past. This valley was never heaven on earth, and barely even an Eden back before it was turned into something different the first time around. It's modern, and perhaps even thoroughly so, to believe in transformation. Heck, it's modern to insist upon transformation. We worship "growth" even when it seems to do few of us any good. We ache for improvement, unaware that what we started with was actually heaven sent and only in need of some acknowledgement to make most every dream come true. As I continue Reconning ahead, I might at times appreciate how I've already arrived and not really in any great need to proceed on to anywhere else. After all, we already live in a destination now, and always did.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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