Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wine Country 101 part one

As I'm sure I've mentioned here before, although I grew up in Sonoma County and still live here, I don't lead a very "Wine Country"-oriented lifestyle. I guess it's there in subtle ways (I mean, it's hard to escape the gorgeous weather, countryside, laid-back folks and delicious restaurants), but I'm not a huge wine person and haven't gotten into that oenophilic culture too much.

Don't get me wrong - I love a great glass of wine, but I'm pretty simple in my tastes. I like sweet and dry, white and red (and rose!), old and young, etc. As long as it doesn't make my tongue curl up and want to die from sulfites, I like a small glass every now and again. But you know how people who grow up in Manhattan often have never been to the Empire State Building? I think my lack of wine country snobber is one of those kinds of things.

All that said, I do get to explore all kinds of beautiful places when I shoot portraits and weddings, and am more than familiar with lots of the North Bay and Bay Area's parks and beaches, and so on. I have a loooong list of places to go and places to eat, and place to shoot for sure! But it's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like I need to travel to SF or Berkeley/ Oakland for beauty and culture, which is ironic, considering how many folks travel to my 'hood every day for those same things, in a less urban form.

So I've been making a concerted effort to connect more with people up here, venues all around wine country, and to familiarize myself with the hospitality industry and, well, fun things to do where I live. The Bohemian, our local weekly independent, just ran their "Resident Tourists" issue, and I thought, yeah, precisely! We don't have to go far for these things; but just as it's a strange feeling to vacation in your backyard, I sometimes forget to open my eyes to our local world-class wineries, restaurants, hotels, hikes, beaches, parks... I could go on and on.

When I was younger, I would assist my father on his service calls to wineries and farms around the North Bay (he sells and repairs the huge pumps and generators needed to irrigate the grapes and crops). I got to explore some of the most beautiful wineries and nooks and crannies of Sonoma and Napa counties, without even knowing what I was seeing. I remember loafing around by a pond on someone's private estate somewhere out there, reading and relaxing in the 100 degree weather; playing on a hill in the midst of acres of grapes with no one around anywhere; things which I took for granted them.

But no longer! I'm starting to explore these places from their "proper" entrances - big, gorgeous wine tasting rooms, restaurants, B&Bs, hotels, banquet halls, etc. I get to see spots that I wouldn't've known about if I wasn't shooting so many weddings, and I get to photograph beautiful, happy folks in these beautiful, peaceful places. It's a hard job, but so it goes :)

Okay, I'm getting too wordy. Jessamyn's Wine Country Education, to be continued (both on the blog and in life)!

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