California love notes

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This is the last of my love letters to California, at least until late September when we’re scheduled to be back for another couple of weeks.  I already miss her rocky coastline and golden fields.  I want to buy avocados 9 for $1. I want to take long drives with the windows down and have the air switch back and forth from smelling like the salty sea to eucalyptus every few blocks.  I want to stuff myself silly with tacos, and then I want to burn a little in the sun, only to have the landscape taken over by rolling fog few minutes later.  I want to drink a bottle of local wine very slowly and sleep in late, all curled up against my Mister.  We have a bunch of other adventures lined up for this summer, but right now my heart belongs to the west coast.

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Russian River, stone skipper

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Oh, summer winds

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the smell of lavender.  It’s in all my soaps and lotions, and I’d be happy to roll in fields of it rather than ever wearing perfume.  As a last minute treat, the Mister and I visited Matanzas Creek Winery, where we enjoyed an amazing wine and cheese pairing, but even more wonderfully, spent an hour wandering around the fields of lavender that grow on the estate grounds.  Thousands of bees buzzed happily amid the purple waves, and I was in bliss.

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When you and I were forever wild

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Dry Creek Valley

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Memories of a blazing hot summer day spent first touring the 115-year-old Lytton Springs estate of Ridge Vineyards, then retreating to a cool, private tasting room to enjoy local cheeses and some of Ridge’s best single-vineyard zinfandels.

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Wine and ride

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Sometimes one little planning oversight can derail your plans in the most wonderful of ways.  While we were in Sonoma, the Mister had put together a romantic day of biking from vineyard to vineyard, picking a few local gems that didn’t require reservations so we could linger if we felt like it or follow any detour that took our fancy.  Scribe Winery came highly recommended and we excitedly biked up their dusty gravel path, passing rows and rows of lush green vines.  When we approached the hostess, we were dismayed to learn that we’d misread the website: reservations were required and they were all booked up for the day.

We were out of breath from our ride, and I think the hostess took pity on us, offering a cool, generous pour of their Estate Reisling, and a Pendelton blanket to spread out in the grass and relax for a while.  We found a perfect shady spot on the hillside that looked out on the valley, and soon after the hostess sent over an icy carafe of water and a board of peaches, nuts, cheese, and olives.  As we sipped on the reisling, I looked at the Mister and proposed that we buy a bottle and stay on that hillside.  So for the next few hours we did just that.

It was cool and breezy in the shade, and it was a lovely change to get to know one good bottle of wine at it’s vineyard instead of a rushed sampling of five or six.  Partway through the bottle, I looked up and recognized an old friend from grad school, teaching her little daughter to roll down the hillside.  Laughing, we called out each others names and were so happy to get to meet the families we’d each built in the time since we’d last seen each other.

No amount of planning could have led to a vineyard visit quite like this, and I’m hopeful that this sort of happy mistake finds me a little more often.

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A little cottage by the valley vineyard

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There is a little cottage in a hot, green valley.  Far from home, I wake in it’s unfamiliar bed, a breeze from the open windows ruffling my hair.  With sleepy eyes, we brew coffee and pulled back the curtains from the doors.  With warm mugs, we shuffle out of the french doors onto a little porch where we settle into rocking chairs and sip the steaming coffee.  On all sides geraniums bloom in vivid reds and pinks, but we don’t look at them, because the sun is coming up over the mountain, filling the vineyard across the way with bouncy golden light, and it is just too pretty to look away.

Later we will unlock the bikes from the railing, and ride them from vineyard to vineyard, and to dinner with friends.  Then we’ll take a dangerous ride back on the unlit streets with no reflectors and no helmets, and it will be terrifying, but ultimately exhilarating, and we’ll feel a little like teenagers, breaking all the rules we usually follow so carefully.  But for now, we sit on the porch, and drink our coffee, and watch the sunlight fill the valley, wishing we could stay here forever.

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