Friday, May 14, 2010

Love in Carneros

Fabulous weekend in Napa! Remember the list in my last post "Wine Tripping Rocks"? My top reason for loving wine travel was the people, and sure enough, it was the people who made the trip uniquely wonderful!

I have to start with Amelia Moran Ceja. On our Sunday Morning vineyard tour, Amelia herself – Founder and President of Ceja Vineyards – hosted a group of 10 Women for WineSense members from San Francisco, Seattle and New York at her beautiful winery and vineyards in the Carneros AVA. The sunny, beautiful weather was indeed a great help, but it was her hospitality and the stories she shared with us that made it a special afternoon. A lot was learned on many levels for everyone present. And of course, the wines were fantastic! Beautifully balanced with a sort of European vein of acidity that makes the mouth water – perfect for food!

Out the back door of the Ceja Vineyards tasting room on Las Amigas Road are two Bocce courts. I recalled an episode of The Cosby Show when Cliff’s Trinidadian friend came over to play (they called it Petanque) on one of the coldest days of the year in the back yard of the Huxtable’s Brooklyn Heights brownstone. In costrast, on this gloriously sunny day in Carneros, Amelia found us (the New York City Chapter girls) outside making up our own rules to the game. “The great thing about Bocce,” she sang – her voice is like a lovely, never-ending song – “is that you don’t have to have any athletic ability to play, so its fun for everyone!” She showed us how to skillfully toss the pallino (the target ball) into position, and showed us where we could stand to bowl our balls within its range – it was Chardonnay (green balls) vs Pinot Noir (red balls), with our “Vana White” keeping score on a large courtside abacus. We were soon joined by WWS ladies from Napa/Sonoma and Seattle, and Amelia treated us all to her new release Vino de Casa white blend while we played. The wine was crisp and delicious under the beaming late morning sun.

Soon we started the vineyard tour, where Amelia allowed us to get up close and personal with her budding vines. These are natural vineyards – lots of wild growth around the bases of trunks and posts and in between rows. She showed us the row of great oak trees where glassy winged sharp shooters, those beautiful but deadly-to-vineyards insects, live just at the edge of a healthy vineyard – I’m still amazed, perhaps we could learn from this type of harmonious coexistence. She showed us her home, which looked as though it had risen up right out of the soil in the midst of the vines , where she had just come from hosting 20 of her family members for Sunday morning breakfast – business as usual for the Cejas.

Love is evident in every ounce of Amelia’s spirit and in every aspect of Ceja Vineyards, from the river of life symbols that flow across labels and down the capsules of the bottles, to the symbol of the Camino Real bell Amelia spent a year researching to choose for a logo. You can view the bell hanging from the arbor archway entry to this beautiful place – the clapper signed by the smith who cast the bell, the winery’s ethos etched around the lip: Vinum, Cantus, Amor – Wine, Song, Love, or as Mr Ceja lovingly interprets it, Wine, Sex and Rock and Roll!