Wednesday, June 18

Changes - With Wine

It's a time of transition for our family.  Kate retired two weeks ago in her usual graceful way.  Working hard to the end (she was the last to leave the office on her last day - sliding her keys under her boss's door).

She hosted her own retirement party, which was really fun.  And almost all of the food has now been eaten.  I'm a few months from joining her.  It's fun and exciting to think about how to approach the freedom that we hope retirement will bring.  Especially fun since I'm sitting on a lovely early-morning deck in Napa Valley watching an Acorn Woodpecker fly around eating bugs, drinking a nice cup of coffee.  Watching the sun make its way down the mountain in the distance.  With a trip to Dehlinger (probably my favorite winery) just a few hours away.

Kate thought that planning a trip shortly after retirement would be a good transition for her.  The kids agreed to join us (it took them under a minute to ponder the "go, no go" question and come up with the right answer.  It appears we didn't raise idiots).  She was certainly right about the trip.  It's been really fun to visit (and to share with them) the sources of much of the really nice wine we and they have had over the years.  I think the magnums of Brown zinfandel at Christmas dinner will taste all the better for it (if that is possible).

I spent 1980 and part of 1981 bumming around (I called it a sabbatical on my resume, just for looks). One of the realizations I had on that trip was that the big variable was how you spent your time.  Not your money.  I met so many fellow travelers with a Eurrail pass who spent their two Eurrail months on trains, physically placing themselves in lots of countries but not seeing much of any of them.  I decided then that I wouldn't fall into that trap.  It was a great decision, and a great experience.  Sadly, the observation about the primacy of time was a lesson learned for the trip but not one which I generalized very well.  I think that the biggest variable in all of life is choices about how to use the time you have.  My brush with cancer (now almost 16 years ago!) really helped me to internalize and generalize that lesson.   Even in my "work life" I've tried hard to focus on what I believe is important.  Relationships.  People.  Making interactions, whatever they may be, positive ones (which for me doesn't necessarily mean happy and funny ones - though that is a subject for another missive).

So what will I do with the extra time I will have post-retirement?  What will Kate do?  What will we do?  I think I can say confidently that wine will be involved.  Hopefully even more time with our many great friends (warning to you - the founder of Suckfish Tours will be on the loose).

One of the things that I hope to do more effectively in my post-retirement time is writing.  I often "think" better when I try to write down observations.  And I write better when I imagine I have an audience.  Hence this blog.  Over the past few years I've drifted to emails and Facebook postings of photos - both of which are great.  I've used this blog mostly as a vehicle for holiday greetings.  It seemed like a good morning to start writing again.  Hopefully, in this or some other format, I'll be sitting with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, writing more.


Yin and Yang


Yesterday we went to two wineries - Dehlinger and Christopher Creek. It was our third trip to Dehlinger, our first to Christopher Creek. Carmen, our host at Dehlinger, is wonderfully nice. She's knowledgeable and informative in a lovely, quiet way.

Liam, our host at Christopher Creek, is flamboyant, a storyteller. Mention a wine and he's off to grab it. Liam spent ten years playing guitar in a rock band. I'm guessing that Carmen did not.

The first four Chrisopher Creek wines we tasted were tasted from the barrel - they won't be bottled for a year or so. They tasted great at the time. In the end will they be great? You can't really be sure at this point. Dehlinger makes consistently amazing wines. Not only have I never had a bad bottle of wine from there, I've never had a Dehlinger wine that wasn't remarkably good. The quality range at Christopher Creek is wider (this observation is based on less experience, and they are newer. So I'm definitely comparing apples and oranges).

So which one did I like best? The answer is resoundingly "both of them." The contrasts were wonderful, obvious and amazing.  Both experiences were gratifying individually. But putting them together was for me the thing that made the day great.  Wine making through two lenses. Dehlinger more scientific and consistently excellent. Christopher Creek with the approach of four guys sitting around blending things together until they get what they think is right.

Oddly, the joy of difference has been a theme running around in my head this week. Katelyn, our host at Biale earlier this week, jokingly was talking about "not putting yourself in a box." She was referring to Biale visitors saying "I only drink white (or red) wine", though we jokingly took the concept quite a bit further. David Brown, the winemaker at Brown, has said that the worst thing he can do as a winemaker can do is "know" how he makes a particular wine from year to year. He tries to remind himself to start with the grapes and conditions and find his way to the wine.

Since this is a retirement celebration, the question of how to be a retired guy has been much on my mind. There is an appropriate degree of routine in life (have I mentioned I've really missed the New York Times crossword this week?). But it seems to me that one of the "rocky shoals" in the sea of retirement is becoming too routinized. Too sure that either Liam or Carmen is right. They are both right. Easy to see yesterday. Much harder to see and experience in the million more subtle ways the need for routines and "right" answers closes me off and puts me "in a box." I thought it was an interesting coincidence that I was telling Madeline about a Kahlil Gibran quote I've always loved ("Say not I have found THE answer.  Say I have found AN answer.").  I don't think it was a coincidence at all. Maybe I really do have a subconscious mind!

It was great yesterday when Kate said how much she enjoyed the Syrah wine yesterday. She and I will need to continually be open to experience. I'll also have the "boys" to help. Nine guys who definitely can look at the same thing and see it through nine (or at least four or five) different lenses. AND who are willing to discuss it vigorously without confusing disagreement on an issue with a lack of personal affection. In this my good friend Barny is a role model as well. He's a wonderful example of a person who is always trying a new approach, a new way of looking at something. When I do something for the 105th time, it's highly likely I'll do it the way I did it the 104th time (read - "a near certainty"). Not so for Barny. I can learn from his example (though I must admit it's a little scary calling Barny a role model in this regard).

Unrelated side note:  We've been checking on pronunciations this week. We had for three years pronounced Salvestrin as "sal VEST trin."  Tom Green said it was "SAL vestrin" - and he was right (or at least closer). All of us have pronounced Dehlinger as "DELL ing er". But the actual correct pronunciation is "DAY ling er."  Thought some of you would like to know. But I'm sure if you have the need to pronounce either one through a different pronunciation lens, it will be OK. Unless you are making a documenTARY.