Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Wine weekday - Part II

The weekend began Friday morning. The original plan was that I would meet Billy and the rest of the group at the Oakland Airport at 9:30am, where the tour bus would pick us up. Unfortunately, Billy became ill the week before the trip and couldn't go. He offered his place to my sister, but it was too short a notice for her to get a cat sitter. So I asked both my my roommate, Gayle, to be my 'date' for the weekend. She was developing an interest in wine (I like to think I'm a good influence on my friends!). Also, she had shouldered a huge part of the financial burden of the move to San Francisco and never made me feel bad about it. It would be nice (via Billy's generosity), to be able to share this unique opportunity with her.

We arrived at the airport with time to spare, sat outside of the Southwest baggage claim, and sipped airport cappuccinos while waiting for our group to arrive. I scanned the crowds, looking for familiar faces, but wasn't seeing any. Luckily Carol, the wonder woman who organized the entire trip, recognized me as one of Billy's 'girlfriends', and quickly greeted us, along with three other first-timers: Greg, an engineer for Boeing, and a married couple, Roger and Jan.

The five of us newbies talked for a few minutes, that tentative, slightly uncomfortable type of conversation that you get at parties when the hosts throw you together (Mike, meet Frieda! Frieda's an activist and Mike's a lawyer, I'm sure you two have plenty in common!) that inevitably ends up with "So...seen any good movies lately?" (Okay. We did have wine in common, but you know what I mean. And we DID talk about movies!)

The tour bus arrived, a large, air-conditioned behemoth complete with a bathroom in the back. True, it was teeny (the term 'water closet' really works), but hey, it was a functioning bathroom. And considering the planned activities for the weekend (drinking and eating, repeat as necessary), that was a good thing!

The bus driver's name was Malcolm. Originally from England, Malcolm's been the driver for Robert's fieldtrips for several years running (I never did find out how many) and was on first name basis with most of the attendees. He loaded the luggage while the passengers boarded. Most people had their regular seats. Robert always sat in the first row, driver's side, while Dr. Palmer, another regular, sat across from him. The first few rows were for those with a susceptibility to motion sickness (like me), while the rowdier contingent sat in the back. Billy always sat in the back, I was told. So did William, another larger than life personality with a perpetually red face and trademark collection of wine themed Aloha shirts. Part of me felt that I should follow tradition, sit in the back in honor of Billy. But somehow I didn't think he'd consider me throwing up all over the bus much of a tribute. Gayle and I sat in the third row, right in back of an ice chest packed full of champagne. I thought Billy would understand my choice.

We were all given a number; at the end of each stop, we'd sound off in order to insure no one got left behind (every time we did the count, I had to stop myself from saying 'I am not a number! I am a human being!' a la The Prisoner). I was 15, Gayle was 8.

The champagne was uncorked almost immediately after we hit the road. Plastic champagne flutes were handed out and the bubbly began flowing. Sitting back as the bus headed north, sipping Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir sparkling wine (can't call it champagne if it's not from Champagne, France), watching the landscape shift from urban sprawl to bucolic countryside...what a great way to spend a Friday morning.

The bus had an audio system with a microphone, so as we drove, Robert would occasionally impart bits of information about the passing scenery, such as the Takara sake factory in Berkeley, and, after we hit wine country, a Who's Who of the wineries we passed. If someone made too much noise while Robert was talking, he'd pause briefly and say the same thing he always said in class: "I'm an old-fashioned teacher. When I'm talking, you're not."

Trust me when I say that Robert has the power to make a grown man or woman feel like an unruly 12 year old. Hey, give a busload of grownups enough champagne before lunch and there's not much difference!

Gayle and I got to know some of the passengers, including Barb and Stacy Henry (referred to as 'the Henry girls), a mother and daughter who sat behind us. Barb had brought homemade Spam sushi to share. Sounds weird, I know, but it was delicious. Carol and her husband sat across from them. He had an iPod and was very happily off in his own world for most of the ride. Across from us was another couple that'd been coming on these trips for several years (I want to say that her first name is Jan, but I'm not sure). We drank more champagne and talked about Billy, past field trips, my and Gayle's move up to the Bay Area.

All in all, the bus ride was pleasant, but we were all there for the same reason: by the time we pulled up to V. Sattui Winery, the first scheduled stop on our itinerary, we were all ready to do some wine tasting!

To be continued...


  • At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    champagne--by any other name--moving bus--guaranteed barf!! Guess I will never get to do a wine-tasting tour. It sounded like so much fun too!!

  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger Other Lisa said…

    oh, anonymous, why not? Dramamine is your friend!

  • At 10:22 AM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Heck, how do you think i managed to stay non-queasy throughout! I took a half a dramamine every four hours while we were on that bus...


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