My 5K, my way

WordPress hosts my little blog site, and while I don’t understand all the ins & outs of what WP does, I do know that they do it well. Visiting other blogs on other hosts proves it: WP kicks ass.

I often read the updates that come to me from WP, whether it’s to showcase a new theme (the physical look of a blog), or to update users on a new feature, like the new iPad feature that provides those who read blogs via iPad a cool experience. From the gurus at WP: “Our iPad-optimized view is app-like in its functionality, but pure HTML5 goodness on the backend: it supports touch interactions, swiping, rotation, and many other features of the iPad.”

I don’t know exactly what HTML5 is but like the way they refer to its pure goodness.

The Automattic side of WP recently announced a cool idea: let’s have a virtual 5K. This group of 80 hipsters with job titles like “code ninja,” “systems wrangler” and “happiness engineer” are scattered in 62 cities around the globe, but they share a love of fitness, so they knew that getting all the co-workers together on the same day in the same city was crazy talk. Instead, they settled on the idea of having everyone do their own 5K in their own way but on the same day. And then, because they are totally kick-ass, they opened this idea up to WP bloggers, and gave us a week in which to complete this mission.

I’m well-versed in 5Ks from my running days, but with breast cancer and post-mastectomy infection as my sidekicks, my racing days are over. I may be down but not out, and I am definitely on the mend after a long, complicated and downright icky span of nearly a year. I’m officially deeming myself over that mess, however, and ready to tackle the Automattic 5K. Lucky for me, there’s an loophole in this 5K that says it can be “in your own way,” meaning it doesn’t have to be an organized point-to-point or up-and-back race. In fact, the invitation went out to “walk, run, or skip” just do 3.1 miles worth, and it counts. Those Automatticians are so nice.

photo: lonelyplanet.com

Walking through the lush and beautiful Wine Country in Napa Valley counts, right? I didn’t use a pedometer, but I’m pretty sure we walked at least 3 miles over 2 days of wine touring. We walked through lots of wineries, traversing the valley from its  southern end, near Downtown Napa, to Yountsville in the middle, and northward into Rutherford.

No matter where we were, the scenery was spectacular. I never got tired of looking out over the rows of tidy grapevines and seeing the rolling green hills and the majestic mountains rising up toward the azure of the sky. 

Our first stop on my 5K was Chandon in Yountville, where they’ve been making sparkling wines long enough to be household name. Chandon’s wine makers have experimented a lot but settled on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes in the tradition of French champagne. Works for me.

After an hour-long limo ride from San Francisco to Napa, our group of 10 was ready to stretch our collective legs and get our drink on. Chandon was a great place to start.

As we disembarked at the threshold of all things Chandon, the first thing I noticed was this sweet little tableau, at the base of the winery’s entrance. The fountain was bubbling and the calla lilies were blooming. The only way the setting could have been more perfect would be if I had a glass of bubbly in hand. While we were in a rush to get inside and get that bubbly, we did pause at the entrance

to get a group shot of the ladies before we hit the ground running (or strolling, because this is a have-it-your-way 5K). Chandon was the first of at least 4 wineries we were planning to hit that day, so we had our work cut out for us. We needed to get busy.

 

The magnum was sublime. Our group of 10 found a table on the patio and and settled in for our first official taste of Napa. No one had any complaints.

Next stop was V Sattui in St Helena, north of Chandon, for picnic supplies. It was so perfect, we went back the next day, too. Grabbing a variety of picnic items from edamame salad to fancy-pants potato chips suited everyone in our group of hungry travelers. We served up our picnic family-style, passing and sampling our bounty of yummy morsels. 

Doesn’t the sign alone make you want to spend a lazy afternoon there, eating delicious foods and drinking wine in the sunshine?

Yeah, we did too, but we had miles to go before we slept, to quote Robert Frost.

 

Luckily we weren’t stopping by woods on a snowy evening, but instead zipping along southward to Silver Oak in Oakville. Yet another breathtaking view out the vineyard’s doorway made us stop and take it all in. Then we hurried inside in pursuit of some of Silver Oak’s finest.

We found it. We had a lovely chat with Walter, our tastings meister, who got a nice, big dose of our personal brand of Texas revelry. He was great sport, and we enjoyed him and the Silver Oak atmosphere as much as their wines. We could have stayed all day, but alas, we had an appointment with Quintessa, so we moved onward.

Quintessa, in Rutherford, was amazing. It’s a short distance from Oakville to Rutherford, and coming from the wide open spaces of Texas, it struck me how all these little towns seem practically on top of each other, and they certainly blend into each other. You can’t really tell where one ends and the next begins. Rutherford, in fact, is only 6 square miles — for the whole town. Between Oakville and St Helena, this tiny little area bangs out some killer Cabernets. It’s said that in order to make a great Cab, you “must have Rutherford dust.” They are most definitely doing it right at Quintessa

Our first cave tour did not disappoint.

After a tour of the machinery and vats, our delightful guide Lori led us into the cave. The mood in the cave was serene and somber, not in a sad way but more contemplative. Very zen. Until we figured out the cave had terrific echoing acoustics and all started cawing out various animal sounds. Classy.

This fountain stands in the middle of the cave, bubbling away as its water tumbles over jet-black river rocks that appear smooth as glass. It’s a beautiful and peaceful structure in and of itself, but it’s also functional, as it provides humidity in the cave, which is integral in crafting wine. The rooms flanking the fountain are full of barrels of aging wine, which put off a distinctive aroma that I can’t quite capture. I can still smell it in my olfactory memory, but can’t describe it. You’ll just have to go there.

We were intrigued by the reddish stain around the middle of each barrel. We wondered if the wine had leaked and stained the barrels, but then noticed that the stain was contained to just the middle. Lori cleared up the mystery by telling us that Quintessa colors them on purpose, to enhance the aesthetic beauty of their barrels. I had to strike a pose next to these beauties.

We came out of the cave and through these doors into the tasting room, thinking nothing could top the coolness of the cave tour. Then we saw the table that had been laid for us. 

A gorgeous wooden table in a secluded room lit by candles awaited us. Each of us had a place setting, complete with a personalized card surrounded by 3 lovely wines lovingly arranged in order. 

No, I wasn’t too drunk to take a decent photo, but the candlelight and the iPhone camera didn’t think too much of each other, so yes, it’s quite blurry. Next trip to Napa, I will take better photos, I promise.

But I won’t share my Quintessa artisanal cheese plate. Yum. Three cheeses from the region married with the wines so well we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. I’m a fan of cheese, especially with my wine, and these three were outstanding. We could have stayed in that peaceful tasting room for the rest of the day, but we only had it reserved until 5 pm, so we regretfully shuffled out of there, basking in the deliciousness of all things Quintessa.

Our first afternoon of tasting the bounty of Napa Valley’s wines drew to a close, and we headed from Rutherford south to Yountsville, to our hotel, immensely satisfied with the splendor of our first day. I was so happy I didn’t even realize until later that my feet kinda hurt, from my 5K, my way.


Tomorrow is a big day

I’ve learned the hard way from all this stupid cancer business that every day truly is a gift, as hokey as it sounds, and that life is short, as cliched as that sounds, and that you gotta grab each day and milk it for all it’s worth (I think I just made that one up).

It’s pretty easy to get bogged down in these crazy-busy lives of ours, which by the way, are supposed to be made easier and more relaxing with all the time- and labour-saving devices we have, yet it seems that everyone is still rushed off their feet every single day. Which kinda makes it hard to unwrap the gift that is each day and to savor the little things that form a meaningful amalgamation of life as we know it. I know my to-do list is always a mile long, and some days I have to rewrite chores on the new list, since they didn’t get done on their appointed day.

My to-do list is again long today as I prepare to go out of town for the weekend.

Yes, you read that right: I’m leaving town.

Finally.

After an unfortunate series of non-starters all summer, in which no less than 3 much-anticipated trips erupted in a giant puff of post-mastectomy-infection-tinged smoke, I’m finally going on a trip. First it was the Duke girls’ trip to Tahoe. Gone. Then it was the All Star state baseball championship. Adios. And finally, the annual trek to Boston and Salisbury Beach. See ya. Missing one trip was a hard pill to swallow; missing 3 was just plain cruel. No way around the choking down of that horse pill.

But now, there’s Napa.

napavalley.com

My beacon of hope in a long, barren season of maladies. Could it be that the end to that dreadful season truly is in sight? I’m starting to believe that it is so. There is a part of me, a teensy part, that still fears a blow-up. But just a teensy part. Or a woonty part, as our friends at Salisbury Beach say. The rest of me is full-steam ahead, preparing for one fabulous weekend full of bottled poetry.

napavalley.com

Last time I was in Napa, I was pregnant with Payton, who will be 12 (gulp!) next month. Talk about needing a do-over. And what better reason for a do-over than a BFF’s birthday bash and a celebration of her “40 years of good living,” as the invitation states. I’m in. For celebrating my BFF, for getting a change of scenery, and for relishing this life of mine. 

fotosearch.com

This “cancer journey” has turned out to be a bit more complicated than I thought. I’m still a destination girl rather than a journey girl, and I don’t think that’s going to change.

pixdaus.com

But starting tomorrow, if only for the celebratory weekend, I’m going to savor every bit of the destination.

sterlingvineyard.com

Even if my titanium port-a-cath sets off the security alarms and I ended up getting frisked.

fotosearch.com

Even if traffic is heavy and the plane is late.

peju winery, fineartamerica.com

Even if I’m stuck sitting next to a mouth-breather on the plane (no, I’m not talking about Trevor).

napavalley.com

Even if the weather turns yucky.

domainecarneros.com

Even if the ever-present antibiotics have killed off some of my wine-savoring tastebuds.

napageneralstore.com

I’m going to suck up every ounce of enjoyment from a trip that has been much anticipated, meticulously planned, and a very long time in coming.

 

Our first stop in Napa is Domaine Carneros, maker of one of my favorite champagnes.

domainecarneros.com

I may just skip all the other wineries and stay right there.

domainecarneros.com