Sunday, August 28, 2005

Napa River Delta Blues
When Niko and I finally emerged from the house -- many hours after his 6:10 a.m. wakeup, and after the vacuuming, laundry folding, spider catching, Katrina tracking, duck drawing, raccoon drawing … oh, yes, and the preparing and consuming of egg-white scrambles, waffles, blueberries, faux-meat sausages and potato pancakes -- we were struck by the afternoon heat. Not wishing to drive far, but seeking cooler air, we raced down to Carneros. "What are we going to do there?" Niko asked. "Explore," I said.

Heading south from the highway on Cutting's Wharf Road, the rolling hills flatten and the vineyards become scattered, eventually giving way to marsh. On the horizon, distant, are Tam and Diablo, even Sutro Tower (I think). That wide-open quality is what I like best about this part of Napa County. Our valley is narrow and I sometimes feel the Mayacamas and the Vacas squeezing me. For those of us in the business and maybe those not, too, half of the time it's nothing but wine, everyone everything everywhere wine until you want to sream. The other half of the time, at home, one settles in for the familiar debate, You Fucked Up vs. You Got Fucked Over (no matter who wins, you lose).

Carneros is a soft landing, quiet, bird-filled -- but quirky. Empty spaces with no good prospects. We saw pretty, modest homes with pear orchards and flower gardens and we saw many, many ramshackle properties that suggested escape from somewhere was the only point. "There are a lot of no-through-road roads here," Niko noted. And roads that, after a spell, are "Not Maintained by County." We walked a few levees. We stood on an arched one-lane bridge over a tiny tributary, just a few feet above the reedy expanse yet above it all. It occurred to me that you could spend a long time getting to know Carneros. Or, better yet, in Carneros, a long time unknowing things.