S A R I S H A K U R U P
Napa Valley in the summer is something else entirely. With the vineyards glowing in the California sunlight, days long and earth fresh, it isn't hard to convince yourself that you might one day want to give up that rough city life for slow, easy mornings and the uninterrupted pursuit of la dolce vita.
I have been going to Napa (and Sonoma) for as long as I can remember. My parents used to drag me and my brother up there for day trips all the time, visiting the same wineries (they had accumulated quite a hefty list of favorites), stopping at the same restaurants and bakeries. Napa and Sonoma are so tied to my childhood, I have such distinct memories of peering inside wine barrels and sampling olive oils as I waited for my parents to finish tasting, walking through the vines and covertly picking grapes, scanning cheeses at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, being too terrified to feed the llamas at Sonoma train town. When my parents purchased a little house in Napa, our exhausting day trips turned into veritable vacations, and I grew to love this place that was not only saturated in personal family memories, but which also served as a reminder of how wonderful and simple life can be--plant, grow, create.
Napa has also come to mean something more to me now because it is filled with vivid memories of my father. From our little timeshare house, to the wineries we always frequented, to the reds and whites he preferred, his footsteps are everywhere. One of my favorite family vacations, also one of the last vacations we had with my father, was two years ago, when we spent a week in Napa. I remember how he tired easily then, how I walked slowly with him to our lunch restaurant, Goose and Gander, my mother and brother waiting inside, because he could not keep up. I remember waiting at the front steps of the Castello di Amorosa, peering down the hot summer road to see how far back he was. That was the trip that his preferences changed from red wine to white wine. The white is lighter, I remember him saying. Earlier this year, when I was offered wine in Amsterdam, I found myself saying the same thing.To be in Napa is a constant reminder of my father in one of his favorite places, and it is one of the reasons that I am certain I will always find myself back there.
This summer, my last summer before college, I decided I wanted to spend some time in Napa again, so I went up there with my mother and brother for a few days. After they left, my writing workshop, a collection of three of my dearest writer-friends and I, drove up to meet me, and we spent the weekend reading and writing and workshopping among the vines. As we walked down familiar roads, picnicked in new wineries, there was a little part of me that wondered, next time I am here, will I remember this? This moment, this place?