Sunday, August 16, 2009

Road Trip: Napa, Day Four - Church Search and Wine Taste

Being Sunday, today initiated Joy’s search for a new church community to be a part of. This is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest parts of moving to a new area (it goes right along with having to make a whole new group of friends), and Joy for years attended a particularly good church, so the new one has a lot to live up to.
So, today we attended her first local church, which I found using an app called Bink, on my phone. Bink allows me to search for businesses of a certain type in the area I’m in, and I used it to look for a list of churches. Now, there’s plenty of churches in the area (including at least four Baptist churches within a mile of her house) but not even every good church is suited for every person, as today probably demonstrated. On the list of churches was a Four Square Church. Being, understandably, a fan of Jack Hayford, Joy decided to begin by checking this one out. On Saturday night I called to find out the service time, which was at 10:45. I also learned that it would be casual dress, which made me happy because I didn’t actually have any nice clothes packed.

At 10:30, we pulled away from Joy’s apartment and drove over to the church. Google maps mislead us a little, putting us at a dead end, but it wasn’t far off and we found the church. It was a small unremarkable building with a cracked, weed grown parking lot and a large lawn of brown grass. There were maybe three cars when we pulled in, and ten or so congregants. This was indeed a small church, and many of the congregants were part of the same family, but they were nevertheless friendly and enthusiastic, and God was definitely in the place. I particularly liked the way they got the children involved in the service and the fact that they had a time for everyone to pray for each other. The sermon was also solid, though the pastors beard kept distracting me (he spoke on the necessity of praying for our leaders, even those we don’t agree with. Yes, my fellow Republicans, that means praying for Obama). So, I’d say it was a good church, a true place of healing and worship, but it was tiny. For some people, tiny is great, but it really didn’t seem to be what Joy was looking for, so her search will continue.

After service, Joy and I went to Trader Joes for her to buy groceries, then back to her house for lunch, and, at last, on to wine tasting (my first). Joy decided she wanted to show me the vineyard she had visited on her last trip through Napa, but at first we stopped at the wrong vineyard. It was a nice place, with rows of olive trees and overall an attractive Tuscan appearance, but it was not the one she wanted to go to and so she called the friend she’d originally gone with to learn the name of the correct vineyard (Sterling) and we got back on the road and on our way. The drive through Napa Valley is really one of the more beautiful journeys one can take, there are green rolling hills, covered with rows of grapes, and the whole way is lined with beautiful trees. Even the houses are pretty.

We finally arrived at Sterling, which is much further down the Valley than where we had originally stopped, but Joy certainly made a good choice in deciding to go there instead. What makes Sterling special, is that it is both a wine tasting experience and a tour which tells one all about the process of wine making. It’s great fun to learn about the various steps involved, and how important each little choice is in the final products taste. Even the barrels which the wine is aged in affect the flavor. The tour starts with an air carriage ride up to the top of a hill, where the wine tasting and touring take place. There’s also a lovely view from up there.
The tour was, as I said, quite a lot of fun and the staff at the winery were wonderfully friendly. All in all we tried six different wines, though Joy didn’t drink much of the red. The first we tried was a 2007 Gewurtztraminer, which was a rather sweet and spicy white wine. It was good, but being a white wine was not my favorite. After getting a view of the pressers and barrels where the wine is fermented, we got a taste of the 2008 Viognier, a white wine smelling of peach and tasting, in my opinion, fairly generic white. Finally, we came to the actual tasting room, where we had a 2006 Pinot Noir, before being seated for our final two wines. The Pinot had a lot of dimension, and I would have loved to have a steak with it. After being seated, our hosts brought us samples of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is usually my favorite wine, and this one was a good strong and spicy tasting blend, but was ultimately a little to vinegary for my taste and so my vote would go to the Noir for this trip. Since Joy didn’t particularly like the reds, our server brought her a Chardonnay, which I also had a sip of. It struck me as a good Chardonnay, but it was Chardonnay, so again I didn’t enjoy it too much. Our server actually poured Joy a glass of the Cabernet, and indicated that it was so I could have more (I can’t say that I minded). Finally, we came to the finale, a 2007 Malvasia Bianca, which is a sweet, syrupy summer wine and totally not to my taste. Joy, of course, liked this one best.

After finishing our wine tasting, Joy and I headed back to Napa, but along another highway. This one was also gorgeous, and had a particularly wonderful stretch in which we drove under a tall lane of trees that looked like something out of an English countryside. We also passed through St. Helena, the town in which my best friend Nate’s grandparents live, and stopped in the downtown area when we saw Woodhouse Chocolates. A friend had recommended Woodhouse, saying they had the best chocolates he had ever tasted. The chocolate I had was indeed good, though I wouldn’t call it the best ever. We also went into an artisan bakery which was next door to the chocolate store. It had all kinds of wonderful looking, expensive baked goods, including a rich and hearty looking granola, and they were as arrived putting together packages of their day old goods. They sell these packages at a steal and so Joy bought one, and I enjoyed a muffin/croissant/cream-filled donut hybrid. After our little stop in St. Helena, we got back on the road and headed back to Joy’s apartment, where we’ve been ever since.

Tomorrow, Joy starts her first day of work, and I’ll have a few hours to kill. I plan on doing some laundry and then maybe walking over to Peet’s to take advantage of the free wireless. My phone is fantastic, but surfing the net on a computer is still much easier.