Ersatz Wine Country

In a recent post, I mentioned that I was headed up to a resort hotel in Napa that offered, among its amenities, the opportunity to “enjoy nearby vineyards.” I said that I had always been perplexed by this kind of thing, wondering exactly what it would mean to enjoy a vineyard. One reader responded very negatively to this post, feeling that I was being willfully thick—refusing to see that a lazy copywriter simply meant that a person could go wine tasting, or touring wineries, or that sort of thing. I wasn’t being willfully thick, but I do think I didn’t capture the context well enough—and thus left myself open to a criticism that was a pointless distraction from my intent.

But now that I’m home from the trip, I’m reassured that I was sensing something curious at the place where I’d booked a room. By way of background, it was a weekend-away-from-kids for my wife and me, including an afterwork dinner and movie in town, in San Francisco; a Saturday morning free for her to do some yoga and for me to get some waves; and then a drive up 101 to the Alexander Valley. We had a tour around the Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate, with winemaker Graham Weerts (which I’ll describe in my next post), and then cocktails and dinner at Cyrus, and then a night at a Calistoga hotel (couldn’t find a room in Healdsburg). But what a funny sight this room was. The place was called Silver Rose, it was all we could find at the last minute, and it wasn’t cheap: nearly $300 per night. And yet, when we rolled in late from Cyrus, the room was hilarious. It was perfectly clean and decent, to be sure, and the bed was beautiful, with nice linens, so the essentials were all there. But the entire room was wallpapered in a wine-grape pattern, a high ledge (the room had vaulted ceilings) carried huge fake wine-grape vines with plastic leaves and plastic wine-grape clusters hanging off them, the furniture was painted in wine grapes to match the wallpaper, there were framed illustrations of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and a replica of a medieval tapestry showing harvest and crush, and even plastic wine-grape clusters adorning each end of the curtain rods.

Who is this stuff for? Is there really a customer who slips into that room and feels thrilled by the sheer grapiness of it all? Does anyone actually crawl between those sheets with a lover and feel a Dionysian stimulus?

Perhaps, perhaps … but far, far better was the view at dawn, when we awoke and, feeling claustrophobic among all those representations of grapes, pulled back the drapes. Just outside our window, as it turned out, a thick morning fog lay heavy over a vineyard turned every autumn color imaginable. And I have to admit: I enjoyed it.

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