Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

Turning Point with Champagne


Running away for a meager handful of consecutive days without any sort of contact with the desk, the computer, or insecure bosses — I needed it. Irregular sleeping patterns were the first of it. Then came the gnawing anxiety when I couldn't derive an ounce of pleasure from the simplest things in the life around me. When you get this numb all you want to do is run away and force yourself into something different, like the way you feel when you try on a new dress or new shoes you'd never dare to cross the street in just to add the element of fear. Make the hairs on the back of your neck rise a bit. And the feeling in your gut isn't fear but anticipation. Lots of wine helps, too.


With the help of a dear, wine-geek friend, I could escape. Two more friends joined me on the sojourn. They said it would be a fun vacation. But they also confessed it was to also to ensure that I would return home and not call everyone two weeks after the fact saying that I'd now have a permanent address in the Anderson Valley, hanging out with some Maverick wine makers.

It was thanks to them that I found myself in a cold cave with a roomful of strangers. The dampness of the space amplified the must, the sediment, and oak that ran through my nose. Far from the white drone of a stale office and my gigantic desktop. Instead of a monitor, I stared at a row of wine glasses and tasted my way through a slew of wines at Merryvale. It could've been Hogwarts with the eerie lighting and old, ancient feeling. I suspected it was the lingering buzz of copious wine and feeling (however temporary) utterly free.

Against our better judgement, we packed the schedule with tastings, visits, and tours. Who are we to pass up generosity from friends and friends-of-friends? Inevitably, it caught up with us and the same feeling that propelled me into a consistent feeling of duty and responsibility reared its annoying head. Enough then. We'll stop in Medocino County. Jeriko Vineyards was the last stop for the day and we were met with what my friend described simply as a "guest house." We thought it more a villa complete with pool, homey rooms named after grape varietals, and a huge kitchen in which was a generous fridge stocked with complimentary wine. Needless to say, our road weary selves were pretty stoked. We ran around the house, up and down the stair cases, and through the rooms. We only stopped the frolicking because we were hungry.


We were told to stock up on food as there wouldn't really be anywhere we'd want to eat. Which suited me just fine. I didn't want to drive any longer. So we blew our budget at Dean & Deluca. Thin slices of San Daniele prosciutto, Mole salami from Armandino Batali, fatty Marcona almonds, and way too much cheese of every stinky sort. The fruit stalls were our "rustic" addition to the spread. We ate out by the Pinot Noir vines, on the porch that flanked a pool that was inviting but ridiculous in the bucolic setting. The food was simple, but decadent. And my shoulders relaxed a little. But work kept creeping back into my skin and I had to take another sip of wine, worries of alcoholism very far from my mind.


And I have to mention that Rob LOVED the cornichons. A little too much ...


It was an odd but welcome moment. The kind where everything looks completely beautiful. The house. The company. The mess left on the table. Champagne does that to you. Makes you happier than you should be, reminding you that there's more to life than the current stressor. Not to say that I'm a raging alcoholic. My friends know me better than that (I'm a notoriously cheap date) and I think there's nothing wrong with having a something bubbly hit your tongue and make you giddy when you otherwise would be melancholy. This fizzy lens of beauty allowed me to stay quiet long enough to focus and see this:


See. We shared.


When we spent a May weekend at the guest house it was too cold for a swim. But the reflected sunlight from the pool's surface was hypnotic enough to promote a still mind. And for once, thoughts as clear as this pool.


We went for a walk around the property. I ran through the vines like a kid running through laundry hanging in mom's backyard. The dirt road lead to the sound of goats with their rectangular pupils and friendly manner. Rob liked them as much as the cornichons. Leave it to him to make out with the locals.


The well on the property looked as though it hadn't been actually used in a while. But it was good to lean on the wall and stare into the reflection many feet down. Looking down and dropping little stones. Something brewed in my gut. A churning. A feeling. Some sort of change in the works.


The sun was setting and I felt my own energy wane a bit. But I didn't want to go inside. So I planted myself under a tree next to the rosemary bushes that were as tall as I (without heels, thank you). I didn't dare close my eyes for the moment was perfect, quiet. The feeling in my gut was still there. Churning slowly. It wasn't painful or worrying. Just noticeable enough to stay awake and explore every source of it between the picnic dinner. A wind blew through the leaves and made them glitter like sequins. They whispered. I had to listen intently. Closely. Another wind another whisper. And then it hit me as warm as the sunlight. The idea churning in me was of change. I wanted it badly but hadn't the time or luxury to consider it. Things in life made me happy again that day. I was the only one who could make myself ever feel this way again, with or without the wine country factor.

To hell to working my ass off to compensate for another's incompetence, for being underappreciated, and for working without passion. Nothing was stopping me. Just my fear. And laying down beneath this sheltering tree, breathing in the forest and landscaped rosemary, and full of good wine, I wasn't scared anymore. So I decided.

I got up off the lawn and walked back to the table where the remains of our dinner still sat. I placed a ribbon of prosciutto on my tongue and let its sweet-saltiness melt on my tongue. All that freedom makes you hungry.

UncategorizedVanessa Chang