Me Versus The Merlot

sawyerwine

The above is a photo of the 2002 Merlot I bought while drunkenly wine tasting with my BFF in Napa two years ago. It was a lot of money for me at the time, a little over $60, but I decided to splurge because A) again, drunk, and B) I wanted to use it as creative incentive. (In other words, once I accomplished something REALLY amazing, I’d drink it.)

In 2013, I got a book deal. It was exciting and arguably a time when I could’ve opened the Merlot, but I didn’t. I decided to drink it when the book sold to a publisher, because getting a deal wasn’t QUITE amazing enough. But then months went by, and my book deal was dropped. (It happens, but it also broke my heart in a lot of ways.)

It took me about a month to get past the dropped book deal and find a new project to focus on. That project was and still is a musical I’m currently working on with two wonderful friends of mine. It’s been such a creative and interesting process for me, and I’m so excited to keep seeing it through.

But musicals take time, especially since our producer and musician are both on the east coast. And as the months have ticked by and the musical is still being workshopped and re-written, this Merlot has sat, like some plum-faced ogre on our bar cart brought into this world to mock me. Fucking smug wine.

As some of you may have noticed, I stopped blogging on this page altogether in May. Because the wine was staring at me, and because I hadn’t made ENOUGH progress, I decided to take a blogging break and focus on the musical. But I missed blogging. I really missed having that other creative outlet where I could write about my life and share what’s going on.

And so, the Merlot began to feel less and less celebratory to me, and more like that toxic friend who makes you feel bad about ordering fries. It was a reminder that I’d failed; that I’d lost my book deal. It reminded me that I hadn’t hit a milestone that was important enough. It made me feel like shit, essentially.

I feel like a fucking asshole to even say that a WINE BOTTLE, an inanimate object, has been making me feel bad — I do realize that I’m projecting a lot of things into this poor Merlot. But to be honest, it just does. I’ve had this bottle for two years now, and I’m a rather impatient person. Shouldn’t I have accomplished something by now? Shouldn’t I have published something that is just mine? That’s what the Merlot makes me ask myself every time I see it.

Yes, a book deal fell through, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. I’m going to keep reminding myself of these things:

  • I’ve written a full draft of a musical, and we’re about 70% of the way to having a finished product with that.
  • I’ve joined a writer’s group and we meet every other week to discuss each other’s work. I’ve workshopped short stories there and found a group of women who support each other and are so insanely talented.
  • I started this blog, and I don’t want to feel bad about taking time to write on it.
  • I’m working at a job I love and get to go to everyday. And this past week, I got a promotion from Senior Editor to Deputy Editorial Director. (My Mom asked me, “Who’s the Sheriff?” when I told her.)

I decided this week that I’m no longer going to let this fucking bottle of wine make me feel bad about myself. Yes, it’s good to have goals, and I will keep those, but I won’t allow this wine to be a reminder of my failures. I will no longer be paralyzed by the memory of the book deal, and I won’t continue to dwell on it. I’m ready to move on.

So tonight, E is cooking steak. And we’re going to open that fucking bottle of 2002 Merlot that I have been saving to celebrate with, and I’m going to celebrate my promotion, and I’m not going to let anyone (or anything, rather) make me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

I’ve let go of toxic friends in the past when I realized they were dragging me down and making me feel useless, and I’m happy to say that I will be drinking this Merlot until it is gone and throwing out the bottle in the morning so I never have to feel like a failure again.

If any of you have something (or someone) in your life that’s preventing you from moving forward, I hope you know that I can now provide words of encouragement to get rid of it sooner rather than later! I just can’t believe I’ve kept this bottle for so long, and I wish I’d drank it down sooner. Here’s to feeling happy again, and to more blogging. xo

Easy Weekend Getaway From LA: Wine Tasting in Solvang

I used to think the closest (and best) place to go wine tasting was in Napa. I’ve been to Napa. There are many, many vineyards there, and with a quick flight to San Francisco and an hour bus ride, you’re there.

I was wrong. I was so unforgivably wrong.

Wine Collection

Behold! 13 handsome bottles of Syrah, Cabernet (red AND white! Yes, WHITE cab!), Pinot Noir and Grigio, Bouchet, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Grenache. All of them are so delicious we had to buy them, and all are from Santa Barbara wine country but, more specifically, from the Santa Ynez Valley.

What is the Santa Ynez valley, you didn’t ask? I’ll tell you, because when I was looking to do wine tasting over a long weekend without having to fly, I had to do some freaking homework. The Santa Ynez Valley is about thirty minutes past downtown Santa Barbara, and it consists of Solvang (where we stayed), Los Olivos, Buellton, Ballard, and Santa Ynez. You can stay in any of these towns and get to vineyards easily (I’d recommend Los Olivos or Solvang, for cuteness reasons), but we decided to stay in Solvang, and I’ll tell you why.

For starters, we booked things last minute and Solvang had more options than any of the other towns. (And by more options, I mean everything was booked solid, and there was literally one option left, and that was the Mirabelle Inn.)

Mirabelle

Luckily, Mirabelle is an amazing little boutique B&B. It’s a nine room hotel and within walking distance of downtown Solvang. The staff gave us a complimentary mini bottle of champagne upon arrival, and every room comes with a fireplace. They also made our stay incredibly easy and relaxing: they book wine tours, massages, and dinner reservations for you. And every morning there’s complimentary breakfast, and it’s actually delicious.

Solvang

The town of Solvang itself is kitschy: it’s modeled after Denmark and has a high number of Danes in the area. Clogs and functioning windmills were BOUNTIFUL. But perhaps the best thing about the town are all of the tasting rooms that line the streets (our favorite was Lucas & Lewellen, and we ended up going back the next day).There are also delicious bakeries offering Danish treats. If you go, definitely try the Napoleon Hats, which are shortbread cookies lined with chocolate and a marzipan filling… I’m drooling.

Solvang closes early, like 7 p.m., but the restaurants stay open until 10 (ha! but seriously). I’d recommend making reservations in advance. I’d read online somewhere to do this, and I’m glad we did. Things get crowded, because everything else is closed, and we wouldn’t have been able to eat had we not made rezzys.

One place that was walking distance from Mirabelle was the Succulent Cafe. I’d read on Yelp about it, and the free biscuits, and was sold. Admittedly, the free biscuits were not outstanding, but if it’s free, it’s me. And the food and interiors more than made up for all that.

Inside it’s all dark wood and shelves upon shelves of wine. We started off dinner with a cheese and meat plate, and finished with some amazing pork belly. The waitress was attentive, but also let us take our time. We sat in the restaurant for two hours, and split a bottle of wine. It was nice. AND! And. We made it back to Mirabelle in time to catch the Hannibal finale. It was a good night.

Succulent Cafe SolvangWe wound up eating out in other parts of town on Saturday and Sunday, like in Los Olivos, where I had a life changing tri-tip sandwich at a diner, and absolutely perfect shrimp pasta at Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. We took cabs whenever we went out at night, mainly because we had more wine drinking to do. It’s really not a long drive to any of these places, and the locals at the restaurants are super friendly. (We befriended a vineyard owner at Grappola, who shared wine from his home with us. It made me feel special.)

All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the reason for which we actually came: the wine tasting.

E man.jpgIn both Solvang and Los Olivos there are plenty of tasting rooms. A tasting room is exactly what the name suggests: a room where you can stand and taste. There are bartenders (nee, bartenders extraordinaires), who know a lot about the wines and will pour you sizable tastes of the wine that are roughly 1/6 of a glass. If you like something, you can buy a full bottle, it’s not a bad business model.

Los Olivos definitely has a little more atmosphere with their rooms, and many of them offer patios and lush gardens where you can sit on an adirondack chair and sip to your hearts content.

I would highly recommend signing up for a guided tour, though. Mirabelle booked our tour through Stagecoach, and it was a full day experience that totally made our trip. From 11 until 5 p.m., we were shuttled around in a small bus with two other couples and a guide named Lee who knew the area and vineyards very well. He took us to Dierberg Vineyard, where there was live music and a patio overlooking the absolutely stunning hills. We stayed there for an hour and tried about six wines.

Then there was lunch and wine tasting at Bella Cavalli farms, which had beautiful horse stables on the property (I made a new colt friend named Steve).

Horsies

My new BFF, Steve.

And our last two stops were the Qupe tasting room in Los Olivos (it wasn’t much in terms of views, but the wine was delish), followed by Brander.

The Brander vineyard was very neat; an old property with vines that are close to 100 years old. You sit in a shaded courtyard and the family who owns the vineyards talks to you about the wine while they pour. We had enough time there to walk through the vineyard itself with a glass, and that was pretty magical.

We ended up buying four bottles from Brander. Granted, it was our last stop and it could’ve been the wine talking, but… hey, now we can kind of say that we have a wine “collection,” or something.

Wine Tasting Los Olivos

If given the chance to go again, I totally would. So, basically, if you’re down to drive to the Santa Ynez Valley, let me know and I’ll meet you there. (Not even joking. Not even a little bit.)