They say that you can’t go home again. Some places belong to a past life, and coming back to them will always feel like an alien experience. Then there are other places that will always have a feeling of home-ness to them, no matter how far you might wander from them. Returning to Destiny Ridge Vineyard recently, I discovered that I could, in fact, go home again.
Destiny Ridge Vineyard and Alexandria Nicole Cellars will always feel like home to me. There have been significant changes in both my life and in the lives of my ANC family, but when I return to Destiny Ridge, I always feel like I can pick up right where I left off. In the years since I moved to Spokane, I have not stayed in contact as much as I should have. I have watched as my ANC family has gone through some tough times. I have felt their pain, as if I had never left them. I also have watched some truly amazing things unfold for them, and I have been able to experience their joy. Thankfully, this time I was returning to my first home in the wine community to share a joyful moment.
I probably (okay, definitely) spent more time with Alexandria Nicole’s assistant winemaker, Matt Dodson, than I did with anyone else while I was working at the winery. During harvest I spent 2 hours a day driving back and forth between my house and Destiny Ridge with Matt. For those that know Matt, I would say that 5am might be the only time of day that he doesn’t feel very talkative. I also spent most of a 16 hour work day with Matt every day for the 2 months or so of harvest. So, yeah, I spent a little bit of time with him. Last Saturday, I got to celebrate his marriage to Stefanie, who has been with Matt long enough to know what she was getting into by marrying a winemaker.
In addition to getting to spend the day celebrating Matt and Stefanie’s happy day while reconnecting with ANC friends from both sides of the Cascades, I also got to reconnect with the piece of land in the Horse Heaven Hills that will always hold a certain portion of my soul captive.
It’s hard to believe that a piece of dirt, especially one that you have no ownership of, could become such an important part of you. I only really spent one year at Destiny Ridge, but every day when I was driving along the Columbia River, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get to work here.”
As much of a connection as I feel with Destiny Ridge, I feel an even stronger bond with a specific block of the vineyard – the Grenache vines that overlook the Columbia River. To begin with, I have an irrational love for Alexandria Nicole’s Grenache wines. I go crazy for them. I used to beg to climb the stacks of barrels to give people barrel samples, and would always look for an excuse to open a bottle to share with people. The saddest day of my wine life might have been when I opened my last bottle of 2010 Grenache, one of my favorite Washington wines of all time. The production crew began to joke about how long it would take for my first mention of our Grenache. It wasn’t just the wine though. As a romantic, I also get all swoony about vines that have to be babied to get the most out of the vines. The Grenache vines at Destiny Ridge are planted in an area with good airflow and use a low height unilateral cordon that allows the ambient heat from the ground to further combat the potential for frost damage. I feel a little like Miles from Sideways, gushing about the harrowing plight of the Pinot Noir grape, but I definitely appreciate the romance of the struggle that goes into producing fine wines.
After the ceremony had ended, I felt compelled to drag my wife, who was clad in shoes that were not remotely practical for vineyard traipsing, to my beloved Grenache block. Fortunately, she only suffered a slight ankle roll from our journey, which I felt was a small price to pay for experiencing one of the most sacred locales in Eastern Washington. For some reason I felt like she should be around to witness my lecherous fondling of the grapes that I love so much. She was remarkably accommodating with my compulsion, which only serves to reinforce how lucky I am to have a wife who will put up with my obsessions. I had my moment with my Grenache block, and we returned to the merrymaking with our friends.
People and places change. We grow and our experiences make us different people. For this reason, we never do exactly return to a place with the same sensations that we once had. Still, there are relationships and connections that endure the eroding influences of distance and time. No matter where my future path might take me, there will always be a piece of my heart that belongs to Destiny Ridge.