“Where do you want to go?” “I don’t care. Where do you want to go?” “To the winery?” I suggested in a high-pitched, pleading tone.
When my younger daughter decided that she was considering going to college on the West Coast, my first reaction was “Oh, no.” My second? “Road trip!” I encouraged each of the kids to test drive the schools that accepted them before making final decisions to avoid sobbing phone calls and thousands of wasted tuition dollars. We flew into San Jose, picked up a rental car (a sensible Ford Focus despite the siren call of a yellow Porsche 911 Cabriolet), and headed south on Route 17 through the redwood groves toward Los Gatos.
The town’s name refers to mountain lions, not house cats. When the original settlers came to the area, the hills were alive with their cries. Testarossa is housed in the historic Novitiate Winery, California’s oldest continuously operated winery. It was originally constructed in 1888 by Jesuits who produced and sold altar wine to finance their seminary. (My older daughter learned to make limoncello from the Jesuits at her university. Assume away.) The grounds feature a picnic grove where a large family was celebrating a birthday when we arrived. Many other people were enjoying tapas in the sun-dappled wine bar. It all looked divine to two refugees from a savage New York winter. The tasting room offers two menus – a $10 cuvée or a $20 single-vineyard/appellation – with both featuring 5 wines. I started with the cuvées, but my server was so excited about the other menu, he started sharing them with me and I immediately understood his enthusiasm. I do not have a complex palate when it comes to wine, but I know what I find yummy and the 2011 Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2010 Santa Cruz Mountains Meritage pressed all the right flavor buttons. I purchased a bottle of each and joined the winery’s Pinot Tasting Program at the Copper Level – 9 shipments of two bottles. I can’t wait for the first one. Because I signed up for the club, the tasting fee was waived and I received a 20% discount on the bottles. While lamenting the fact that I’d forgotten to pack my Bottlewise Rollups and would have to trust my dirty clothing to sufficiently protect the bottles, I remembered to ask our server for a dinner recommendation. He said we should definitely try the Wine Cellar. Made a mental note and was gently lead back to our car by my daughter who sagely remarked, “So. What’s not to like about California?”
It was pretty hard to play devil’s advocate. We headed into downtown Old Town Los Gatos. We wandered up and down Santa Cruz Avenue, ducking into shops like Cover Story and Bettina’s. The prices were astronomical, scaring my daughter when she accidentally touched a $200 blouse. I reminded her that we were deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, a fantasy land where Facebook just shelled out $16 billion for a company that no one had heard of. We ended our wandering at Kismet. The sales clerk hailed from Oradell, New Jersey, but had lived in Los Gatos for over 20 years. We talked about the sorrows and joys of children living cross-country (her daughter was working in Manhattan). I was tempted to purchase a NorCal casual chic outfit, but remembered that I had just dropped a wad on pinot. Before departing, I asked where we should eat. The answer again was the Wine Cellar. No brainer.
Famous for its cheese and chocolate fondues, The Wine Cellar is one of the area’s oldest restaurants, open since 1966. It features a large dining patio and we skipped up just as they were closing the outdoor area because it was going to get cold soon – we made the case that it was 4:30 in the afternoon, 65 degrees and we’d just arrived from the polar vortex. No sale. We shuffled inside and, happily, the food didn’t disappoint.
By the end of the evening, California had racked up a couple of points in the “pro” column. We still had another day to kill before the campus visit. Perhaps a plague of locusts would descend?