Vineyard 'gift' turns into a wine trip for two

The Bob Healy Vineyard, one of several owned by Drew Bledsoe's Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla, Washington.
The Bob Healy Vineyard, one of several owned by Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla, Washington.

No, I didn’t find the keys to a vineyard under the Christmas tree this year, but the Wine Goddess has promised the next best thing: A trip to any vineyard in the world.
My gift came in a box wrapped beautifully in glittering silver and gold paper. A nice red bow sat on top.
I opened the box with wide-eyed delight, just like I did as a young boy. Inside was a thick book, Vino Italiano, and a note written in my wife’s stylish hand. It said:
“To the Wine Novice,
The world is full of vineyards and I couldn’t decide which one to give you for Christmas. Instead I will take you to the place of your choice, for fun and adventure. Leave the arrangements to me. (Please make sure it is some place warm!)
Merry Christmas with love, The Wine Goddess.”

Maybe I'll get to meet Doubleback owners Drew Bledsoe and his wife Maura at the winery this year.
Maybe I’ll get to meet Doubleback owners Drew Bledsoe and his wife Maura at the winery this year.

Images of candy canes and glasses of lush Barolo and cool Chardonnay filled my head. I closed my eyes to see big oak barrels marked Cabernet Sauvignon dancing in underground cellars. There were vines spreading out, up and down hillsides under a blue sky and radiant sun. I was sitting on a terrace, overlooking a vast expanse of green and brown landscape, with mountains rising on the horizon … and then I heard strange shuffling sounds. An earthquake? I opened my eyes to find Bella the cat standing in my beautiful box, pawing at the paper, shredding my dream.
The Wine Goddess, though, meant what she wrote. We’re taking a big trip in 2014. I just don’t know where. Yet.
Maybe my new book will lead me in the right direction. I’m thinking three locations: Washington State and Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla; the vineyards along Mt. Etna in Sicily; and the Loire Valley in France.
If we go to France, I’ll insist the Wine Goddess schedule a riverboat cruise where they serve lunch with exquisite cheeses and wines.
If we go to Sicily, we’ll tour Mt. Etna in an open Fiat, sample the 2012 Tenuta della Terre Nere Etna Rosso, and swim in the Ionian Sea below the resort town of Taormina.
Tugging at my heart though is Washington State. I’m intrigued by the pioneering vintners of Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, and Walla Walla Valley. They say visiting the sprawling vineyards is a throwback to Napa Valley 25 years ago: Just walk up, meet the farmers, and taste their wine without a fuss. I like that. Without a doubt, we’ll taste Bledsoe’s 2011 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon which will be released in February.
So stay tuned. I’ve got a decision to make — and I don’t want to keep the Wine Goddess waiting.

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