So I was up in the Bay area last week, and when I was there, I could not help but to think that I picked a helluva week to start working up here - it was as timely as when I started working commission-only as a wine rep back in September 2008 - when the market fell off a cliff, the economy took a nose-dive, and all hell broke loose as people started mimicking the media's choice of words, such as "bail-out," "the Great Recession," and "my 401K is now a 201K." Yep, that's what it felt like last week up in San Francisco, where I am sure it nippy in the winter typically, but I'm not sure it is usually the deluge that it was.
On the plus side, I was not missing much in the weather department down in my home area of Southern California. Both Northern and Southern California were being brutally hit with repeated storms, wind and rain of the variety to which Los Angelenos are not accustomed.
But my week was fully booked, and I was determined to see every customer that was expecting me. After a bumpy ride on my JetBlue flight up to Oakland, I found my way to the car rental office, and soaked myself running to my pale blue Ford Focus - my car of the week.
The plan was the first two days in the city of San Francisco, followed by two days on the east bay, with some detours up to the Napa Valley, followed by Friday in Sacramento and Davis. And a nice, easy drop off of the car at Sacramento airport, followed by a smooth flight home from there.
I'm happy to say I was successful in implementing this plan! Even in torrential rains, with high winds blowing while I drove across tall bridges, I got to all my appointments, even the ones in the countryside (Napa Valley), and met some of the most wonderful people. Well, at least 90-95% of the people I met were super terrific, and that's a high percentage. In total, I would say that the wine people I met, in restaurants and wine stores, were knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic, and intelligent, and they were genuinely interested in wine from all over the world, and they were not defensive about wine, ie. they were not strictly all about California wine, though of course they were very knowledgeable about it. In fact, I would almost say that those far away from California's most prestigious wine region (Napa Valley) are most defensive about California wines, preferring this style to the exclusion of other styles, while the Bay area and its neighboring wine country is actually very open minded and not at all exclusive in their taste for quality wine around the world. Go figure.
Some of my favorite appointments included Ame at the St. Regis, a restaurant I want to dine at the moment my hubby will join me in SF; The Boulevard, Waterbar, and the Slanted Door, all restaurants in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco. This is an area that has a great view of the Bay Bridge, a majestic structure that lights up at night and is so quintessentially SF.
In the Napa Valley, I particularly enjoyed visiting Auberge du Soleil, a little inn and restaurant tucked into a hill in Rutherford, off the Silverado Trail, a place I had never been; Ad Hoc, a restaurant next to and related to the French Laundry, which is very nice and modern and chic; and Carneros Inn, a group of brightly painted farm houses off Highway 12 that have been gutted inside and have modern innards that feel beautiful and make me want to make dinner reservations there very soon.
There were many, many other positive, fun experiences.... some were as simple as walking for a bit between rain showers in that clean, fresh air.... or having dinner by myself after a long day of work, listening to the couple at the next table argue loudly..... driving and learning how the streets go in the city and out on the east bay.... having split pea soup in my car while parked in Berkeley, feeling like a drowned rat..... missing my appointment by 30 minutes, and being able to make it up the very next day..... sitting with a new customer for 30 minutes while he slowly leafed through the catalog, me, wishing I didn't have to sit there... until he placed a $1000 order..... ah, the joys... I felt a lot like the Ratatouille rat Remy when he had to go through a wet yucky sewer, with that icky water dripping on his head, but when he got through it, the town was ..... Paris .... and it was beautiful.