San Francisco, Part II
Food and wine are as good a reason as any to fly 3,000 miles, and while Napa Valley may be ground zero for good eats, San Francisco is studded with gems, too. To thank my aunt and uncle for putting us up, we took them to one of the city’s most popular new restaurants, Flour and Water, in the Mission district. Suffice it to say, the simple Italian food lives up to its reputation, which you can read about in any guidebook, but what came as a surprise was the reverse sticker shock. I’ve paid five times as much for a meal half as good, and watching my aunt use the Braille method to parallel park her Jaguar made it like dinner and a show.
Napa is an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from San Francisco, and we had the touristy thrill of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and passing Sausalito, Marin County and Sonoma, before reaching the Failla Winery in St. Helena by 11 a.m.—in other words, just in time to start drinking.
Established by Ehren Jordan (who mastered his craft at the Turley Vineyards, known for their Zinfadels and a 2-year waiting list), Failla is the winery he started with his wife (it’s her maiden name). That greatest of gas-bags, Robert Parker, calls Failla wines “top-notch,” and Jordan has been named Napa Valley winemaker of the year. In the shade of an old tree, we enjoyed a tasting with two couples from Washington, D.C. Normally, when I’m in California, I expect the Californians to be the oddest people I’ll meet. In this case, I was wrong. These two couples had inexplicably traveled to the West Coast to accompany a friend who was a famous novelist to a Detective Writers’s Convention. One of the husbands told Sam about his 4,000-bottle “cellar” and asked if we had one, to which Sam said, “It’s not really a cellar. It’s more of a basement.” They were pleasant enough, though, and I’m sure they thought we were odd, too: When one of them told me he was a urologist, I thought he said “neurologist” and loudly told him I had an appointment with mine the following week. It was altogether entertaining, and we left after ordering a mixed case of wine that we’ll be able to enjoy once it settles down from the shipping. Unlike France, you can send wine from California to Massachusetts, which says something about the idiotic laws in Massachusetts, France, or both.