In 2008, Robert and I took our honeymoon in Napa Valley. Don’t tell him that I had to take my wedding ring off to remember the year. Side note: we got married on the same day as my Mom and Dad, so we had the dates inscribed inside my wedding ring. That’s how I always remember the year our wedding was. It was the best week of our lives. No schedule, no place to be…all we had to do was drink red wine and love each other.
We visited many excellent wineries on our trip. Heitz Cellar, run by one of the oldest winemaking families in Napa, has a very kind and laid-back staff and still gives free tastings. Flora Springs let us drink portions of their library in a blown-out tasting room because we didn’t notice the signs that they were under construction. But, most memorable…
I have to take you back a few years. When we first bought our house, in 2007, our very good friend Jason brought us a bottle of Grassi 2005 for a housewarming present. When I say good friend, this man introduced us to one another. I’ve known him since I was 15. Family is more like it. Family with really, really good taste in red wine. Jason mentioned that this man, Mark Grassi, had a plot of land in between growing plots for Caymus and Silver Oak*, and was really doing meaningful stuff.
So, trusting our friend Jason, and having consumed one bottle of very delicious Grassi, we set out to find more on our honeymoon. After, admittedly, several, several, several bottles of red wine, I decided to call Mr. Grassi and set ourselves up with a tasting. He didn’t answer my call at the time. I left a message. Robert had a conversation the following day that went a little something like this:
Robert: Hello, this is Robert.
Mark Grassi: Hi Robert, my name is Mark Grassi. Some woman called me yesterday. I couldn’t really understand what she was saying**, but I got the impression you would like to come out and taste my wine?
Robert: Yeah, that would be great!
Mark Grassi: Well, we’re just getting started, and we don’t really have a tasting room or anything, but you can come out to my house, if you want?
Robert: We would love to do that!
We agreed to meet the following day and packed up to travel to Mark’s home.
It was one of the best experiences of not just our honeymoon, but our entire lives. Mark was so kind and knowledgeable. When you go to Napa, you get a lot of information thrown at you by wine makers. A popular one is: we only use 10% of our grapes. That statement implies that the winemaker only uses the best grapes. We parroted this fact back to Mark, thinking we knew so much, for him only to respond: “oh, well, I use close to 100% of my grapes“. He didn’t say it in a demeaning way. He stated it as a fact. He then patiently explained to us that the percentage of grapes you use largely depends on how many times you drop your fruit over a season. If you don’t pay very much attention to your fruit, yes, a lot of it is poor quality by the end of the season. If you nurture each cluster continuously***, you waste far less fruit. Mark and his team are meticulous from beginning to end.
Anyway, we learned a whole ton of stuff, tasted the year’s vintage, met Mark’s dogs, and sat by his pool. It was one of those things that you could never plan, that changes your life forever. We explained that we were on our honeymoon and could only afford to purchase and ship back half a case. Mark indulged us, but when he came up from his cellar, he had seven bottles – not six. He said since it was our honeymoon, he was giving us a bottle of his 2004 Grassi. A wine that was never distributed.
Rob and I agreed that it was never to be drunk. We just couldn’t think of an occasion important enough to warrant breaking open a bottle of something that, to our knowledge, doesn’t exist.
Fast forward to Monday of this week. I woke up at 3:45AM to the sounds of people screaming. I turned to Rob and said, “I think someone is yelling our house numbers“. This alerted Rob, who jumped out of bed and ran down the hallway to see a wall of orange flames through the door on our back deck. He yelled that we had to get out of the house. Unfortunately, we also had to wake our house guests from Texas, Clay and Judy. We were having a really good visit up until that point. Not to mention, we had pressed our red on Saturday, which we will now be significantly delayed in telling you about. Thankfully, our retired racing greyhound, Sprocket, was ready and waiting at the door to escape. We all got out together, unscathed, but with only the clothes on our backs.
I didn’t realize for the next few hours how bad this was going to be. We waited on the steps of a nearby school, out of eye shot of the major activity, and to give the firemen room. It was a two-alarm fire with 9 fire trucks. We waited in the street for hours. Neighbors brought us coats, socks, a blanket for Sprocket to lay on, and dog food. When it was clear that this was not going to be resolved, a neighbor took us into their home, while we waited for several more hours.
The source of the fire was our next door neighbors’ house. The house burned for in excess of eight hours. Much of the firefighting was done from within our own home. The front of our house, our deck, our attic, and our master bedroom closet were actively on fire. You hear on the news and in insurance commercials about the impacts of smoke and water damage, but I cannot describe to you the devastation.
We lost almost everything, save a few pieces of art on the ground floor, some of the contents of our kitchen, and possibly a few pieces of furniture on the ground floor.
In the late afternoon, the fire chief called Robert back to the house to oversee the boarding of our doors and windows, and to remove our valuables. Did you know that looting is a major problem in this situation? Us neither. He informed Robert that the house next door was still actively on fire, and Robert only had a few minutes to decide what to retrieve. Understandably, Robert wasn’t sure what to get. He assembled some of our jewelry and the salvageable critical paperwork (i.e., marriage license, social security cards, etc.). When he got home, he said, “Don’t worry. I got our 2004 Grassi”.
Our house is condemned. Due to the amount of damage, demolition will occur before the full assessment of the loss is completed. The contents will continue to be removed over the next few days, then demolition will occur. The fact of the matter is that this is a very bureaucratic process with a lot of paperwork. We can reasonably expect to be out of our home for a year.
Robert and I didn’t think we would ever drink our 2004 Grassi. But I can tell you that we will be sharing it between the two of us, the first night back in our beloved rowhome. We have each other, and Sprocket, and each of you who love us very much. And for those reasons we will get through this. I also want to let you know that both the white and red wine had completed fermenting and were in the basement at the time of the fire. As far as we can discern, they survived. We will be able to update you on their progress at a later date. We will be offline for the forseeable future, save one very special guest post tomorrow. Thank you for sticking with us, and
we hope you will follow us again.
*Don’t quote me on this. My house just burned down. Suffice to say, he has a kick-ass piece of land.
**Mark Grassi’s really nice way of saying I was shit faced when I called him.
***We can explain this a bit better in a future post. We hope we are back online within the year.