Every once in a while a person experiences something so beautiful, there’s a little emotional bookmark that gets placed in the memory, tagged for future loving.
This was one of those weekends for me. In the afternoon I was running around orange county on the freeways flanked by buildings so I could pick up three of my dearest friends and start heading up to Windrose Farm in Paso Robles. The mini road trip was perfect for catching up and oogling at the dark blue ocean curving along the sandy coast. We stopped in Santa Barbara for some wine tasting and dinner where we filled up on beet salads and pappardelle pasta. Back to the car, no wait the sun in setting, a quick sprint on the beach turned frolicking in the ocean a little too close to the bottom of our shorts and discussing the novelty of the blue moon that lit the sky and turned the ocean silver. We kept driving north and once becoming delirious, rolled down all the windows and listened to chick songs way too loud, the freezing cold an afterthought to stomachs cramping from laughter.
We drove on dirt roads and searched through orchards for a glamping tent that had been set up, finding it, lighting candles, sharing wine and discussing wild life and its potential to invade our tent and ruin our desire for an eternally soapy existence.
Sleep, sort of…sheep baaing, roosters crowing at 4am…FOUR AYYY EMMMM, coyotes howling, dogs barking, but then eventually finding sleep because of crickets singing, frogs ribbiting and the moon casting a huge shadow of apples blossoms across our tent.
We woke up late desperate for coffee and took off to downtown Paso for eggs and toast at Vic's with some diner coffee that hit the spot more than Stumptown ever has. We wandered around the town shopping, passing through a farmers market and feeling the sun begin to heat the air until it was surrounding us like a warm blanket. We pumped the air conditioning, winding through the valleys under huge oak trees hanging across the road like a canopy. We silently watched out the window as we weaved in between golden hills dotted by deep green trees casting shadows like something from an Edgar Payne painting.
We wine tasted at Tablas Creek and at Halter Ranch bought a bottle of Rose. We sat outside the Ranch and laid out a spread of cheese, olives and crackers and drank the cold wine in the heat of the shade talking deeply and finding acceptance in one another.
We headed back to farm and almost cried at the beauty of the singular long table set up for sixty to celebrate all the varieties of garlic grown on the farm. The crowd was milling about chatting about their lives, the beer they brew, the winery they own, the farm across town they work at, their general love of Windrose Farm.
We had a quick tour of the bio-dynamic farm where my friends got to meet Barbara the farmer so they could love her as much as I do and hear her describe how they believe they are just one in a long line of care takers for this beautiful land.
At the end of the table where we were seated we had a view of the long farmers table with a thick runner of rosemary and lavender dotted with candles in between. The table was full of strangers becoming friends, loud laughter and crunching on crostini burrata while we watched the sun fall behind the trees. Stringed lights and candles lit the evening while we ate freshly handmade pasta showcasing Ajo Roja and Viola de Francesca garlics paired with Gelfand Vineyards Syrah.
As each new course was brought out chef Evan Funke, formerly of Spago and Bucato, but who is now just trying to get back to Italy (aren’t we all), described the dish and where each ingredient came from followed by a description from the vintner who brought his wine for pairing. When they brought out the lamb Barbara explained that they let their lambs live until at least two and try to give them a quality life, well cared for and eating the greens on the farm. It’s my favorite way of looking at eating meat, caring for animals while they are here, knowing where our food comes from and being grateful for the sacrifice (hippies unite)…I still didn’t eat it, because then who would I be?
We kept looking at each other and saying, “I’m so happy, I just don’t think I could be happier.” It was the only thing we could get out, it wasn’t eloquent, it just was. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the moment we just smiled and did our our best to soak in every molecule of detail so we could bookmark the memory and the only emotion we could describe…happiness.
We slept a second night in the orchard full of food and gratitude and left the farm the next day. As my friend Sarah said, “we left a piece of our heart in those Orchards” and I agree. I've only been there twice but it somehow feels a bit like going home.