The winery we went to last night was actually a delight, but getting there is surreal. It sits in the hills about 25 minutes from my house. You start by taking a county road to a little town with a stop light and a row of houses along the road. You turn right at the lounge with a martini glass on the sign and go a few miles to another little gravel road marked only with a green sign the size of a check book. You go another seven miles and turn left on another gravel road even narrower and barely a marker, and then right onto a narrow gravel drive that winds through trees and vines until it ends at the winery. During the day, the drive is bucolic (can you tell I've been reading Thomas Hardy?), but at night when it's dark and raining, every scraggly tree that overhangs the road becomes a gremlin, and every drifting pocket of fog becomes a poltergeist.
The creepiness of the trip made entering the lit-up dining room with stone walls and a fire in the fireplace and friends at every table all that much more welcoming. For two and a half hours at least, we sat for a five-course meal and glass after glass of various wines poured by the maker himself. He rang a bell with each new bottle, and then explained what he was about to pour, where the grapes were grown, etc. He was an agricultural biologist in Oregon in a previous life and is now living his dream.
His wife is the chef, and she explained the appetizer--double-crusted pastry filled with ham, cheese, spinach--the Caesar salad with fresh dressing, the individual meat loaves stuffed with figs and plums, the veggies, and then one of the best and darkest chocolate cakes I have ever tasted. During the entire meal, their Brittany spaniel walked around the tables hoping for a crumb or at least a pat on the head.
It all made for a lovely evening, and on the way out, we all reserved the place for next year.