Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Spent a toasty day in Napa yesterday for my good friend Llama's birthday. Apparently Dubya decided to come along too, because as we settled in to our first tasting, we found out they'd be closing all the main drags in a few minutes since he was due to meet with The Governator for a photo op at Sutter Home or some such. Erghh.

I always forget how the weather changes when you drive the short 30 or 40 miles north. It was 80 and sunny and I'll be damned if rolling by row after row of grapes ripening along the highway didn't just make me want to move there immediately, what with the sun and the front porches and the vines and the trellises and all.

We ended up with not enough time at Darioush. There's a good story there if you're not familiar with the winery. The owner's only been in the biz since '97, and after beginning with a double-wide trailer on his property there in Napa, they've now built a gorgeous Persepolis-inspired winery complete with lily pads and pillars and more green grass than I've seen in awhile. I was prepared to pitch a tent in that front yard and just spend the night.

It was a good reminder that so much of Napa's big wine industry began as an earthy, homespun love for the grape itself. And that at the end of the day, all of these sparkling, grandiose commercial wineries are just a front for what really goes on in the fields.



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