I like wineries.
I could say “we” like wineries because this is something I share with Ms. Rose although her reasons are not what you’d call ‘identical’ to mine. For one thing, I don’t drink wine. At all. Most businesses that don’t sell a product I use, well, I ignore them. The folks that make marmite? The folks that make SPAM? Disney?
Wineries are different. For one thing, they’re sort of like pizza places (sort of) in that often, smaller is better: the little place in the strip mall in the north end makes better pie than a megacorp ever will. I have no real need for the megacorp but the place in the strip mall is a nice part of the community. Wineries can be like that. And face it — they’re farms. Everyone likes farms. But since they produce a luxury good that people don’t really need it puts a different spin on things. Despite the inherent snootiness there’s something (nice, endearing, entertaining — choose one) about a small business running out of a basement. Or one where the owner buses tables. In the rain.
Add to all that the framing device of a drive in the country with friends and you can sort of see why I like them. (Since I don’t sample the products, well, I drive. I also have a history of taking the wrong road. Sometimes I like that too.) On visits like this my needs are modest — friends, nice dogs, entertaining art, ice cream. Good weather is a bonus. We’ve spent time doing this in several places: California (land of the yellow-billed magpie), Niagara (the only place I’ve seen a swimming pool with a jet ski in it), the Northumberland Strait (which is just a weird place for grapes), Salt Spring Island (walking distance from more heron poo than you can possibly imagine)…
And Prince Edward County.
PEC is about an hour (ish) west of here; it’s that uvula of land that sticks out into Lake Ontario. It’s seen a lot of things over the years but one of the main things is agriculture — in season we buy a lot of our vegetables from there, for example That’s changing: once people discovered that the terroir (a poncy term wine folks use) was suitable for growing grapes. This started in the late 90s. (It’s not a uniformly good thing — its affected land use, real estate prices and a host of other things. That’s a topic for another story, though.)
Anyway, we started making day trips with friends about ten years ago. In those days there weren’t many places to go and (judging by the looks on my companions’ faces) the product wasn’t particularly good. (Not that I cared all that much.) (One consequence of this was that you tended to see the same people at several different places. I remember, for example, a Miata with the top down with two women with baroque hats in it; they went to approximately the same places as us in approximately the same order. Unlike us, though, they didn’t have a designated driver. Also unlike us, they clearly weren’t having a whole lot of fun — it was clear that they were having a fight about something. As the day went on they looked madder and madder. It didn’t help when one of them noticed ‘someone’ smirking. Did I mention how much I like schadenfreude?)
As mentioned, I didn’t care all that much that the products weren’t all that great — there was a reliably nice doggie at one place, many gorgeous views, excellent ice cream and lots of entertaining art. Recall that these places sell luxury goods and so they often do….’something’ to convey the impression of an upscale sort of establishment. One place chose to have extraordinarily nice bathrooms; several chose to have art. One of the biggest places has a gallery onsite; it’s full of neat stuff but the prices range well into five figures. I am not a wealthy houseplant, but fortunately it’s free to look.
Not everything ‘arty’ is that expensive. At the place with the nice doggie there’s some nice stuff that’s only outrageous, at the place with the nice roof (I hit my head sometimes) there’s some reasonably priced stuff that I don’t actually like and at the place that used to be a basement, the winemaker’s mom has done some stuff that I like quite a lot and the prices are (at least comparatively) fairly nonthreatening. (It’s mostly abstract; my friend the accountant hates it, probably because it’s not representational. I suspect. She hates the giant spiders in my front garden, too.)
Fast forward a few years. Add gray hair, a poorer attitude and all the other things that just seem to happen. Things changed; one thing relevant to this story is that the basement was gone (well, not gone exactly, but you know what I mean), replaced by a much bigger, dedicated building.
The county is now a Destination. Frankly, this has robbed a lot of things of much of their charm and my favourite doggie has died of old age. In October a while back there was an Art Show announced for the not-a-basement-any-more. The Artist will be there, new work, yadda yadda yadda. I had finally decided (I don’t do things in a hurry if I can avoid it.) that I would probably buy a particular piece so I dragged Ms. Rose and Mr. OC (a new character, not relevant to the story) to the county for some of the usual stuff followed by a visit to the show. We got there and I scurried around looking for the piece I was interested in.
It wasn’t there. This “dither over a decision until you’re sure there will be no buyer’s remorse” may (I say may) be appropriate for things like, oh, I don’t know, things like cars but is less appropriate to unique things like artwork. In short, I spent some time in pointless self-flagellation.
But there was, as advertised, a lot of new work so I wandered around and checked all of it out. There were some possibilities but none I liked as much as ‘mine.’ Oh well, it was finally time to hit the road. Which meant hitting the WC first. Ms. Rose came out of hers and said that there was a painting hanging in the Ladies. Perhaps it was worth looking at? So I snuck into the Ladies… and there it was. So I stood there with a riot of thoughts and emotions running through my brain. And, of course, I was standing there when a woman came in, wanting to, you know, Use The Necessary and perhaps I would piss off.
So to speak.
I don’t remember the details but this may have happened more than once. (“Creepy old man lurking in the ladies’ bathroom, film at eleven.”) Eventually I made up my tiny little mind (embarrassment can be a powerful motivating force) and went in search of The Artist who graciously didn’t call me creepy and gave me a good price.
Before leaving the county we stopped for dinner at a nice patio thingy and ruined someone’s wedding. (Did I mention schadenfreude?)
And, in case you care, the painting is called ‘Meditation’ and is that blue thing to the right.