Gossip Flows as Freely as Wine in Napa Valley

Month four, job two since I moved to Napa Valley and things have changed a lot. I've found a wonderful new job that I really enjoy and I'm learning tremendously much. I've recovered from Napa Valley Sticker Shock Syndrome and blithely shell out fifteen bucks for a burger. And though chances were iffy at first at best I can honestly say I'm now happy.

When I registered for my first certification course they sent me a rectangular object. It had pages in it but I soon found out it was only thinly disguised as a book. In reality it was fact after fact after fact with a few token phrases tossed in. They could have skipped the niceties, sent me a stack of flash cards and kindly told me to have at it.

"What is saccharomyces cerevisae?" Wait a minute. Don't tell me. I know I know the answer to that! It seems the only thing I need to know for the exam is the answer to every question ever asked by man since time as we know it began.

Here's the month in review:

Best interview question I was asked while seeking new employment? "What would your ultimate wine dream job be if you could do anything you wanted to do?" ME: "To travel all over Europe buying cases and cases of wine!" A much more prudent thing to say? "To work for your winery and your winery alone for forever and ever and a day!"

New local term of the month, House Palate Fatigue which, I'm told, is when you work for a single winery so long that you've grown weary of tasting their wines. If someone now tells you they're got HPF at least you won't suspect the worst.

Most interesting new local fact? That during Prohibition there were speakeasies in St. Helena at the back of some Main Street stores. They featured a sliding wooden door that was layers and layers thick so that unwanted persons couldn't break in.

And finally last but most definitely not least, best new piece of advice that made a profound impression on me? "If you leave a job, if you break up with someone, please stay friends. It's a very small valley."

OK, so now I've finally seen the grand galactic design. There were times when I first moved here I found myself asking deep existential questions like, "What am I doing here? Where is this leading to? Why is this happening to me?" But it was just a winsomely wise cosmic chain of events in which one thing led to another.

Though my first job here was more than a wee way down my personal ladder of success, unbeknownst to me magical things were happening whilst I was quietly bemoaning my fate. I became friends with a coworker whose tasting group I joined where I met a person who worked at a really great place that eventually had an opening for the position I've now happily filled. Today does not equal tomorrow

So there you have it. It isn't the situation I first made it out to be. Yes it matters "who you know," but it also matters who you are. And though it might take a while for the locals to let you into what at first seems their iron clad closed-door clan, if you're warm and open and as passionate about wine as they are – meaning if it's the center of your entire world -- you'll meet people you never dreamed of and soon become someone who "knows someone," too.

And that's the key. Because most jobs here are never advertised. You hear about them by word of mouth. Just like you hear about the latest gossip which -- oh, not all that surprisingly – runs rather rampant here. As a friend of mine put it, "It's not just who's sleeping with whom but how that changes with time of day."

To put it bluntly, it's a Peyton Place with Grapes. But not only is everyone living in the same small place, they're working in the same small business, too. One might honestly wonder why people think they won't get caught. Sounds like a question they'll ask on my exam.

There's so much more to Napa Valley than its Disneyland for Adults facade, and I'm liking it here more and more. At first I came to Napa Valley to take classes with no real plans to stay. But now living here is becoming -- well -- a way of life. A little more so each day.

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For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.