Napa Valley Outside In

Surely it's just situational stress. A temporary period of adjustment. Frayed nerves. Depleted bank account with its bottom line rapidly diminishing. Nearly one month after moving to Napa Valley from 1200 miles away with the goal of taking classes to further my career in the wine business I find myself sharing a house with three people and a poodle while waiting with bated breath for the valley to emerge from its long winter's nap and start hiring again when the onset of Tourist Season (roughly concurrent with Bud Break) becomes clearly imminent.

It started with an at first full-out confident location of a really nice place to live that was quickly scaled down to a frenzied quest that ended in a fevered take-no-prisoners approach to finding affordable housing. So. Before we go any further. There's something you should know if you have even the vaguest inkling or inclination to possibly ever remotely begin to think about moving to Napa Valley even if it's only in your wildest imaginings... living here is expensive as hell.

Just as while during my initial approach to my destination driving north from Interstate 80 I came to the abrupt realization that Napa Valley is only a few token miles away from the suburbs of San Francisco, shortly thereafter I came to the even more abrupt realization that rental prices here are only a few token dollars away from those in The City by the Bay (translate: outrageous).

Yes, I dutifully did my internet research before moving here. But unsuspecting outsider that I was I crashed headfirst into the cruel and unexpected reality that "Cute One Bedroom Apartment in Restored Victorian $960 per month" translated quite mercilessly into "Small, bleak one bedroom apartment in a rundown stucco-ed over (please say it ain't so!) Victorian in a neighborhood where one's safety would seriously be called into question.

After more than a few nightmarish run-ins of that nature ("private cottage in St. Helena $1100 per month" turns out to be a studio apartment over an unkempt gasoline-infused two-car garage) I've opted temporarily for a "house share." Poodle included at no extra charge. I try not to think too much about the fact that before I moved here I was renting a beautiful one bedroom home with a European kitchen and breathtaking views for little more than I'm paying now for a room with kitchen privileges. But all of this is surely just temporary till I most certainly soon shall find a more suitable place to live.

But wait! Spring is finally here. The relentlessly cheerful yellow mustard blossoms are in bloom and so are pre-tourist season winery job openings. There is an air of anticipation as tender young grapevine leaves emerge just as numerous job postings pop up on winejobs.com, wineandhospitialityjobs.com and craigslist.com.

Just as I am about to max out on any last fingernail surface area remotely usable for nail biting I find a job as a wine educator at what my friend refers to as a "Napa Valley Icon Winery," adding that everyone back home (contrary to my humble opinion) thinks I'm doing great. That's what friends are for.

With my first wave (OK, ripple) of prosperity in the enological equivalent of the Promised Land I buy an amazingly delectable loaf of local artisan olive bread, a small slab of scrumptious pate campignon from San Francisco, a delicious ramekin of goat cheese from Sonoma County and a thoroughly enjoyable 2005 Napa Creek Petite Sirah with a Stag's Leap District pedigree for only $7.79 a bottle.

Stealing a moment of solitude whilst very briefly the only one home, I relax on the couch in front of the gas log fireplace and enjoy the very first fledgling fruits (including the grapest fruit of all) of my labors here in Napa Valley.

Who knows. Maybe, just maybe, I might come to like it here after all.

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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.