My husband and I lived in Sonoma for six years. I loved our life, and I loved Sonoma, so much so that I wrote a travel guide to Sonoma's small family wineries. Then, in 2007, my husband announced over dinner one night—and with heartbreaking appetite—that he wanted a divorce. I fled to New York for nine months, but I had to return to California because I had promised my publisher another travel guide, this one to the small family wineries of Napa.
I wasn't eager to spend time in Napa: I thought of it as the land of flashy second homes and huge wine estates. But in the month I spent there researching, I saw a different side of the valley—a place that's vibrant, young and far more accessible and friendly than I'd embarrassingly assumed.
To help me get started on the Napa book, a friend recommended I try the breakfast tasting at Andrew Lane, a family-owned winery that's open to the public by appointment. So one morning at 8 a.m., I met with vintner Drew Dickson for the "Cheval Blanc breakfast"—named in honor of the famous Bordeaux château. This included English muffins topped with his friend's homemade Cabernet Franc jelly (the grapes are from Andrew Lane's vineyard) and a glass of Andrew Lane Merlot. "Every day a holiday, every day a feast," Dickson toasted, lifting a line from his old football coach at St. Helena High School.