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Excerpts: From the Introduction

We’re standing in the sunny tasting room of Luna Vineyards at the south end of Napa Valley. I can’t resist

“I have a dumb question,” I say.

My best friend, Hank, is standing next to me. He doesn’t know what I’m about to ask, but he’s heard this sort of start before. He begins to distance himself. There’s no real motion. It’s almost a metaphysical move. It just becomes clear he is no part of what’s coming.

“We hear everything,” says the woman pouring the wine for visitors. Her name is Joyce and she is friendly. I take that as encouragement.

“I read somewhere,” I say, “that you’re supposed to swirl wine counterclockwise.  “Because we’re in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s the way water goes down a drain. Counterclockwise.”

Joyce looks at me. That’s all, just looks at me for a bit.

“You know, I’ve never heard that,” she finally says. “I don’t know.”

There is no one else in the tasting room. Joyce says maybe she could ask their winemaker, because, you never know. She picks up a phone behind the little tasting bar and gets him after a couple tries.

Yes, uh-huh, yeah,” she says into the phone. “Really? Me, too. Hey, thanks.”

Joyce hangs up and turns toward me.

He says that’s the stupidest thing he’s ever heard,” she says.

That, right there, was pretty much our story for most of a wine season. Hank and I were on our trip – our Quest, really – to visit every tasting room in every winery in Napa through one cycle of the valley, spring to fall, from bud break to crush. Despite the sporadic flair up of a stupid question, the Quest gave us a nine-month, cheerful adventure and a running tutorial in the ways of Napa Valley and of wine.

It let us watch a season on the vine, it let us see the whole of Napa – its personality, its people and its enchantment – and it let us glimpse the enormous, lively soul of American wine.

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