Napa California (Part 3 – The Wedding)

I check the time on my cell phone. Who needs a watch these days? The wedding is supposed to start at 6:30, that is about 45 minutes from now. That is plenty enough time to get a feel for V. Sattui winery by meandering about the grounds. First though we want mingle with the guests that have arrived early, like us, and wedding participants. There are lots of folks from my work and family members and friends of the bride and groom whom neither V nor I are familiar with. That is what weddings do, bring people together in a celebration. Right? The air is filled with eager expectation. It hangs heavy in the air, almost as palpable as the scent of grapes in the still fall evening air just before harvest.

"The Guest Book"

“The Guest Book”

We are greeted by a pretty usherette and she informs us that instead of a guest book the couple has placed a large format bottle on a table and desire that guests sign that. V hands me the camera telepathically telling me she is taking charge of signing the bottle, or maybe she knows how mischievous I can be and doesn’t want that to be indelibly inscribed on such an significant artifact.

The groom happens to be walking about greeting guests and he takes time to come over to talk with us. We miss J&L – they transferred to the East Coast for work. Most up-and-comers have to be mobile these days and J&L – she’s part of the deal too, are no exception to that reality in today’s corporate world. We catch-up, talking cars mostly, life in VA/MD/DC some, and business – not so much. Realizing we can’t monopolize the groom and sensing he needs to be with other guests, too, we figure out how to end this time gracefully and he now has freedom to circulate.

We start our walk about the grounds. V is taking pictures of the venue where the ceremony is to take place, the surrounding facility,IMG_6227IMG_6234 IMG_6232and this and that which catches her eye. There is an abundance of foliage on the grounds, it is a very established winery after all. The grape vines throughout the facility all seem to be about a month in advance of the vines in Washington because they are exhibiting clusters of just developing grapes.

The Babies

The Babies

The vines in WA are getting the first shoots and are only just now promising something will indeed happen after the long winter’s rest. There are wine barrels for sale, too, we notice.IMG_6235

Where did the time go! We need to hustle back to the terrace because it is just about time for guests to be seated and heaven forbid we are late for that. V wants a good seat to take pictures. Before we start down the stone stairs to the seating we see a stack of pamphlets titled “The Perfect Guest Guide To Our Wedding.”

The Guide

The Guide

V picks one up and I do the same. If anything we want to be doubly perfect and not cause a social faux-pas. It wouldn’t do to have someone glaring at us because we missed some major step like standing when we are supposed to be sitting, hollering when the bride and groom kiss, or creating an international incident. Then again, V is the one skilled in the social graces, I am the hillbilly in a clever disguise so it would most likely be me, not she, that would be jeopardizing the entire affair.

V slides her arm inside mine just like those folks one always sees on TV or the movies and it feels just like it was always meant to be there. I guess that is the signal we should start down the stairs and find the seat.

We find the perfect seats, get settled, and start reading the pamphlet. “Good” I think to myself then point out to V “They’ve have got the ways to avoid an international incident covered. We’re good there. What a relief!”

V is looking a little disappointed. I ask, “What’s up, V?” She points to the part of the pamphlet I haven’t got to yet, focused as I’ve been on the international incident thing. “No photographs during the ceremony,” it reads. I look at V again and try to put the best spin on it I can. “You got some great pictures of before the event and perhaps something will present itself after.” She sighs, turns off the camera and puts it away.

I start thinking about other weddings I’ve witnessed, all as individual as the couples which commit to each other. I think about “The Butte Pyramid” at my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding, and walking her down the aisle to give her away. I think back to a certain “Lifted Blue Ford Truck” roaring up the road bringing my daughter to her waiting groom and guests. I also remember wearing a tux with a top hat at that wedding for the one and only time I’ve ever wore one of those hats. Man, I wanted to keep that hat. As I am on “Reminisce Road” I remember my sister and my daughter and their respective husbands are having anniversaries in a couple or three weeks. I think about the day V&I said “I Do” and “I Will” before witnesses in an outdoor ceremony at a winery in Prosser. I remember the profuse perspiration. It was, and continues to be as of this writing anyways, the hottest day on record for that day in August.

I am snapped back to the present, the little flower girls are walking down the stairs and that means this ceremony will unfold in its perfect way. I pull the cell phone out of my jacket pocket to make sure the ringer is off and I notice the time is 6:30 on the button. Project Management 101, “Start Right – End Right.” I’ll wager this project is on or under budget too. That’d be crass to ask, so I’ll never know for sure. Look up crass to see if I’m not right.

The groom hasn’t wanted to see the bride before the ceremony, but we kind of got a glimpse of her though as we were walking around the grounds. I say to V, “I’ll bet you J starts tearing up when he sees the beautiful bride.” V answers, “I’ll not gamble on that.” L starts her entrance along the terrace walkway which circles above the guests seated in the lower area. I switch my glance back to J, he cuts his eyes up and to the right. But very quickly and then he is fixated on the stairs she will descend. The temptation was too great not to peek. Who among us mere mortals could resist that temptation? She rounds the corner, stands at the stop of the stairs, J takes in a deep inward breath and even from the middle row of the seated guests V&I both can see his eyes are getting misty. Who among us mere mortals could resist – L was as beautiful a bride as there ever was. Look up radiant and it will have a picture of L on her wedding day.

The ceremony proceeds apace and yet it includes a little special segment which surprises V&I. The couple has incorporated a wine ritual inside the wedding ceremony. The families gather up at the area where the nuptials are taking place and then they each pour a carafe of wine into a single vessel then pour that blend into glasses and share. To quote V, “Oh My!” To quote me, “That is so awesome!” That was just before an elbow found its way to the right ribcage of the cleverly disguised hillbilly.

The vows are completed. “The Kiss” with the subsequent whoops at the top of the collective lungs of most of the guests are a fun memory. Thankfully, the pamphlet did not say we couldn’t whoop it up at that moment. The bride and groom have ascended the stairs; off to the mandatory post ceremony pictures. We too now file up the stairs for the hors d’oeuvres (I have a story that includes me, that word, and my mom, that I’ve told to only a few close associates and they have taken a vow of silence on the matter) and wine; Semillon, Rosato, & Syrah, to keep the guests from getting too restless during the portrait session. Good planning on the bride and groom’s part. I remember the tuna tartar with wasabi in a small finger sized waffle cone. They were incredible. V remembers little melt-in-the-mouth steak bites served on rosemary sprigs. Maybe J&L are eating those…IMG_6268

We are now getting invited downstairs to the cellar room for dinner by the fathers of the bride and groom. No worries about where we are sitting, seems like there is a seating chart in the pamphlet. Project Management 101, “Remember the Details.” “Wowser!” I am grinning as I ponder the effort that went into coordination of this event. There is no worry about what seats we are sitting at either as there are little placards stuck into corks, of course there are, at each place setting, IMG_6285 perfect for the cleverly disguised hillbilly. Now, if I can just get the sequence of the tableware I’ll be solid. Good thing V is there to lean on. Her social graces will skillfully guide me through the rest of the evening, no worries there.

Dinner consists of a beautiful salad IMG_6320paired with Riesling, the entree; beef filet, mashed potato and green beans, paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a desert bar paired with Madeira and Muscat. IMG_6326With each wine pairing one of J’s good friends gave a little rundown on each. Before any of that happens though we toasted the happy couple with a “Cuvee.”

With dinner and customary toasts complete, including our own little “Clink” to each other, it is time to dance and bask in the romanticism of the evening and venue. IMG_6279IMG_6282IMG_6273We danced our customary slow dances but this time there were four! In a row! Yes, I was keeping track. What a night! What a wedding! We don’t want to leave, but we must. Guests are filing out and the DJ is folding up his musical shop. Project Management 101, “Know what and when the end of the project looks like.” It all went by so incredibly quick…

We are in line to bid the bride and groom our congratulations and our best wishes for a long and happy life together – we observe guests leaving with bottles in hand. It seems the bride and groom are giving us a gift to thank us for sharing their special day. Are you kidding me? This has not ever occurred at any wedding I’ve ever attended prior to this one. I asked V and she concurred that it had not happened at any wedding she had ever attended either. That was extraordinarily gracious and generous. IMG_6703

When we get back to the hotel and talk over all that we experienced this afternoon and evening we decided that we were most impressed with the Marriage Covenants that were on the back of the pamphlet. We will leave the determination of how important those are to you.

The Covenants

The Covenants

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6 Responses to Napa California (Part 3 – The Wedding)

  1. Glenna Moulthrop says:

    Sounds like a perfect wedding setting!


    • benndunn says:

      It was! Quite remarkable to say the least!!! Thanks for keeping up with our adventures and commenting as well. It means a great deal to the both of us that you do that.

  2. Gayle Richards says:

    Thank you so much for this fun and insightful writing. My mom and I were planning on attending the wedding of Lisa (my 2nd cousin) and John but three weeks prior, we had to cancel. It was such a disappointment. Reading your blog brought much of it to life for me. We, obviously, missed out on a lot more than witnessing the vows of a special couple!

  3. vanessa says:

    i felt like i was transported to CA and was sitting right beside you two and enjoying the market earlier in the day…great writing, Benn

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