The best holiday: Family, friends… and wine!

November 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampsonI like Thanksgiving a lot, because it coincides with the best holiday of the year. For want of a better name, I’ll call it Winotopia.

The day after Thanksgiving, we rent a big van and load up any leftover relatives, friends, enemies and random people who happen to be hanging around the house and head for the wineries. I don’t know how many wineries there are in the Willamette Valley, but there are a lot. In the 10 years or so we’ve been doing this – I lost count – we’ve gone to a lot of them. Some years we target a certain area and go to the specific wineries that are on our radar.

Other years, we load up the van and head out, with no plans whatsoever.

In the years we’ve been celebrating Winotopia, we’ve gone to big wineries, little wineries, fancy wineries and wineries where the kitchen doubled as the tasting room. We’ve tasted all sorts of wines, but Pinot noir is still the headliner of the Western Oregon wine show.

Interestingly enough, the thing I like most about wine-tasting isn’t the wine. It’s getting together with people we only get to see once in a while and enjoying their company away from the pressures of Thanksgiving. They come from Alaska and around the Northwest and we just talk, tell stories, goof around and enjoy each other’s company.

It’s like Thanksgiving, but without the work.

That’s my only hangup with Thanksgiving. We get into this expectation of having a “traditional” dinner that involves an infinite amount of work. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rolls, pies. … Ugh.

By the time we sit down, I’m worn out.

Then there’s the clean-up, which takes another couple of hours. By then you can stick a fork in me, because I’m done, and swearing never to do that again, until the next year when we find ourselves back in the same cycle.

On Winotopia, we don’t worry about food. Most wineries serve food these days, and when we get really hungry we just explore whatever restaurants are in the area. To me, that’s as much fun as the wine part. We’ve found cool little restaurants tucked away in Carlton, Newberg – wherever we happen to be.

But again, the point isn’t the food. It’s the camaraderie.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a typical day after Thanksgiving. We could hang out and eat leftovers, watch some football, or do whatever comes to mind. Or we could do the Black Friday thing and buy socks or whatever it is that’s on sale at four in
the morning.

I’m not much of a football fan – with the exception of my beloved Eagles and Vikings – and I sure as hell am not going shopping in the middle of the night for any reason. I don’t care if they’re throwing flat panel TVs out the back of a truck for free, I’m not getting up before breakfast unless the house is on fire.

Which brings me back to my favorite holiday, the holiday that is more fun and less hassle than any other. It’s the holiday that is what other holidays aspire to be. Winotopia.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor from Stayton. He is the designated driver every Winotopia.

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