Friday, June 08, 2007

Return to the Wine Cellar

It had been a few years since we last visited the wine cellar. Recently, we usually longingly peer in through the windows while pushing a stroller load of kids on our way to somewhere that would illicit squeals of delight from the kids rather than squeals of delight from me.

Over the past few years, I’ve missed the wine cellar, and if there was anywhere in our lives “where everybody knows your name” and they called out “Norm!” when you walk in the room, it was the wine cellar. We had a regular table. We had a regular wine. We didn’t have to order anything because Lori, Zoe, and Cheri knew what we liked; we always started with Fess Parker’s Riesling and ended with a Delaforce Port or a Muscat. We knew about their lives, their kids, their ambitions. The three women sent up a bottle of our favorite wine to our room on our wedding night… and a wedding gift was waiting for us too (the candelabra that currently sits on our sideboard).

We had good times, and if we were sitting around on a weekend with nothing to do, inevitably we would gravitate to the wine cellar. And we would always meet interesting people there, as there is something about wine that attracts social people, especially those that are escaping the kitsch of The Mouse for something a little more refined.

Our interest in wine started in 1993, soon after I took a wines and spirits class at Cal Poly with a couple of fraternity brothers, and I learned that education equals appreciation. Wine was no longer a foreign territory left to the high-brows. Knowing more about wine was a far cry from the weekend Kara and I spent in Tombstone with a bottle of God remembers what, but it had a screw cap and came in some funky carafe. After the class (essentially four hours of on-campus wine tasting every Wednesday night) I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like. However, I don’t remember how we discovered the wine cellar at the Disneyland Hotel, but back then, it was almost an unknown entity. Hidden underneath a stuffy steak house that only execs in suits ate at after conventions, rarely was it crowded.

Years went by. We became fixtures there. They remodeled the whole wine cellar, removing the 70s dusty cellar look with the wine barrels for tables, the lacquered table-tops with antique labels underneath and the one corner that had a rock ceiling. After that, it looked posh, Italian and up-scale. Upstairs they changed the unDisney Granville’s steakhouse to a very Disney Hook’s Pointe… and the people came. Our regular table was sometimes taken by out-of-towners, and sometimes… egads, our wine was out of stock because people, fresh from Frontier Land, wanted to try a little bit of Dave Crockett’s wine.

Well, more years went by, and then children. We didn’t think it would be appropriate to bring a baby into a wine bar. We did it once and it was a disaster, so we vowed, never again.

So, as a result, we never went there until just the other night… on our second date in as many years. We haven’t been to the wine cellar in a couple of years, but the second we walked down the familiar stone steps and swung open the familiar heavy wooden door, Lori starts up a conversation with us as if we hadn’t been there in a week, much less a couple of years. She talked with us as if we never left, remembering our favorite wine...and even giving us a complementary taste, like the old days.

We settled into our usual table and began to chat. There’s a funny thing about the wine cellar, the people you meet. Everyone’s a little friendlier around wine, and that’s not just the wine talking. I think regular folks see it as an experience, to sit in a wine bar and have a glass of something you wouldn’t normally have, and they subconsciously want to share it with everyone, to make sure that everyone is having a nice a time as they are.

It was a good date, reminiscent of years long past.
Perhaps we’ll go again sometime, but until then, here is a photo montage of us over the years.

My, how we’ve changed.

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