It all began in the summer of 2008. Just like any relationship, we certainly had our own bumps in the road. My heart, empty and alone, yearned to be back in the college town where I met my future husband, where even without GPS – I could find my way back to the dorms, and where a historic downtown was just big enough for a Fred Meyers and still small enough for an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. But, I wasn’t in college anymore and so – here I was .. in a once “Tractor Barn” .. now a makeshift “Town House” in the middle of an orchard, with a St. Bernard puppy and a new fiance to boot.. in a place known as the Yakima Valley.
You endured the growing pains with me – as I stumbled my way through those “firsts” – first (and shortest) temp job gone wrong – filling in for the front desk at a place called Freightliner Trucks, what in the world was I thinking.. first major car accident – flying over the median on black ice – you really should have warned me of those harsh winters! First float down the Yakima river – I’ll never forget the beauty of the canyon on both sides of me, the ice-cold water on that 100 degree day – and of course the friends I shared this experience with – one of the greatest river floats, ever! First real grown-up home! What started as a “let’s go check this Zillah Lakes place out” – turned into a “We’ll make this happen somehow” over a glass of wine at Case of the Blues. And on the exact day I initially met my husband (Sept 25th) – Nate & I signed ALL those papers and became the official homeowners of a 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom townhouse … conveniently located just minutes away from more wineries than we even knew about.
Speaking of wineries, I had no idea – that some of these wineries would become near and dear to my heart – but I have a hunch.. you knew this all along, didn’t you? I would love to say that “What happens in Wine Country STAYS in Wine Country” … but to keep such a secret would be a shame – and after our first Spring Barrel weekend, I couldn’t help but spread the word, and that’s when I became attached – I wanted to share this experience with friends – so I did… and some of the BEST memories were made – whether it was catching up with old college friends, hanging out with co-workers, or spending time with my husband over a lazy weekend, it mostly – happened somewhere in Wine Country. It’s like my aunt says, “We all know that the oyster is simply the agent used to transport the garlic butter.” Same goes here – Wine Country is the secret ingredient that mixes friends and grapes, barreled and aged into vintage memories. You end up going back to some of your favorites along the way — not even realizing of memories yet to come … sometimes life changing, sometimes heart breaking, and sometimes .. well, there are those quiet moments you just can’t let go of – and you’ll wish you could stay just a little while longer.
I have a few of those places and I think of them often…a cocktail with one of my best friends at the Carousel, a glass of bubbly and a breathtaking view at Treveri, a slice of gourmet pizza and heaven (as another bestie would say) at Dineen, a glass of my favorite Riesling while my mind wanders amongst the duck pond and also where I almost always hear a good story told by none other than the Wine Goddess herself, neighborhood Christmas parties at Two Mountain, old and new friendships formed at Whisper – I will always remember that place as Whisper, and the wine (especially the Syrah) – will always be some of my favorite too! A cheerful smile and friendly conversation at Cultura..and that vineyard tour and Irish tales at Owen Roe .. I’ve only mentioned a few, and could easily go on ..but I won’t spoil it for the rest who have yet to fall in love with YOU – The Yakima Valley, just as I have over the last 9 years.
I hated that saying “You’ll find true love when you stop looking,” especially when I was still single. But, it’s true – I really wasn’t looking to fall in love with this Valley. I knew plenty (born and raised here) that detest it… and yet… they still stay. That’s fine, because I’ve seen more people who live here, who go to school and come back to live here, who love this Valley just like I’ve come to love it… and they outnumber all of those Negative Nancy’s. I’ve found myself defending you – more often times than not – to strangers, to friends of friends, to others who need to hear it and heck – some of them have moved away, and they can stay away… in fact, they can just continue with keeping Portland weird and never come back – because they don’t deserve you!
Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t fallen so hard for you – it would have been easier to walk away. But, you touched my heart with 300 days of sunshine, fresh picked blue berries, some of the best wine varietals .. ever, more friends than a girl could ask for, and cherished vintage memories that I will keep close and think on when I’ve had a rough day and could easily go for a “5:01” – yet even another memory that brings a smile to my face.
My last week here was bittersweet – I started thinking about all my “lasts” – my last late night drink with friends downtown, my last happy hour with Steph at our favorite spot, my last swim in the pool, my last cup of coffee with neighbors and a visit with the cat we share, my last walks at lunch with friends from previous jobs, my last Monday morning meeting – the banter between John & Mike…and Rich.. and especially Brynn – well, goodness – I’ll miss all the banter, my last FAM Tour, my last sunset in my own backyard, my last scenic drive home…and honestly my hardest “last” – was saying goodbye to you. I’m still not over you…I talk about you all of the time. While waiting in line at the Oregon DMV, I talked you up to someone who mentioned that her son just moved to Olympia… Well, who cares about Olympia, I immediately filled her in on Wine Country and all of your charms – needless to say, she and her son now have plans to meet you. My husband just laughs with a “You just can’t turn it off, can you?!” And the answer is – I guess not. But, these vintage memories you’ve given me are priceless and that is what I’ll choose to think of when I say my last goodbye.