Last week, I flew to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding in Sonoma. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I had been invited to two weddings in Healdsburg, both on the same day. Two separate couples, otherwise unknown to each other, neither from Sonoma (one couple lives in Berkeley, the other in DC). Something like this was bound to happen this summer during my own, personal version of 27 Dresses – 12 weddings this year.

But, every 12-wedding summer has its silver lining. For some, it might be loose-moraled bridesmaids. For me, however, it was finding myself close to a winery I’d discovered through my job here at Lot18. On the drive out to my friend’s house in Geyserville on Friday afternoon, I noticed that we were less than five-minutes from the Trione Vineyards. That night we strolled around Healdsburg and went to one of the few bars in Sonoma Friday night (where both wedding parties happened to be). Saturday morning we woke up to a cloudy Northern California day. So my girlfriend and I made our way to Trione for a pre-wedding tasting. We tasted the full range of wines, and we especially enjoyed the reds.

What really made the experience stand out was what happened next. As we were enjoying our wines at the counter, a man sidled up next to us and introduced himself as Mark Trione. (A vintner dropping into the tasting room, I hear, is a bit like eating at  Babbo and having Mario Batali actually serve you) Mark told us that he and his brother run the vineyards and winery that their father began over 40 years ago, with a 50-acre parcel. They now cultivate 750 acres of grapes, just 10 percent of which make it to their Trione label. Mark’s good nature and warmhearted family story helped us appreciate the wines that much more. Sure, we were lucky to meet the owner of a great winery, but chance encounters and run-ins of all kinds – whether with proprietors, other likeminded visitors who share their favorite spots, whomever – are what make visiting wine country such a vibrant experience. 

Seeing the land, the grapes and the people behind what’s in the bottle combine to foster a connection to that which would otherwise just be palate-pleasing. For the first time, I felt as though understanding this is what allows one to experience the wine, not just taste it.

Just as we started suiting up for the wedding, the afternoon sun burned off the clouds. Needless to say, the wedding in wine country was picture perfect. But while the weekend may be over, we can turn back the clocks and relive the weekend next time we pop open one of the bottles we brought home with us.