Shortly after getting married back in 1983, we took a driving trip west from Houston that included a stop in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Brian had never been to Carlsbad Caverns and Jean remembered going on a family vacation years ago, so it seemed like good place to visit. Now, if you’ve never been to Carlsbad in the middle of the summer – it’s hot; real hot. So the thought of going down into a cave where the temperature stays at a constant 63 degrees seemed almost luxurious. We started down the walkway – civilized with handrails for our safety and could immediately feel the temperature starting to drop. We marveled at the rock formations, the stalagmites and stalactites (do you know the difference between the two?) protruding from the floor and dropping down from the ceiling. As we continued our descent, the temperature dropped rapidly as did our light, now only coming from the walking path provided for our convenience. Can you imagine what it must have looked like when the first spelunkers searched the caverns? Not knowing if their next step would be their last? Not knowing why the air inside the cave was so pungent – bat guano will do that! One thing was certain . . . this place was cool. Not just the temperature, but the entire experience was amazing, and as we continued our stroll down into the belly of the cave, we came upon and entered this huge room that looked like – well, it looked like a lunch room in a school cafeteria. And guess what? It was a lunch room and it was the ‘stopping point’ of the tour, so people could say they ate lunch or a snack or dinner in the cave. We were so impressed – we bought the post card of the lunch room (yes, we still have it – tucked in one of those many tubs in the garage!). And before we left to back up to the surface, we placed a call on pay phone (don’t see those much anymore) to Jean’s Mom, Margaret who was celebrating her birthday!
One of the best parts about enjoying wine is meeting others who share a common bond. The more we get ‘into’ wine, the more people we meet who are either ‘into it’ as much as we are or are on their way. As a result of the successful Chamber program called, Shining Stars Under 40, Brian got to meet the Publisher/Owner of BobcatFans Magazine, Rick Koch, and at their first face to face meeting in Brian’s office, a bond was struck on one topic – wine. Rick had just gotten back from a trip to Napa Valley with his wife, Tiffany . . . celebrating their tenth anniversary. Tonight we had the opportunity to share a bottle of wine that they enjoyed on their trip to Napa. From the conversation, we learned about this winery where every part of the wine making process (except growing the grapes) is done in a cave and they don’t ship the wine out of the cave until it has aged to drinking perfection. So they shared with us a 2005 Jarvis Vineyard’s Lake William blend from Napa – and what a treat it was! Upon opening, the color in our glasses was a deep burgundy. A quick swirl confirmed the sugar content must be impressive because the legs were long and plentiful! Since it had been chilled prior to opening, we sampled it chilled and then warmed it up in the glass with our hands and sipped again. It’s amazing how a wine can change from a chilled temperature to room temperature, but it’s one of the many fascinating things about enjoying a bottle of wine.
The wine has lots of fruit on the nose along with some oak, vanilla and some spice. The taste gave some real nice black cherry and when it had warmed to room temperature, there was a really nice peppery finish to it. Combined with some delicious Italian food from Ilario’s (this is a brand new restaurant in Kyle and well worth the visit – tell Steve, the owner ‘Hello’ from us), the wine held up to pasta, vegetables, garlic, lasagna and bread. As we enjoyed the wine, we shared our love of wine and learned of their love of wine – and as we’ve said numerous times, the best part of enjoying wine is enjoying with other folks who enjoy it as well. Even better was learning from Rick and Tiffany about the way the wine was made and the tasting experience they enjoyed . . . down in the cave – in Napa. And while we didn’t enjoy any wine during our trip to Carlsbad Caverns, we did make a brief return trip to the same place three summers ago. Amid a rare desert rain storm, we sat in the car in the parking lot having a glass of wine with good friends outside the cave eating cheese, crackers, fruit and hummus while enjoying a bottle of wine. We missed the bats that night, and Jean didn’t get her neon mining hard hat (complete with light) – but there’s always time for another road trip.
So, whether you’re at Carlsbad Caverns or in Napa, California – when you get a chance to go into the cave – go for it – it’s a really cool place!
Please remember to enjoy your wines responsibly and recycle whenever possible.