I haven’t posted much in a while, so I thought I’d tell you about my weekend.
Several months ago, I purchased a GroupOn for a wine and cheese tasting at Leonesse Cellars, a winery in Temecula. I realized last week that it was going to expire in July, so I asked Mike if he wanted to use it on some weekend in June. We didn’t have any plans for Saturday June 12, and I don’t like calling strangers, so I asked if he’d see if they had an opening on Saturday afternoon. After a couple of days and a reminder or two, he reported back that we were scheduled for a 2pm tasting.
So up we drove to Temecula! (It’s about an hour north of San Diego on I-15). We got there early because we were paranoid about traffic, and of course the freeways were clear, probably partially thanks to the World Cup. Sorry soccer fans, but neither of us care much about sporting events. Mike remarked the next day when we encountered a bit of traffic on our drive to church that everybody should go home and watch the superbowl or something. But I digress.
We met a few other couples around our age in the VIP tasting room and one older couple. Amusingly enough, all of the younger folks had purchased the GroupOn and we took the opportunity to enlighten the older folks. We shortly began a journey through about 10 wines, many of them paired with a nibble of cheese or chocolate. (I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a huge platter of cheese and crackers for us to figure out our own favorite pairings, but oh well.) Our host was a nice man named Joel who clearly loved his job and helped strike up fun conversations. Partway through the tasting, an older couple came in the room with a coupon for some premium tasting and Joel was momentarily flummoxed. Nobody minded the disruption, though, and we all carried on having a good time.
As the hour-plus drew to a close, we were debating which wines to purchase and Mike was briefly consumed by a conversation about wind and solar power with the “premium tasters.” We decided it would be nice to go on a walk around the vineyard since it was such a nice day, and besides, we couldn’t drive away just after each consuming 10+ ounces of wine!
We started off on a clearly marked trail, and after a few minutes Mike suggested we walk down a row of vines. Really? We were both in flip-flops and it was covered in hay – the prickly kind. I almost refused in favor of the marked trail, but I let him talk me into it. Sure enough, a bit over halfway through the row of vines there were prickly bits in my shoes. It felt a bit like that joke where the idiot swims 2/3 of the way to land from a desert island, gets tired, and turns around…so we had little choice but to continue on. Mike seemed oddly interested in what he called a hawk box – a birdhouse of sorts mounted on a tall white PVC pipe on a small rise. When we got to it, he seemed disappointed that there wasn’t a view. Well duh, we’re between two rows of vines in the middle of a vineyard.
Not to be deterred, once we exited the prickly hay and were back on something resembling a dirt road, Mike suggested we walk to a hill that might actually deliver a view of the valley. Now, I’m all for views, but it was hot and dusty and I had already walked through a very pokey vineyard, so I may have complained a bit. We finally got to the base of the hill he wanted to climb. I thought he was nuts, but I also thought something was up. So I let him drag me up the hill, purse and camera in tow, until we were standing on a lovely and breezy hilltop next to another white PVC pipe staked in the ground, this one lacking a hawk box.
I gave Mike a big hug and thanked him for convincing me to hike up here, because the view really was spectacular and the cool breeze was a welcome relief. I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures. Mike was oddly silent, so I turned around…
There he was, down on one knee, with the most loving look in his eye, holding out a ring. Not just any ring – my mother’s old ring, which I recognized instantly. “Meredith, will you marry me?” he asked with the utmost sincerity. “Of course I will!” I cried, momentarily ignoring the ring, and rushed into his arms before he had the chance to stand up. My camera was still open and it was smashed between us before I had the sense to let him stand up, secure the camera, and give him another all-encompassing hug.
The next few hours were filled with photos, phone calls to family, talking with our host Joel who was in on it the whole time, a snack, and just sitting around basking in the lovely ambiance of the winery and the excitement of our engagement.
We soon realized that we didn’t have dinner plans, and we needed some. The winery offered up a few suggestions for local restaurants and nearby wineries that had restaurants attached, but after calling a few of them it was clear that everything was booked until 8:30 or 9 and the only spot we could secure would be outside in a corner. We somewhat haphazardly decided to drive all the way up to LA, specifically Chino, to dine at Owen’s Bistro, which may be my favorite restaurant in the world. Mike called and begged for a reservation slot that evening, and the owner happily fit us in. It’s a lovely and intimate spot that is only open Thursday through Saturday for dinner, owned by a husband and wife. The husband is the chef and the wife is the hostess. They have a couple of servers to help out and a limited multi-course menu that is guaranteed to be delicious (and always has at least one vegetarian option!). Mike could go on and on about the “Camping Trip” dish he had, complete with a 500 degree river rock, and I could write a paragraph about the amazing gnocchi with tomato, white wine, spinach, and basil, but I’ll spare you and simply encourage you to seriously check this place out if you are ever in the greater LA area!
I let Mike have a glass of Riesling (in addition to the complimentary champagne they gave us!) with dinner and I drove home. We briefly considered spending the night in LA but we had hungry kitties at home and we didn’t have toiletries or a change of clothes. It was the best day I’ve had in quite a while.
Sunday was OK too. We went to church, where several people had found out about our engagement on facebook, and many other hadn’t. Everyone was delighted, and we enjoyed eating brunch with the 20s & 30s “Urban Collective” group in Balboa Park. It just so happened that Bishop Gene Robinson was visiting that day, so the cathedral was packed (the man gave an amazing sermon!) and we got his book signed with a personal note wishing us congratulations. We spent the rest of the day at home, playing video games (Mike) and getting excited about planning a wedding (me).
So, that was my weekend. It rocked. :)
AND NOW: Engagement FAQs. Feel free to leave additional questions in the comments.
Q: OMG you’re engaged that’s soooo awesome!!!
A: That’s not a question. But yes, it’s pretty awesome, and we’re quite excited.
Q: When’s the wedding?
A: Probably next May, in San Diego, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by an awesome party. Er, reception.
Q: But aren’t you moving to New Mexico?
A: Yes. I’m moving to Las Cruces on (nominally) August 1 to begin my PhD in astronomy this fall. Mike will stay with a friend here in San Diego until January or thereabouts, because he happens to have a job that he likes and also because he is going to test for a PE (professional engineering) license in October. Once he gets that in CA he can transfer it to NM without too much difficulty, and that should make his job search in NM much easier and more lucrative.
Q: So why are you getting married in San Diego?
A: Because we love the cathedral here and it’s the first church we ever went to together. It’s also a much more enticing and easily accessible by plane destination for visitors than either my hometown or Las Cruces.
Q: Where are you going on your honeymoon?
A: Jeesh people, we just got engaged two days ago! But probably a cruise of some sort. Stay tuned.
Q: What’s the story behind the ring?
A: It was my mother’s – she died in August 2004 of kidney cancer, if you weren’t aware. She and my dad had it custom made of 14K gold with a central diamond and channel-set rubies, which was her birthstone (July), and also happens to be Mike’s! It has a wedding band already attached to keep the rubies on the band from sliding around and not lining up with the rubies on the main ring. We’re probably just going to keep it like that for simplicity’s sake. It’s a bit on the small side – I had to jam it on my finger and it’s noticeably uncomfortable every few hours – so I’m going to get it resized this week. My dad agreed to ship the ring (which was “just gathering dust in [his] safe”) to Mike free of charge on very short notice, so he must think Mike is all right!
Q: I want to send you a card / a gift / a million dollars!
A: Our San Diego address will be good through mid-August, and I don’t have an exact address to give you in Las Cruces just yet. If you’re my facebook friend you can find my address on the “info” tab of my profile; otherwise feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.
Q: Can I see some pictures??
A: Soon. Honest. I’ll post a link here and an album on facebook.
UPDATE 6/14/10 11:50pm
Photos can be found here. You’ll be most interested in numbers 55-83, I daresay.