River & Wine - Early Days
Updated: Jul 27, 2022
It sounds simple: River & Wine.
But it’s more than that.
It’s Nature and what She does to the mood of my guests on my Airbnb Experiences.
It’s the sound and flow of Twenty Mile Creek and what It does to the face, the lungs, the soul.
It’s the millions of leaves on a breeze under foot on dirt or mud over rocks and roots and what all of this does to the eyes and ears and neck and knees.
"Take in the sound of the creek," I say. "Savor it because soon we’ll be back in the world of people." Their voices. Their vices. Their beliefs. Their talk. Always talk.
It’s the sound of the rapids over hundreds of tiny waterfalls that gush into awareness.
It’s about now, so much happening now. Not artificially. No, this isn't Wonderland. This isn't controlled by latch and key. No human built this river. No hand manipulates its volume or speed. See that? That’s now. Are you one with it? Are you with it or against it?
In so many ways we act against Nature yet all we eat, drink and breathe are Her.
The couple on the left are from "PA", the ladies on the right from Buffalo boasting its renown for "bad sports teams and bars open till four."
We climb a hundred steps built by Bruce Trail volunteers to ascend the Escarpment that forms Niagara Falls. I explain: "Lake Erie is 600 feet above sea level, Lake Ontario 270 feet above. The difference is known as the Escarpment. From Buffalo to Niagara-on-the=Lake the Niagara River drops 330 feet."
The eyes at me as though they’d rarely given thought to the Great Lakes. This is the separated mind and soul from Nature. This is the modern disconnect.
We stroll through an abandoned settlement once known as Glen Elgin. A blacksmith’s shop, a barn, an auld homestead, a chapel, a flour mill. We are transported to the 1840's when work was work, when Nature was not the enemy but the challenge. And every step was connected to Her for daily bread and breath. The way they ground the wheat. The way they uprooted trees. The way they froze in winter.
We stand at Balls Falls and take in the layers of ecological antiquity. Before our eyes a million years of erosion and evolution, the sound of the river leaping to the pool below, ripples upon ripples ever moving out to sea.
Our bodies immersed in the noise, the energy, the endless movement, the ever-spilling drops. Our lives so stimulated by so much now eye to eye with Nature.
Yearning not to leave the moment we must, forever onward. What’s next, we seem to say. Something next?
We are talking on the way up stream. She a nurse in training. He a water treatment specialist. She a college student. She isn’t. Over boulders and under branches toward the sound and gush of another waterfall we feel our way. Just feet from our faces waves upon waves of water pounding the river at our shoes, all of us together at this moment at the base of Upper Falls.
We ascend through the ruins of an old woolen mill to the top of the falls and I break out the wine and each takes a glass and we toast the moment, our good fortunes, each other, the world and all that we have right now.
We sip and stare and feel and flow, our chardonnay-licked thoughts overpowered by the splendor of moving water. We bring ourselves to the edge and gaze out over the river rushing at us.
There’s nowhere else to be, no other place to stand and feel as snowflakes descend from High. The one with the wine-bottle earrings suggests we link arms and ford the raging river. "Most of us will make it," she says.
We make our way down-trail as conversation turns to banter and more laughs.
We enter an old barn now a tasting room of a winery, the old stone and wood , the low lighting, the racks of wine, the rustic counter, the flavors of ice wine that hypnotize us into ecstasy.
Another moment that begs us to stay.
None of my guests have heard of Ice Wine, that Canadian specialty with taste and texture that trickles down the chest like the creek that so invigorated us. Ice Wine always dazzles and there’s no mystery to it. It’s heavenly.
We move out and into the cold in high spirits. A country dog barks before a garage door and the ladies approach. All bark and no bite, he keeps 'em at bay.
Along the country road more vineyards and more dogs and the banter between what seems to be five lifelong friends. Those dogs induce a suggestion of leading “Dog and Wine” tours.
We pass a black squirrel which fascinates her because apparently black squirrels don’t exist in Buffalo which triggers another suggestion of “Squirrel and Wine” tours.
Along the winter road we pass a family of lamas which triggers yet another suggestion of “Petting Zoo and Wine” tours.
Then Hernder Estate.
Always Hernder, a favorite because they understand that wine-tasting isn’t about the wine. It’s about the experience. And the experience should be social because wine-drinking is among friends, the alcohol removing just enough cells to induce lightness. Wineries like Hernder remind of wineries north of Napa that know that wine is not to be sold. It's too sacred for that. Nor is wine to be boasted about or too proud of. It’s not outside of you. It’s inside you and shouldn’t be treated like a product but an ethereal experience between the nose, tongue, mind, body and each other.
Hernder gets it, offering samples spiced with story-telling, witticisms, winery woes, weddings gone awry and a warmth that always transforms my party into a party – sometimes bringing different parties together into one big party.
Now we’re talking. Now we’re toasting. Now we’re savoring. It’s five hours in and we’re like family now. We stroll their wedding rooms of old stone and wood. We ascend the stairs into an unlit space that’s as quiet as it is big. It's as serene as a church, and there we gravitate to one another in a circle and she tells us she was raised Mennonite. How her childhood was. Her transition to secular society. Her life then and since. How her mother would grind the flour to make bread. More personal now, beyond the superficial now, a good day in wine country always gets beyond the superficial.
Looking west from the parking lot we see a fading sun about to set the escarpment on fire. Caught between late afternoon skies and the top of the hill nature's rays are stretching out for one final breath before sleeping. We marvel in the moment never to be again. It's sublime. It's breathtaking. It's wine country at dusk!
We end up at the village bar around a table and take in each other one final time.
A few final laughs and memories of the day and we clink glasses and spill back out into nightfall.
In Jordan Village we share one final moment in the form of a group hug to be felt all the days of my life.
River and Wine sounds simple. But it's not. It's as complex as a bottle of wine. And just as intoxicating.