“My overactive mind.” Ledson Gunsight Red Blend 2010

We’ve all been there, right? You send a text, you get no response, you start to worry? “They’re busy,” you tell yourself at first. Of course they are. Who isn’t? You wait. Still no reply. In your mind, you begin to wonder if they’re breaking up with you, or, worse, if they met a shark underwater or fell into a cement mixer full of quicksand. Your mind begins inventing worst case scenarios, and suddenly you’re losing sleep over it. We’ve all been there, right? Maybe it’s just me who does that.

When the fires in Napa and Sonoma broke out, I sent messages to a lot of my friends who live and work in California’s wine country, mostly just checking in and offering support. When I didn’t immediately hear back from Steve Ledson, one of the most ambitious, multitalented, and therefore busy people I’ve ever met, at first I didn’t worry. But then a few days later this popped up in my email:


To see flames that close to the castle that holds Steve’s winery, a place where Sonja and I stopped on our honeymoon and have returned multiple times since, was terrifying. I called my wife, who informed me that the Ledson Facebook page stated that nobody from the Ledson family or staff had been hurt, and I breathed a short sigh of relief. Still, what about those flames? I immediately got on the phone and called the winery, but I was redirected. The woman who answered, I believe from a hotel, identified herself as a receptionist. “Is there any chance Steve is there?” I asked. “No,” she told me. “They’re all down at the winery cleaning up.” My heart sank. Visions of the smoldering, skeletal wreckage of the castle began to flood forth from my overactive mind. “Cleaning up?” I asked nervously. “There’s quite a bit of smoke damage,” she told me. “They want to get things in order. They’re planning to reopen soon.”

The mind is a funny thing. Arguably, mine works fairly well much of the time. If you’ve read this far, you must agree that I can at least sort of write, and it does other things relatively efficaciously too, such as subtraction or, when called upon, simple logic. But it also has some glaring achilles heels. (My brain has a heel? Maybe I can’t write after all.) I was horrible at dating because my overactive imagination would envision any woman who didn’t call me back soon getting eaten by a lion, or run over by a crappy purple Scion. When I get a “we need to talk” email I used to automatically assume that I was either getting broken up with or fired, until at last I just started deleting those messages and pretending I hadn’t seen them. Over the years, I’ve grown  up a bit, grown more confident, and I’ve gotten a bit of a handle on those things. But when you know a place you love is on fire, well, it seems reasonable to me to worry about those who live there. I’ve been worrying a lot lately.

When I had finally deduced that the people whom I cherish at Ledson were all safe and soundly preparing to reopen the winery, I called Sonja back. “I’d like to open a bottle of Ledson with dinner tonight, you know, since I’ve been thinking about them so much.” Of course, she had  no objections, so when I got home I headed down to the cellar to grab one of our few remaining bottles. The 2010 Ledson Gunsight red blend reminded us both of what we love so much about Sonoma, and brought back lots of terrific memories. I’ve had Steve’s massive Cabernets, and I love them, but this isn’t that. Instead, it’s a slightly more delicate, yet fully matured, medium plus to full minus bodied red wine, with beautiful spices lacing the palate of blackberry and, if you’re patient, hints of bright young candied plum. Leather abounds, and a touch of cinnamon and baking spice appears on the finish. I wanted this wine tonight because I wanted to return to Ledson, if only in my mind, and together Sonja and I and the kids sat around the table chatting and laughing and playing peek-a-boo until dinner and the bottle were both gone.

In the months and years to come, I will continue to urge my readers to support those wineries who will have to rebuild without corporate backing or deep pockets in New York or Beijing to help them do it. Family operations like Steve’s will need us as they regroup from the flames, whether they’re cleaning up smoke damage, replanting vineyards, or having to rebuild their structures completely. I’m planning on ordering a case of 2013 vintage wines from Ledson soon, that being the year that Sonja and I visited Sonoma and the Ledson Castle on our honeymoon. I have always loved Steve’s wines, and I would encourage you to purchase some from him too, especially if you have never tried them, in order to cast your vote in favor of another worthy, family-owned winery. Together, even from afar, we can help to rebuild California’s wine country.

Happy Friday, my friends,



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