We’ve recently begun ordering wine from the Zotovich Family Vineyards, a winery about an hour north of Santa Barbara. It’s a new operation, only in operation since 2010, and a collaboration between an uncle and his nephew, hence the word family. The nephew is young, the ink on his undergrad degree in wine and viticulture is probably still not quite dry, and the uncle doesn’t even bother to mention his own credentials, whatever they may be. There is no sense, however, of the humble up-and-comers hoping to make their way in a venerable old art. Rather, they seem to be taking the position of brazen young rebels, thumbing their noses at Napa. Perhaps not unlike Napa once thumbed their noses at the French.
Here are a few select quotes, because it seems that they make the point a lot more colorfully than I could:
About going winetasting in the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto”, a string of wineries within walking distance of one another, they say, “No more roshambo with friends where some unlucky sap saddles up on a Saturday as the designated driver. That would be so … Napa.”
About their rose wine, they say that it “pairs extremely well with… warm weather and patio furniture.”
They have a winemaker named Dan Schuler-Jones whom they say has his degree in Underwater Basketweaving, which, if you’re unfamiliar with that old joke, means that he did nothing useful in college and seems, in this case, to mean that he was a college buddy of the younger Zotovich, hired with no experience or training.
In talking about a low yield crop they say that it’s because Mother Nature was “stingy” with them.
All this is great, the arrogance and bravado, the open sloppiness. It’s human and it’s, in a way, the most lovable form of brash American entrepreneurialism. And lucky for you, we’re buying your first taste.
A hotel is more like a house than an iPhone. My iPhone works very consistently. I plug it in at night so that it won’t run out of batteries during the day, but other than that I expect to do no maintenance on it. I know that one day it will die and I will need another. I know that for some short interval leading up to the day of it’s demise, it’s function will start to fail and that that will not mean that I should go get it fixed, but that I should get rid of it and move on to my next iPhone.
A house, on the other hand, needs more or less constant maintenance. You fix the sink and then the roof needs new tiles. Get the roof patched up and then notice a giant stain on the carpet. There’s always something to be either taking care of or meaning to take care of very soon. Still, though, a house is expected to last through several lifetimes. Very, very few people in this world let the problems with their house accumulate until they can’t stand it anymore, and then get rid of it and move onto another house.
All that to say this: Things are constantly going wrong at this hotel. Does it seem strange to admit this? It’s true, though. True and natural and unavoidable. The toilets are going to get stopped up and the curtains are going to get little rips in them. Plants are living things that sometimes just decide to get depressed and droopy for a while. Everything is fixable and we have plenty of staff and resources to take care of it all (though depressive plants are harder, admittedly) but many things can go wrong without our knowing it. If something is bothering you, just tell us and we’ll take care of it. Treat us the way you treat your house, something that you’re going to have a long, enduring relationship with, not your iPhone, which you’re going to keep until it’s got too many tics and you’ve got to throw it in the garbage. We would like to be the hotel you pass on to your kids, and we’re willing to do a lot to try to make that happen.
It seems safe to say that this little hotel can boast of a pretty intelligent clientele. You all, our guests, are bright people doing the work that’s bringing us into the future, so there’s no doubt that you’ve got some intellectual strength. Still, though, do you ever wonder just how smart you are? You know, like in comparison to everyone else milling around the Silicon Valley? Well, if so, I have a way to satisfy your curiosity. Every Monday night at the San Pedro Square Market, there’s a pub quiz. Topics vary, so you can go online and be sure to only go on a night you can dominate, or just show up, secure in your mastery of all knowledge everywhere. It’s up to you.
A pub quiz is a great thing, too, because if you find that, say, everyone around is, surprisingly, just as sharp, or even sharper than you are and your whole world view is suddenly crumbling around you, consolation is immediately on hand. Not to be too big an advocate for drinking away your pain, but if you were so inclined it’s right there for you. Likewise, if you sweep through and take out all opponents without breaking a sweat, buying a round of drinks for the room is a very neat little way to both boast and console in a single gesture.
If you do decide to go, let us know how it goes. We’re also a little interested in how our guests stack up against the rest of the valley’s brainiacs.
How many of you have noticed that Adam is always working? He does a variety of different jobs, so it might be possible to not quite make the connection, but suffice it to say, Adam is always working and it’s been this way for years. He works as many double shifts as he can and even sneaks in the occasional, illegal triple shift. Sometimes some effort is made to make him calm down, back off, go easy on himself, but it’s wasted breath. Adam is a man with a passion.
What, you ask, is this fire burning in our most ubiquitous front desk worker? Adam is a racecar driver, which turns out to be a very expensive sport. The car needs constant, costly repairs, I guess due to being pushed to its limit every time it goes out, not to mention crashed around a bit and though the goal is sponsorship and having someone else pay for it all, the only way to get there is to spend a long time paying for it all yourself. So Adam works. And works and works and works. And when he’s not here working, he’s someplace working on his car. All for little short bursts of driving, every now and then. Those shorts bursts must be amazing.
If you’re interested in learning more about racing cars, or if you’d like to see a guy talk about something he’s very passionate about, now’s a great time to go have a chat with Adam. The season is on and he’s been winning and a fun conversation is there to be had.
There’s a place at the San Pedro Square Market that deserves an award. Not that it’s the best food you’re going to find, though the food is fun and interesting and certainly worth finding. What this place should get is an award for the best name. CaliDog, it’s called. So clear, so concise and yet so very descriptive. Go to CaliDog and get yourself an all-American hot dog, topped with the classic condiments of one of the vast array of cultures represented here in the Bay Area. Japanese style, for example, features seaweed. Yes, seaweed on a hot dog! Another one, called the SalsaDog, is drowning in shrimp ceviche. If all this is too overwhelming, they’ve also got a chilidog on standby, but why not have an adventure?
This place, in making their nutty hot dogs, has made itself into such a great symbol of how we live here in California. We are a collection of lots of different people from lots of different places, doing what we can to keep traditions alive, trying to maintain the comforts of home in a new country, getting to sample from everything that everyone else has brought and getting to work out some new version of how all those thing can fit together. To take the hot dog, one of the ultimate staples of Americana, and let people choose whether they want it Japanese, Vietnamese or Mexican style is such a sweet little act of cultural meshing and it really feels like how we live around here. One of the great beauties of the Bay Area is spectacular, unlikely juxtaposition and how well it can come out. This hot dog stand is a fantastic example of that.