Richard A. Moran

Rich Moran

More than once, after grown-ups visit a few tasting rooms and enjoy a decadent lunch I have heard a proclamation blurted out with joy that “Wine country is like Disneyland for adults.” I have heard the same sentence used with disgust when longtime locals complain that wine country has become Disneyland for adults. Both statements are true.

On the good side, Disneyland is all about suspending one’s troubles and going into a state of fantasy that all is right with the world. It is like a parallel universe where only good things happen and happy endings are guaranteed. And, if you are lucky enough to get one of those special passes at the entrance gate, you can get to the front of all the lines.

Wine country can be just like that, where one enters a parallel universe of food and wine where all anyone talks about is the aroma of huckleberries and cinnamon. It’s a spot where the rows of grapes stand at attention like wooden soldiers waiting to provide fruit that will make us happy. A day in wine country can be as special as a day in Disneyland where, instead of running from ride to ride, you run from tasting room to restaurant and back to a tasting room. At each spot you are greeted with a warm welcome, just like Disneyland.

But there is that other dimension that we all know too well about Disneyland. The mere mention of this side can raise the blood pressure and make any reasonable adult say, “never again.” This dimension is reality, not fantasy and includes long lines. Worse, the lines are tricky because they slice and maneuver so that you think you are about to hit the front of the line until you discover you have only reached a bend in the line. Then there are the crowds and the ensuing fight to find a table for lunch or a place to sit and relax. While standing among crying babies and screaming parents, this side of Disneyland makes any sane adult want to become Peter Pan in order to fly away.

Wine country doesn’t have crowds of Disneyland proportions although sometimes it seems that way when the limo driving the bachelorette party pulls up to the tasting room door. The crowds may not be as big but they can be just as obnoxious with tourists trying to be more wine savvy than the wine workers. Some of the wineries are only helping to create the Disneyland for adults image by creating structures and landscapes that could actually be a part of Disneyland. Visitors to Disneyland complain about how expensive it is to enjoy the Disney experience and I am hearing the same complaints about wine country with some tasting room experiences now soaring over one hundred dollars per guest. That’s a lot of tasting.

Both sides of the Disneyland for adults debate have merit. Joyful visitors are to be treasured. They remind us of what we can enjoy as the lucky people who live here. It’s just that those same visitors mean crowds and traffic and behaviors that are sometimes annoying. Those things that the visitors bring with them are what make the debate about Disneyland tricky. At least we can enjoy the satisfaction that if wine country wasn’t such a nice place to visit, like Disneyland, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The list of places where this debate is happening is not a long one. Only an already special place is worthy of the debate. Disneyland is truly a special place and as a Disneyland veteran I am on record that if the family wants to go to Disneyland again I will stay around here.

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Rich Moran roams around wine country enjoying serenity while watching the crowds from afar.