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Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Cheryl drifted off last Saturday into the la-la world of wine tasting while I hung back and did such mundane tasks as refill the barbecue’s propane tank and whack encroaching raspberry canes.

I had chosen constructive activities that offered the added benefit of exercise. More to the point, there was no debauchery.

I wasn’t so sure about Cheryl’s choice.

Who goes to a winery before noon to drink wine and such? In a heat wave?

“Everybody” is not an acceptable answer.

Cheryl was admittedly ambivalent. She’s not a big wine drinker. She loves working around the yard on weekends. You can hardly drag her away.

But this winery outing was special. A pack of long-standing girlfriends was involved. So was the celebration of a birthday.

I happily waved her off as she headed out for Laird Family Estate. Better you than me, I thought.

Four hours later she was back. Glowing.

Three of her girlfriends are members of the Laird wine club, so everyone was treated royally. The women even had their own private room.

Best of all, Cheryl said, the outing was essentially free. That is, if you don’t count the host’s $10 tip and the two bottles she bought at price points far, far higher than our everyday Two Buck Chuck.

You have to buy something, she said.

I smiled, while thinking: Beware of wine clubs — they know how to pick your pocket.

The rest of Saturday was uneventful and so was most of Sunday. Given the heat, how could it have been otherwise?

By Sunday afternoon I’d collapsed on the couch and couldn’t move. In a reclining position, I did something I have NEVER DONE BEFORE. I played a podcast.

Younger people swim in a sea of podcasts. These audio adventures spark cultural references that I know nothing about. They make me feel dumb.

But there I was, fiddling on the couch with my iPad mini. The next thing I knew Harvard history professor Jill Lepore was reviewing a crop of recent books on the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon.

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Lepore! Podcast! Me!

The experience energized me. It was after 3 o’clock and the dinner hour wasn’t that far off, but I had this crazy idea: Let’s go downtown, Cheryl, for soft serve ice cream.

I’ve known Cheryl for almost 20 years, and never before had I made such a proposal. I may never before have even uttered the words “soft serve.”

Cheryl recognized this as crazy talk and didn’t respond. She was thinking dinner prep.

I dug in.

Miminashi, I said. The Japanese restaurant across from the courthouse. There’s a walk-up window exclusively for soft serves. It’s supposed to be great.

My recitation was based on random bits of info gathered from who knows where. I hadn’t eaten soft serve in 25 years, yet now I had to have some.

Seeing me all fired up, Cheryl relented.

What to make of a fancy restaurant with a sidewalk window for soft serve and nothing else? How improbable is that?

We lucked out, inadvertently arriving just a minute before the window’s 4 p.m. opening.

Cheryl opted out. She didn’t want to ruin her dinner.

The flavor list was a short one. I picked lemon verbena instead of bananas foster without a clue as to what it might taste like. I hoped it would justify the $4.50 price.

After being handed two spoons, we walked our cup across the street to shaded seating at courthouse square. Vowing to “just taste,” Cheryl proceeded cautiously.

Lemon verbena doesn’t look like much and melts quickly, but the flavor was more than pleasing. As much as I liked it, Cheryl, who described the flavor as mildly herbal and “adultish,” liked it even more.

The soft serve disappeared in a matter of minutes. Cheryl was my equal partner in late-afternoon hedonism.

We were in a good mood driving home. The soft serve had redeemed what otherwise would have been just a hot day.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.