Slither Up To The Bar . . .
When you work at a winery with a public tasting room, you get to meet people from around the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, with diverse backgrounds, hobbies, interests (and levels of drunkenness), but they are united in their love of wine (well, ok, some of them have just been dragged in here by someone ELSE who loves wine). Sometimes they bring their kids, who like to marvel at the giant French rabbit on our front porch before moving inside to discover our secret crayon basket. Locals often bring their dogs, who generally seem content to flop down on the ground while their owners imbibe. We love them all, and we thought we had SEEN it all, until this past weekend, when a gopher snake slithered right across our threshold into the tasting room. I was pouring our Maboroshi Pinot Noir for a delightful couple from the UK when I happened to see it slipping silently through the open doorway.
My guests claimed snakes basically don’t exist in the UK, but they have always been a part of my life. Growing up near the American River in Sacramento, I can’t count the number of rattlesnakes we found coiled on back porches during the hot summer months, hidden amongst the weeds (which, naturally, we romped through barefoot), or once, curled up in my mother’s riding boot. She thought it was a sock bunched up in the toe, and couldn’t be bothered to remove it while making the short walk to feed our horses. It was only upon her return that she pulled her foot out of the boot, heard the familiar rattling sound, and was horrified to realize she had been playing footsies with a baby rattler!
As kids, we learned to think snakes were kinda cool, as long as there were no rattles on the tail, and I even ended up having one as a pet for a couple of years in high school: a smallish Indonesian Garter snake named Slim. My mother remained terrified of them despite their frequent apppearances in our lives, and I elected not to tell her about the new goldfish-eating family member stashed in my bedroom. This worked out fine, until I came home one day to discover that it had slithered out of its cage, nowhere to be found. I had to tell my mother, for fear that she would chop its head off (if she didn’t faint first). I don’t think she slept much for the two weeks until Slim returned, hungry but unscathed, from his unsanctioned vacation to the far reaches of my closet. Needless to say, he moved out shortly thereafter.
Happily, none of the tasting room visitors panicked when our snake showed up last weekend. I transported it gently away from the building, pleased with myself for finding some cozy rocks that it could slither into. Incredibly, it showed up on our doorstep again the very next day. I guess there’s nothing like the warmth of a tasting room!