By: Rebecca Nadel
I had already been to Santa Ynez for wine tasting once before. I’d even been to one of the same vineyards we visited. I had visited Santa Barbara on countless occasions, but I’d never done any of these things with Birthright Israel NEXT LA. Drinking wine is always fine, but things are always more fun when you’re hanging with fellow members of the tribe!
I arrived at the designated meeting spot to board an awesome, deluxe, decked out, air-conditioned coach, complete with our own snack bar, and filled with 50 of my Birthright Israel NEXT LA peers. Even though it was 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, there was a party vibe in the air. We were ready for an adventure (and to get our drink on)!
During our bus ride to Santa Barbara we enjoyed some lessons on the relevancy of wine to the Jewish religion, how to select a wine that is kosher for Passover, and current trends in Israeli viticulture. These lessons set the stage by providing a Jewish context to enjoy the day’s experiences.
We spotted some windmills and enjoyed some pastry during a brief visit to the Danish village of Solvang, took a comprehensive tour and sampled some libations at Firestone, enjoyed lunch and some delicious Sauvignon Blanc with some emus at Koehler, savored some Viognier amongst the lush scenery of Curtis, and enjoyed some chofesh (free time) in the quaint town of Los Olivos.
While in Los Olivos I spent my time traipsing (alright, hobbling) around town with a small group of friends. We went olive oil tasting, which was quite possibly the highlight of my day, and partook in one more wine tasting at the Epiphany tasting room before re-boarding the bus back to L.A.
The ride home was a peaceful one. Replete with vino from a day full of tastings, many of the passengers were feeling quite relaxed and sleepy. For those who were still awake, however, there was a private coach screening of Sideways – very apropos! Around the time that the movie ended, we arrived back to where we started, retrieved our day’s purchases and souvenir wine glasses from under the bus, and got into our cars to head home and prepare for Pesach.
What I continue to enjoy about Birthright Israel NEXT LA’s events is that they serve as a comfortable setting for Jews of all backgrounds, where elements of contemporary, mainstream society are seamlessly blended with Judaism in an elegant and successful way. When I attend their events, I can be a Jew and an Angeleno simultaneously, I don’t have to choose which role I’d like to play on that particular day or evening. As an involved member of the Los Angeles Jewish community, the dilemma with which I am so often presented when planning my evenings out is “will tonight be centered around Judaism, or will it be a night for soaking up some good ole funky Los Angeles culture?” I am never posed with this question when I partake in a NEXT LA function. The city is my oyster (of course metaphorically, as I would never endorse treif), and Birthright Israel NEXT LA is my M.C.
As for me, the bottles I acquired on my journey are still in my kitchen waiting to be uncorked, possibly even at an upcoming NEXT Shabbat dinner. Kudos to the organizers for executing such a successful and enjoyable trip! I can’t wait for the next one…be sure to save me a seat!