Sep 25 2010

Off-site writing locale


In my never-ending search for congenial places to write, I stopped by Gouveia Vineyards on Thursday.


One thing my home office lacks is natural light — The main room here has plenty of that. Great big sky, and sweeping views of the hills.

In a reverse of the BYOB permission of some restaurants, in this place serves no food, and allows you to to bring in whatever food you want to — but forbids you to bring any beverages. No kind of beverages, none. Not even water. Whatever you’re going to drink there, you must buy there.

Which I consider perfectly fair: you’re taking up space in a for-profit establishment — you ought to pay for something.

You can buy wine by the glass or by the bottle, and there’s water, soda and perfectly acceptable coffee, as well. Not gourmet coffee, but good enough.

My favorite of their wines is Stonehouse Red, which is their most popular. This annoys me no end, because I hate to be in the majority on anything. On previous visits I’ve sampled all their wines, hoping to find something bizarre and obscure that I liked better. The weirder the better, says I.

Alas. Stonehouse Red tastes best to me. Me and everyone else. I am awash in my shameful mundanity.

Hey, check out the cool kites they use to scare off the birds and other critters from the ripe grapes!

EEK  a raptor!  Run, run!

The eagle, oddly, has a fish in its claws — presumably to discourage any adventurous fish planning to poach these grapes.

So has the osprey.


Still, these are big bad birds! If I were a blue jay or a squirrel, I’d get the hell outta there!

And the photos do not do the kites justice. They’re so cleverly designed that the wing-fluttering and swooping, and even fish-wriggling are absolutely convincing, in even the slightest wind. I was stunned – I really thought there was an eagle up there, and actually pulled to the side of the entrance road to get a good look.

But they were just kites. Did I say “just” kites? I love kites!

But I can’t help wondering how well they work in the long run. Surely the critters have hard-wired instincts to hide when a raptor appears — but how many times would they need to see a fake raptor before those grapes get just too tempting? Or can the instinct never be overcome?

Our Local Group (the backyard birds) go positively nuts when the neighborhood sharp-shinned hawk appears. It’s amazing to listen to them warn each other, often mimicking the actual call of the hawk as a bird “word” for hawk. But if the hawk perches and sits still long enough, they basically forget it’s there, and go back to the feeder.

Then — Suppertime! And not in a nice way.

(I love birds, but I love all birds, including the hawks. Who to root for?)

Anyway, the vineyards do have some drawbacks:

– They’re popular. Come 6pm, it’s conversations all around, at every table. Date night, forget about it. So unless you can pick your time, solitude is in short supply.

– They’re only open Thursday through Sunday.

– No official wifi (Someone out on the horizon has an open wifi, a fraction of a bar’s worth.)

On the upside:

– Great views, with lots of sky.

– Wine.

– A fireplace, very nice in winter.

– Although everyone talks all around you, no one bothers you directly.

– On the way home from the DayJob.

– High cool factor.

You know, when the leaves turn, this place is going to be absolutely gorgeous.


On Friday, I stopped by one of the many local Dunkin Donuts after work, and tried to do a little writing there.


– Practically next door to the gym, which I am visiting frequently these days.

– Inexpensive


– Worst Coffee Ever. This is not true of all Dunkin’s, and probably not true of this one usually. But that day, I had to take my cup back to the counter and say, “No… Please try again.” “Again” was only marginally better.

– Lovely view of the strip-mall across the street.

– Acoustic entertainment provided by Amtrak, 10 yards behind the parking lot.

So, who wins?

Wrong. Dunkin’ Donuts is just too convenient.