I parked my crass, modern car at a street corner, walked across a lawn glimmering with croquet stakes and finally entered the Champagne-infused world that F. Scott Fitzgerald introduced me to so very long ago.
In my silver flapper dress, I squeezed between burgundy Pierce-Arrows and white roadsters with nickel-plated grills, past women shaded by white, lacy parasols and men in fine, flannel suits. Glass tables were laden with slices of roasted, yellow squash woven into harlequin designs and homemade lemon cakes dusted in powdered sugar. All the while, a 10-piece orchestra played "Laugh, You Son of a Gun," and the swaying vocalist requested that I look on the funny side and make each day a holiday.
I wasn't dreaming. Every year, the Art Deco Society of California (www.artdecosociety.org) allows 800 people to walk into Fitzgerald's glowing world. Its Gatsby Summer Afternoon event is held in September on the lush, green grounds of the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland, Calif.
Fitzgerald always has been one of my favorite writers for romanticizing the exuberance and luxury of the Jazz Age. He and his delicate wife, Zelda, and charismatic characters, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, began their adulthood somewhat like my grandparents.
My grandmother, Ruth Moriaty, was raised in a white, wedding-cake mansion in Memphis, Tenn., and despite more suitable suitors, she fell for a man, my grandfather, Herbert McGrath, an orphan with ambitions. She married her charmer in the 1920s despite her family's objections and was sent away with a weighty, sterling-silver tea set as a wedding gift.
She traded the Tiffany-dome parlor of her youth to live with him in a squat bungalow in Hollywood. There, she easily befriended movie stars, and he ran a construction company that later would help build Disneyland. From their story, I learned that fantasies can come true, that we can enter worlds that exist first in our imaginations. To this day, when I toast with Champagne, I think of them.
Champagne always has acted as a time machine for me. With a pop, it evokes eras in which people moved leisurely, gadget-free and gracefully. When leather shoes were shined for waltzing. When girls sauntered arm in arm, winking and driving men wild.
Sparkling wine, you see, is all about slow movements. It takes two fermentations, daily care and years of aging to marry flavors and properly create those delightful bubbles from common wine grapes and rock sugar. Just ask a few local wine producers.
Chris Martin of Troon Vineyards and his crew laboriously produced 48 cases of a methode champenoise sparkling wine from chardonnay grapes harvested in 2007. The traditional-style CJ Cuvee ($45) was released just weeks ago and almost is sold out. Two hundred cases of 2011 Semi Sparkling Vermentino floated out of Troon's Applegate Valley tasting room in two months. Now, bubble fans will have to wait awhile for the release of 2012 Semi Sparkling Muscat-Riesling ($18).
Bridgeview Vineyards, with tasting rooms in Cave Junction and Grants Pass, also boasts big sellers in its Semi Sparkling Muscat and new Semi Sparkling Riesling (both $12). Spokesman Tim Woodhead says a semisparkling wine, with a fraction of the pressure and pop, usually is the first bottle emptied at special occasions "when those infrequent wine drinkers join everyone else for a glass."
Applegate winemaker Michael Giudici has dedicated his life to sparkling wines. The owner of John Michael Champagne Cellars began his quest 38 years ago to produce what he calls the toughest wine in the world. Today, he makes five different styles of sparkling wine ($25 to $50) from three clones of pinot noir, as well as chardonnay, pinot blanc, pinot gris, zinfandel and merlot vines grown across 10 acres on his property.
He feels the pressure of the breathless past to create a bottle cherished by men who want to drink out of women's slippers and women who want to ruffle Champagne into men's manes. "Champagne speaks of celebration and elegance," he says. "If it's a special occasion, it's Champagne or nothing else."
EVENT: Some grape growers — from Abacela in Roseburg to Weisinger's of Ashland — welcome novice harvest volunteers and crush-pad helpers. Call your favorite winery to inquire, then slap on an old tie-dye shirt and other nonstainable clothes. You can sign up for Abacela's Harvest Boot Camp Oct. 12, 13, 26 or 27 ($25 pays for your lunch and lessons) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
TASTED: Dancin Vineyards is new, popular and worthy of your weekend. I decided to enjoy my newfound love of leisure a few Sundays ago by overlooking Dancin's koi pond off South Stage Road east of downtown Jacksonville. After a few quaffs of 2010 Chasse Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($29), I think I saw Jay Gatsby standing under the walnut tree. Or maybe that was just another dapper man with a cinematic smile who tilted back his hat and laughed like a son of a gun.
Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com.