"Big white?" he asked.
"I think so. Chardonnay?"
"Let me suggest the Brewer-Clifton Seasmoke Chardonnay," he responded.
"They make a chard?" I asked. Brewer-Clifton is a small producer known for its handcrafted pinots operating out of the nearby Santa Ynez Valley.
The sommelier pulled his eyeglasses down the bridge of his nose. "You wrote Sideways," he chided, "and you didn't know they make a chard?"
I laughed. Meredith, who loves it when my wine snobbery is punctured, pointed an imaginary pistol at me and fired it.
Yes, even though I'm knowledgeable about wine, it's always helpful to have someone who knows the list, especially when it's phone-book thick. I'd much rather ask an expert and let him or her steer me to a bottle based on what we're ordering and what our mood is. Our sommelier was vinously astute, and for those of you who think chardonnay—the right chardonnay—doesn't go with steak, you're mistaken. The richness of the wine he recommended was the perfect accompaniment to my beefy entrée, and it paired even better with the lobster.
Walking back to our room, we fell into the languor of the surroundings. As we relaxed on the balcony and reveled in a nightcap, I suddenly realized something: We hadn't once left the grounds. I'm not saying that a little day trip to the town of Ojai for some shopping might not be enjoyable, but why?Everything is here. We had barely sampled all that the huge spa had to offer, with its full gym and eclectic variety of treatments. We hadn't played nearly enough golf on George Thomas's marvelous minor masterpiece. The rooms are beautiful, and most have views you can luxuriate in as the hours fly fleetingly past. The place can lull you into a state of deep satiation.
When I woke on Thursday I couldn't believe it was time to go. I don't know when Meredith finished her script or when I found time to copy-edit it, but we managed that, as well.
Glancing around our room before disembarking for L.A., I said to her: "I could live in this room." Outstanding golf, refreshing lap-length pool, full spa with all the amenities, congenial staff, great food and facilities, the feeling of being immured in this valley that's engirded by softly rolling hills, so close to L.A. but really in another world, a world where time seems momentarily arrested.
"How about another nine holes before check-out?" I suggested to Meredith. When she acquiesced, I added, "And if you forget your laptop this time, I don't mind. I'll be happy to come back and get it."
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
905 Country Club Road, Ojai, California. Architects: George C. Thomas Jr., 1923; Jay Morrish, 1986, 1999. Yardage: 6,292. Par: 70. Slope: 132. Green Fees: $160 guests, $170 nonguests. Rooms: from $400. Suites: from $700. Contact: 888-697-8780, ojairesort.com.