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The wine that made me fall in love with wine was Ridge’s 2002 Lytton Springs. I was eating at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco with new friends, visiting from Austin, and a couple brought a magnum to have with our meal.

Seven years later, and seven and a half hours after leaving West Hollywood, I finally found myself pulling into a gravel parking space across the street from Ridge’s Lytton Springs tasting room in northern Sonoma County. Like a great Zinfandel, my interest in wine had only grown deeper and more intense in time.

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I spent Christmas in San Francisco.

It was the first time I would spend a Christmas apart from my family. Whether it was spent at home in Virginia with my two parents and two older siblings or in Massachusetts with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, Christmas was, until this year, a family reunion. My parents worked full-time until I was 16, and my siblings had left for college by then. My extended family was scattered throughout the world, from Colorado to Singapore. Ours was the very image of the family holiday: viewings of “A Christmas Story” and “Christmas Vacation,” my sister and I playing duets of carols on the flute and piano, sledding and igloo-building (yes!), cookie decorating, tree dressing, and arriving too late to church to get seats.

As we got older, our manners changed, but the traditions stayed the same. My siblings would fly in in time for Christmas Eve dinner, and we’d go through a couple of bottles of red wine watching a Christmas classic, then try not to laugh or fall asleep at the midnight mass because we’d had just a bit too much. (My mom is the perennial DD, and she will be going to heaven for putting up with us.) Cookie decorating turned into an all-day cooking competition a la Iron Chef, and the flute and piano duets were interrupted with laughter when we realized how bad we sounded. I love how open and intellectual and adventurous my family is, but in spite of it, it is remarkable how annoyed I get when we’re all together about the most mundane or irrelevant things. If I could just remember one of those things right now…

Admittedly, I can remember one. I do not like being the third, fifth, or seventh member of a group. I make Trivial Pursuit teams uneven and have to hear the debate about whose team should take me (as if I’ll dumb them down or something!), and I can’t contribute to dinnertable conversations about getting a dog with a life partner or insuring jewelry. It’s a product of being four years younger and having what my dad describes as, “A really big personality that men might find… really big.” But it’s okay because, as he says, “I love your mother very much.” This Christmas, my brother would visit with his wife’s family, my sister would stay in Oregon with her boyfriend (on call) then go on to Fiji, and my parents would take care of my extremely ill grandfather in Massachusetts while my grandmother visited an aunt in Texas. I was invited to join each twosome, but each two was too occupied.

Christmas is not about me anyway.

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