The Napa Valley is a stunning place to visit. The hills and valley are beautiful, the hotels and restaurants are world class, and the weather is sublime. But make no mistake; if we were growing table grapes here, it would be a ghost town. Alcohol is what brings people here, not Hot Air Baloons. Drinking wine and getting drunk, not necessarily in that order. I mean, if we lived in a valley full of asparagus farms we might have a yearly festival or something to entice people to visit for a week every year (and wouldn’t the Porta-Potties in the hot July sun be a joy at such an event?), but not the bud-break to harvest season of 8 months or more we have now.
Having lived and worked in the area for many years I have had more than my share of experiences with drunks and their various stages of inebriation. People that visit here seem to go through 5 stages of drunkenness:
1. Loss of inhibition: This occurs after the first stop at a winery, usually between breakfast and lunch so their stomachs are empty enough to realize maximum bang for the buck (I always advocate spitting at wineries especially if you have a long day planned, but just try telling that to a Bachelorette party of 10 that have a limo). Those that are normally reserved become quite a bit less so and the more outgoing really get going. This stage can last most of the afternoon, depending on volume of wine consumed vs. food ingested at lunch.
2. The False Sense of Heightened Energy and Cleverness: The first few wineries get the drunks in their glib, “I’m so clever, everything I say is so funny” stage. Over the course of stops four, five and six this can morph into loud talking, louder off color jokes, and even the occasional war-whoop.
3. The “I’m Bullet-Proof” Stage: Inhibitions down, false sense of energy in full tilt boogie, we can now drink anything and everything they throw at us, punctuated by the occasional dancing to music that is not there.
4. The Rummy “I Love Everyone and Everything” Stage: “We love you man, you’re the besht…” is the verbal marker for this stage. This particular part of the process can be tenuously short-lived and can quickly, and without notice, turn into:
5. The Bellicose Argumentative Stage: The drunk is now an outspoken expert on any number of topics of which they know absolutely nothing. These are often circular conversations and, much like the carousel at the fair, you have to know when it’s time to jump off. If you are not in complete agreement with them (and if you’re smart you will nod your head politely in accent), then you go quickly from “Beshtest Bud” to “biggest Fuggin’ Ash-hole”. Insults, arguments, vomiting, and fistfights can be side effects of this last stage.
If you are a waiter or manager in one of the many fine eateries in Napa Valley, you might get lucky and get the drunk in Stages 1 or 2 at dinner that evening around 7pm. Then, as long as you feed them and get them the check before they arrive at the elusive border between Stages 4 and 5, you might do okay. “Beshtest Buds” definitely tip better than “Fuggin Ash-holes”.