About six months after I moved to San Francisco from New York in 2004, I had switched from skim milk to soy milk in my cafe au laits. My high heels were collecting dust in the back of the closet, and a neatly rolled yoga mat had become a regular appendage to my body on most weekends. Eight years later, I've got a hot collection of ballet flats to go with my encyclopedic knowledge of yoga styles: hatha, vinyasa, bikram, anusara, iyengar, tantric—you name it, and I've tried it. But I had yet to experience yoga and wine together until last week.
Karl Wente is the fifth generation winemaker and face of his family's highly regarded, eponymous Livermore vineyard. He is also a self-described yoga fanatic. Connecting the dots, last year Wente started offering sporadic yoga classes followed by wine tastings on the Wente Vineyards' grounds. For those wondering about the merits of exercise and booze together, Wente argues it's a very natural pairing: "Yoga heightens your awareness of the flavors and nuances in the wine," he explains. A more austere breed of yogi might stumble out of tree pose at the mere thought of re-toxing post-yoga.
As a practicied enthusiast of both yoga and wine, I see it differently. The idea of a wine tasting after a pulse-quickening series of sun salutations sounds like a perfect relaxing Thursday afternoon, which is precisely why I attended Wente's fourth yoga-wine session last week.
A rousing 90 degrees at 5 p.m. during our visit, Livermore creates a sort of natural hot yoga environment. The all-levels class was led by the lithe, friendly Suzanna Spring of Cosmic Dog Yoga. After about an hour of downward dogs, mellow twists and lots of hamstring work, the stress created by an hour and a half in rush hour traffic coming from SF had been rinsed from my body. Karl Wente—who had been lunging in the row behind me throughout the class—popped up after savasana to enlighten us about the Wente wines about to be poured: a 2010 Riva Ranch Chardonnay and 2010 Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wente explained how his regular yoga practice helps him stay centered and present while tasting through upwards of 60 wines per day for his job as the Vineyard's lead winemaker. He went on: "For those who want to geek out on wine, I'll tell you about the apple, pear, guava, and butterscotch notes in the Riva Ranch Chardonnay, but please feel free to just enjoy a glass of wine in this beautiful setting." Then most of the class broke for a pretention-free "tasting" session that was really more like going to happy hour on a vineyard in spandex.
Reflecting on it all, I agree with the austere yogi: setting up a drinking session in tandem with exercise doesn't make logical sense. But no one shows up to the Wente wine-yoga class to pound a bottle of Cabernet. Friends met in a pretention-free environment, casually catching up and washing down bananas with sips of Chardonnay. Most of the ticket holders seemed generally intent on learning more about yoga and wine–separately and together. Indulge me for a moment by pondering this: Maybe drinking wine amongst the vines that spawned it is—like yoga—another form of communing with nature? I know, I know, call me a new age hippie. Now please pass the soy milk.
The next yoga and wine class is on September 12th from 5 p.m. to 7p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. The link to buy isn't live yet, but you can check back here over the next few weeks.
I suggest you make a night out of it. The Restaurant at Wente Vinyards conveniently offers the best food in town, and recent Hotel Impossible survivor The Purple Orchid Inn is a charming place to rest your head, just a 15 minute drive away. There's even a rather dramatic and lovely pool with a grotto, open until 10 p.m. for a late-night, post-yoga, post-dinner dip, should you so desire.