One of my husband’s greatest gifts is that he can strike up a conversation with anyone. And this is one of the reasons he is so successful in life, and with his restaurant. To be able to do this is truly a skill and the places these conversations take us add a great deal to my world.

We went on vacation last week, with my kids, to California to see my brother and his family. Actually, my husband went to Vegas first, for his annual guys’ March Madness trip, and then met us in Mill Valley for the second part of our trip. We had planned to go out to Napa on Monday with my brother, a wine connoisseur, but my brother was sick and opted out. So my husband and I were on our own. We left my kids with my brother’s nanny and set out on our adventure with a few maps printed out from the computer and a recommendation for a place to eat lunch. My brother had said we could hit a vineyard every 20-30 minutes and had marked a half dozen or so places on the Napa Valley map.

We got to the restaurant before the lunch crowd but did not have reservations and had to sit at the bar, which we enjoy doing. My husband struck up conversations with both the bartender and an older lady sitting two seats down from him. The food was really good, ranging from a golden and red beet salad with some local artisan cheese to cumin-spiced beef- stuffed piquillo peppers to wood oven roasted duck with a dried cranberry-apple wild rice.

When we were done, I excused myself to go to the restroom and when I got back, the seat on the other side of my husband had been occupied by a big (and tall) man named Todd wearing black thick rimmed glasses and a sleeveless down vest. He was talking to my husband about Vegas and Florida, saying he traveled a lot for business. What business? The wine business. What about the wine business? Todd owned a vineyard near by and would we like to go over there and taste some wines? Sure, we said. We can make it our first stop. So, he called ahead to someone named Dave who was going to meet us at the green barn. We shook hands and were on our way up a windy road, not really sure of what was going to happen. Maybe this Dave guy would close the gate behind us and lock us up for an eternity. Or maybe the wine would be really, really bad. I tried looking up the vineyard on my iPhone but we were getting so high up in the mountains that the service was spotty.

As we pulled in, Dave was walking out of a house with 3 wine glasses. We introduced ourselves and started up a gravel hill towards the wine cave. On our way up the hill, Dave started telling us about the history of the vineyard and about Todd. Todd had been a geophysicist. He and his dad had bought the land together. Todd liked car racing, shooting and had built the reservoir we were walking by. A true do-it-yourselfer.

We entered the wine cave where we spent the next 3 hours tasting 12 different wines, including two suctioned right out of the barrels and one that retailed for $500 a bottle. That was the last one we tasted. For the majority of the time, it was just the two of us and Dave. Talking about topics ranging from wine to brothers to the randomness of life. On the ride back to my brother’s house, I kept marveling how one small nod of the head to a perfect stranger transported us to a winery off the beaten path. The wines were excellent and the memories, and the story to tell, even better.

It is truly a gift to be able to talk to just about anybody. I’m glad my husband has it. It’s probably how he hooked me. That and his joie de vivre. Nobody has more fun than we do.