Field of (Sweet) Dreams

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By M.L. Hilton

(FORT BRAGG, CA) -- I try and make two pilgrimages – at least – to Mendocino County each year. One always comes at the end of August, and its purpose is to reconnect (where possible) with my tribe of women and celebrate the efforts of the body.

Okay, it’s only a soccer tournament. It happens the last weekend in August in Fort Bragg and it brings together a handful of women’s teams ranging in age from teenagers to AARP members.

The weather is usually sparkling in this old lumber town, now Redwood forest haven for tourists and residents, alike. Saturday morning as I walked on to the field, my compatriot remarked that they smelled something sweet and bitter in the air. I turned surprised, flared my nose and sniffed the morning ocean air without picking up the same. When I looked enquiringly, I was offered the punch line: estrogen.

Fort Bragg, named for a long-gone military outpost, tends to be a sleepy little town even in the midst of tourist season.

But this weekend – at least for me – it is turned into a both a field of battle, and a place where I intimately connect with the failings of my aging body – and frequently get yelled at for those same failings. Over the years, I have met with both victory, and defeat, nail-biting comebacks, and on-the-edge-of-your seat losses.

The trinkets I bring home don’t tell the whole story of adult women from dispirit backgrounds and philosophies who come together for two days to try and best a field of competition.

This year, the triumph was oh-so sweet. We came home with second place, but it was a second place lost in an overtime shoot out. Something to be proud of – especially considering we were playing in the “younger” over 30-league, instead of the over-40, where our roster showed we belonged.

On the way home, through the beautiful Anderson Valley, we stopped at Roederer Estate (which if you are not familiar, produces wonderful sparkling wines). Overlooking their lawn rimmed with a riot of blooming flowers and harboring a mother quail with her chicks, we tasted through five sparkling wines. I came home with three: the multi-vintage Brut MV (though the magnum aged a year longer in the bottle was hard to not purchase); the Brut Rose; and the Extra Dry Brut. I picked this one because it was created originally for the White House specifically as an after dinner toasting wine. And I had things to toast that day.

As the sun, freed from the ocean fog, bounced off the harvest fields turning to golden; as I re-lived my little wins and errors from the games; as I enjoyed the glow from the glass of champagne, the car droned down the country road toward home.

There came to me a lingering appreciation that it was another good day living in wine country; another good day in a relatively good life.

If you are interested in visiting (with or without your cleats):
The City of Fort Bragg sits amongst once dense timber lands and the lush fishing fields of the Pacific Ocean. Its weathered homes now house residents that more likely participate in the tourist trade than logging or deep sea fishing. It’s a great, low-key and connect-with-nature getaway.

Look for lodging tips, and dining ideas on Mendocino.WineCountry.com.

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