Roots and wings. Roots and wings. The most important things I have given to my children are roots and wings.
As I sit staring at the hawk soaring through the sky on the 1996 bottle of The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir—the birth year of my son—the symbolism of the label completely hits home.
I am no longer a mother to a teenager. Period.
My youngest is twenty. A truly milestone age. Though eighteen is considered legally an adult, we all know that’s not true. But twenty…there’s something about twenty that seems so old, so mature, so heart-wrenching.
My son would probably tell you he was this grown up two years ago, but I’m not buying it. Two years ago he was still in high school. Still under my roof all the time.
But now, just like that soaring bird, he has left our family nest, leaving his parents’ eyrie empty for the first time. It might not seem like a big deal to many parents, but his father and I have never been adults without kids. Never. Parenting is what we have done every day, week, month, and year of our adult lives.
My advice on parenting has always been that it isn’t about the parents; it’s about the kids. Many would say, “Well, duh!” However, not many parent that way.
I have always tried to do what was right for my children, no matter how that affected me. When a parent tells a screaming toddler no, it is hard on the parent. It is much easier to give in to the screaming and let the toddler have his way, but that isn’t often what is right for the child.
When a pre-teen screams, “I hate you!” at her mother. It is really easy to let that child have her way and for the parent to be the good guy. This is probably not the best choice though.
When a teenager has a curfew, the parents have to stay up waiting, no matter how tired those parents are. When a teenager is grounded for staying out past said curfew, the parents are, in essence, grounded, too, because they have to stay home to monitor the teen.
Sometimes it is easier on parents if they bury their heads in the sand and become best friends with their teen, to let the teen do whatever, whenever. This is never what is right for that teenager.
Am I a perfect parent? Hell, no. Have I made mistakes? Hell, yes! But overall, I have always done what was right for my kids, even when they threw a fit, even when they screamed at me, even when they lied to me. I have held them to a standard. A standard of which I knew they were more than worthy, a standard which I knew they deserved. Because I loved them that much.
As my youngest enters his twentieth year, I can see the results of all of this hard parenting. And believe me, it is hard, the hardest—and the best—thing I have ever done, that I ever, ever will do.
Our son is back to the safety of our nest now, home for the summer after his first year of college. Our roots have brought him here. He will fly from our eyrie again. I want him to do that. I can’t wait to see where his wings take him.
As his father and I sit and drink this birth-year bottle together, we inhale the musty earth, the muted fig, the strong mint, the zippy acid. After twenty years, this is still a gorgeous wine, barely showing its age. It is perfect. So perfect we make parenting be about us, just for a short moment, as we bask in another milestone of our son’s life. Only one milestone of many yet to come. A milestone my son doesn’t even think is that important because it is only twenty…not twenty-one.
But mostly, I stare at the wings of the regal bird on the bottle of 1996 The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. My English-teacher heart ponders the symbolism. My mothering heart lurches with a bit of sorrow while it wonders at the passing of time—but my heart does not break—it explodes with pride while it remembers the deep roots beneath those soaring wings.
Why The Eyrie Vineyards?
I had been on the lookout for a birth-year bottle of wine for our son. My husband and I opened a birth-year wine on our daughter’s twentieth birthday and were determined to do the same on our youngest’s birthday. I had looked around online, never finding the bottle that completely met my standards or my taste buds.
Then my husband and I spent our spring break in the Willamette Valley. I love pinot noir. I love Oregon. I love Oregon pinot noir. I was thinking of looking for a bottle when we stopped to taste at The Eyrie Vineyards. The Eyrie has quite a library selection. David Lett, known as Papa Pinot for his pioneering status growing pinot noir in the Willamette, grew many of the earliest vineyards in the area, experimenting with my favorite varietal. As part of this “experiment,” Lett also held back many cases from past vintages.
These cases were not just left and forgotten. The Eyrie actually has quite a certification process where library wines are tasted through for quality before being re-blended and re-corked, then covered with a wax capsule to store for more aging. The tasting room always has one library selection on its menu for customers to enjoy. On the day of our visit, a 1978 Merlot was on the list. There was also a 1987 Chardonnay for a white option. Both were absolutely amazing. The age was showing, but only in the finest ways. Lett’s experiment has obviously been proven a success time and time again. If I wasn’t a believer of the Willamette Valley and Oregon wines before (which I was), I surely was at that moment.
The Eyrie had two different options for 1996 wines—the year for which I was looking. My husband and I contemplated our selections and made our choice, taking home the South Block Willamette Valley. This was just another serendipitous event on a trip that was filled with such moments. Truly, this birth-year wine capped off a great trip and proved why The Eyrie Vineyards is considered a must-stop winery.