THE FLUID NATURE OF TIME: It is right about late January that the clock can start meddle, in a merry if taunting fashion, with our perception of time, both the time of day and how far along we are in the year. For after a couple of months of darkness falling by 5 p.m., it seems brighter, nearly overnight, at around 6, as though the sun itself has gotten sick of winter and decided, on its own, to jumpstart this whole spring thing. It's not unusual to see springly soirees popping up about this time, even though we get that winter has a few weeks to go. Exhibit A? Silver Oak's mondo Release Day Party, which happens outdoors at the Oakville winery and which features a much-anticipated libation: The 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Okay, cabernet probably speaks to it still being wintertime, but the vineyard-close setting for the daytime to-do and general al fresco atmosphere says that people are ready to partay like short-sleeve weather is here to stay. Adding to the partay atmosphere? Chef Charlie Palmer will be cooking, in honor of the day's star sip, and not just cooking for a few: The Silver Oak Release Day celebration is billed as "the single biggest individual winery release party" on the Napa Valley calendar. Good times with a good group and lots of wine a-flowin'.
SO WHAT'S THE HAPS? Tasting the wine is the order of the morning-to-afternoon gathering, of course, but fine eats from Chef Palmer -- and a talented crew of other top toques -- plus a live painting demo, tunes, and other convivial, raise-a-glass goings-on will rock the proceedings. Cost? Fifty bucks. Hint? Best get those ahead of time, if you're going to, as a "limited number" will be available there, on the day of. Oh, and that day? It's Saturday, Feb. 7. Should that be our unofficial start of spring? At least in our hearts? The nights are getting lighter, so let's just say spring's nearly here and then act like it is by attending events like wine release parties in the beautiful, vine-y outdoors.