Next, we headed to wine country!
Sonoma was our destination, and we spent a merry day sampling as much wine as we could stand. We stopped at Cornerstone Sonoma just south of downtown, where a very knowledgeable tourism office employee helped us map out the day. Cornerstone also has a few boutique stores and wine tasting shops, as well as a fantastic series of gardens built by the creators of Sunset Magazine. Definitely give Cornerstone a visit if you’re in the area, especially if this is your first trip to Sonoma.
We managed to visit 4 wineries before it was too much, starting at Gloria Ferrer (expensive, we bought a glass to share), Cline Cellars (5 free tastings), Jacuzzi (5 free tastings), and Gundlach Bundschu (a German winery, we bought a glass to share).
We retired to the town square, where I cooled off with some delicious dairy-free ice cream at Sweet Scoops. We wandered a bit, ending up in Figone’s Olive Oil shop. Here we sampled olive oil pressed nearby, balsamic vinaigrette, and whole olives. We headed north toward Imagery ($10/tasting, outdoor games). We thought about hitting a few more wineries, but we were at our limit for the day, so we headed to Napa to check out the downtown and wait for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
On our way northwest, we visited Korbel. A bit off the beaten path, Korbel is very unique. The history of this place is quite fascinating, as Korbel was founded in 1882 and is the oldest continually operating champagne house in North America. Their free tour included a video and demonstration of the original bottling techniques, as well as samples. The grounds also hold a delicatessen, and you can buy Korbel’s many varieties of champagne and brandy not available in stores.
After the rush of the big city, we were pleased to head back out into the woods. We stopped in Humboldt State Park, and managed to snag a great campsite in an old-growth Redwood forest. These suckers were HUGE! Sadly, the area we were staying in was logged back in the early 1900’s, so we could only admire the stumps of the really big ones. No joke, you could park a car on these stumps. The loggers used to have to build scaffolding around the trees and then scrape off layers of bark so they could cut them down. The visitor’s center had a great museum full of tools and photos, like the one below.
It’s hard to even begin to capture the scale of these trees, standing over 300 feet high. The Redwoods and Sequoias looked fairly similar to me, but they live in different climates. Sequoias grow wider, while Redwoods grow taller. Below is a sequoia in Yosemite.
Redwoods used to flourish across America, but climate change led to their extinction everywhere except California and a small area of China, home to the Dawn Redwoods.
Humboldt State Park began as a private plot of land, purchased by a wealthy couple back in the early 1900’s. The couple and supporters of this conservation movement (they called themselves the Save-the-Redwoods League) brought celebrities such as Rockefeller out to camp among the living giants in an attempt to raise money to preserve them. Rockefeller ended up donating to their cause, and now, thanks to the Save-the-Redwoods League, there are over 53,000 acres of protected trees.
One of the most astounding things I learned during our time among the Redwoods is that the trees don’t actually need a central core to continue living. You can see in the photo of Jake on the far right that the tree has no central part, due to fire and/or disease, but it continues to grow ever upward toward the sun’s rays.
The Redwoods made us feel tiny, and very young. We headed north and west, to the coast. We stopped at Redwood National Park and got permits for a 1-night backpack into an old-growth grove. The giants never ceased to amaze us, but after walking in a few groves we were ready to be on to the next stage of our trip.
On to Oregon!