There’s something humbling about being in the presence of creatures old enough to remember the Dark Ages, especially when they grow taller than the Statue of Liberty and thicker than a city bus.
It didn’t take us long to spend the money we saved passing up pricey Napa Valley wine tastings. While we left Napa without purchasing even a single bottle, we didn’t come away empty-handed in another of California’s great wine regions.
The Anderson Valley is more off the beaten path than Napa and Sonoma, further north and harder to reach but well worth the effort. In fact, the effort is part of the fun. Driving from the coastal town of Mendocino we followed a beautifully winding, redwood-lined road that was as much a joy to drive as it was breathtaking to observe.
Sea Glass. The colorful, translucent pebbles prized by beachcombers the world over is garbage, or at least it once was before the sea reformed it into something beautiful.
Long ago these precious-looking stones were just ordinary glass from ordinary bottles and jars. That was before some asshat tossed them into the ocean, of course. Once there, the glass was broken and pummeled by the constantly churning surf into rounded, milky stones.
A chair whimsically perched on stilts sits on the edge of Winery Lake, one of some 2,000 works of art at the di Rosa. Tucked among the vineyards in the Napa Valley, the collection is considered the most significant holding of Bay Area art in the world.
A visit to the di Rosa is not a traditional museum-going experience. Guided tours—the only way to see the full collection—combine indoor and outdoor viewing in various areas of the property, once home to vintners and art enthusiasts Rene and Veronica di Rosa, the collection’s founders. The eclectic assortment features everything from painting and sculpture to ceramics and video, created from the 1960s to the present.
Sticker shock greeted us on our third and most recent visit to the Napa Valley. We remember when tasting rooms were economical places to discover wine. These days they can quickly become a budget buster, with tastings running about $20 a pop for a few thin pours. Now it’s often cheaper to bypass the samplings altogether and just buy a bottle instead.
The good news is that California wine country isn’t exclusively about the wine. Many vineyards are also competing for tourist attention by building lavish grounds and offering other attractions that are often completely gratis.