Autumn in Sonoma is a lovely mix of fall color and a mellower vibe as the hard work and hustle of making the wine gives way to letting time work its magic on it. After a long drought California braced for heavy rains as we wrapped up our time in the region, and talk with locals ranged from gratitude for the coming rains to trepidation at the prospect of mudslides and debris flows where the fire scars were. Northern Californians are stoic about this place they live in, a place that is so generous most of the time yet brutally cruel at other times. Vacationing in a place you’ve wanted to explore as a massive wall of water converges on it mandated stoicism for us too. We must work with whatever fate brings us.
If the Scots utilize previously-used American oak for their liquid gold Scotch, Californians use French oak for their liquid gold, wine. The smell of these barrels of wine biding their time is uniquely wonderful. Scheduling a tour in a vineyard that brings you access to the cellars is a must to better understand the process, and to bring all the senses into your Sonoma experience. Add generous pours of wine to sample and stories of the history of the family who started the vineyard and you’ve securely locked your senses in the amber of the moment. You’ll remember these moments most of all.
24 hours later, it was time to move on to our next destination, and, it turns out, make another memory. In stormy weather you make calculations about the timing of the worst of it. Do you cut your trip short or hunker down and ride it out where you are a bit longer? Timing makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Leaving Sonoma on our normal schedule but before the worst of the wind and rain we left the region behind.
As we reached the Richmond Bridge to cross the bay we anticipated extreme wind gusts on the exposed drive across, but didn’t expect a camper trailer to blow over on its side ahead of us, closing a lane and stopping all traffic for 15 minutes as the tow trucks and emergency vehicles positioned themselves for a wrestling match in a wind tunnel 185 feet above the angry waves below. Stopped there for awhile to contemplate the violent wind, we were lifted up and shifted side-to-side with the bridge. It was thrilling or terrifying, depending on your perspective on bridge construction.
Just a couple of memories on opposite ends of the heart rate spectrum during an all-too-brief visit to Sonoma. Sure, perfectly glorious weather would have left its mark on us too, but there’s something to the unexpected drama of a massive storm that forever imprints itself on your memory. Travel offers up these amber moments. Remember that time we…. moments. And changes us in the process. Isn’t that why we go in the first place?