Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wine & Gold

In previous emails with the Sproats, we discussed our plans for sightseeing Monday and Tuesday. It turned out that they enjoy hiking and museums as much as we do!

Monday, 10/14. Napa Valley Wine Country. We met Dave and Brenda at the Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena. It was started in 1872 and is the longest continuously operating winery in the US. (Now, that's pretty tricky with Prohibition in there. They can claim this honor because before Prohibition they were making wine for Communion so were allowed to continue that.) While we were waiting in the beautiful garden there were numerous hummingbirds darting back and forth. We toured the old house, finished in 1883, and also tasted 4 wines there, 1 white, 2 red and one red dessert wine. Not being a real wine drinker they were all pretty good. They showed us the caves, dug by hand, to keep the wine cool while fermenting in the oak barrels. Now, most of the wine is fermented in stainless steel drums across the street. Did you know that white wine isn't aged and red wine is? So, now you could see a 2007 white wine in the store but not a 2007 red wine.

After lunch in St. Helena, we drove to Napa to a really interesting museum called Copia, "The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts." Besides the museum and great gift shop, it has a restaurant for lunch and dinner, food demonstrations, and workshops. The latter had ended for the day but we watched a movie and looked at the displays about lots of food. Among other things, we learned about the origins of ketchup, hot dogs, Lay's Potato Chips, and Fig Newtons.

Tuesday, 10/15. The Gold Rush. Dave drove all of us to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, CA. This was where John Marshall discovered gold in the stream at John Sutter's lumber mill in January 1848. There was a Visitor Center and lots of buildings from the original town to look at and learn about.

Because it was threatening to rain all day we took a 2 hour hike first up and down the mountain. We passed some 4th graders from the Bay Area (Lafayette) on a camping nature trip. They taught us about the manzanita tree, the Ponderosa Pine and the toyon or Hollywood plant. They were very cute explaining facts to us. The manzanita is really interesting. It has a smooth, red, twisting bark that peels off in strips and it's cold to touch. The native americans ate the berries and the bark. They told us that the Ponderosa Pine has a rough bark that looks like puzzle pieces and it has pine nuts in the cones that are edible (mostly by wildlife). The toyon bush with red berries (bird food in winter) is an evergreen which Hollywood, CA is named after.

The gold that John Sutter found had flaked off from decomposing quartz. By the end of 1850 there were 90,000 gold seekers (argonauts) in California!! There were some buildings still standing and some just the remains: hotels, general stores, a printer, a prison, etc. in Coloma.

We drove back to Davis by way of Auburn, another gold rush town. It was a pretty heavy rain but it cleared up before we got to Sacramento. We picked up dinner on the way so we could all have a quick dinner together before Scott's and Libby's Ultimate Frisbee game.

Unfortunately, the other team didn't show up so we just watched them practice. It was fun anyway. We hadn't seen our kids play in a while and we all enjoyed just talking.

We drove back to the hotel where we were all staying and said our goodbyes. We were heading for the airport and NYC tomorrow. They were heading for San Francisco until Sunday. We had a great time sightseeing with Dave and Brenda and getting to know them. They were great travel partners!

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