Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 19- Sonoma Valley/Carmel/Big Sur

Today would be our last day in the paradise of wine country; which meant we had to check out of our luxurious hotel room and return to living out of the rental. I packed all of my stuff back in my suite case before heading down for breakfast. Today we would be driving to Sonoma, but not before stopping at Grgich Hills where we can stomp grapes and make a shirt out of our vino footprints! We headed out for the vineyard, and it was already a hot day. I was in my fancy red pants but brought a pair of running shorts to change into for the stomping. We arrived at the outside tasting bar and paid for our tasting with stomping shirt, after we were both handed a glass of white wine to take over to the stomping area. There were two tubs and I hopped in first, the grapes were cool and squishy; I sure hope no one has foot fungus prior to my stomping! We stomped around while talking to the guy working the t-shirt preparation for us, before creating our shirts. He soaked the shirts in water and placed them outside of our tubs in a container. I carefully shook off my left foot in the tub, and placed in on the shirt, balancing to do the same with my right foot. The footprints came out pretty awesome, I saw someone had written the year underneath so I decided to do the same. I squatted next to the tub dipping my finger in over and over to spell out "2015." Finishing off with a few splatter marks, he took my shirt to spray down with vinegar while I washed off my feet with the hose. The employee working the stomping had mentioned that we should stop to see the castle if we hadn't already. Since we hadn't, we kept the idea in mind. We hung our shirts on a line nearby and walked back to the tasting area. I fell in love with all of the wines we tasted, and I had never even heard of this winery before; a very nice surprise! We finished our tasting, and swung by the vines for a bushel of grapes (which was not frowned upon here) and grabbed our damp shirts to head to the car. Though the castle wasn't as close as we originally thought, we decided that after seeing images online we should diffidently check it out. We arrived at Castello Di Amorosa and it was the coolest winery I had ever seen, it was legit a castle; and a big one! We pulled up to the parking area and parked the car, not knowing where to go in, we wondered around for a bit and came across a pig pen, though the pigs were not visible. Heading towards the castle stairs, we realized how busy this place really was; and that was nothing compared to stepping inside. There were people everywhere walking around like chickens with their heads cut off; we stood in line to buy a tasting while staring up at the stone walls around us. We explored the inside of the castle, checking out rooms, before entering the cellar where the tastings were happening. Trying to get to the bar was near impossible until a couple left, leaving us a nice little corner spot next to two middle aged blondes. It took only a moment to realize they, as well as the bartender were equally flirting with each other. The bartender, a middle aged Italian stallion was running all over the place with your typical Italian energy. It was then I noticed most of the bar keeps were Italian males, great salesmen to say the least. We tried a few wines in between his conversation with the two next to us, before we knew it he was leaving with them to give them a discount on their purchased wine; "what are we chopped liver?" Another Italian man in his late 50's came over to us and he could see my abandonment on my face. He quickly grabbed us a bottle of reserve that was not on our tasting list to apologize for the other guy disappearing. He was going on break so yet another older Italian gentleman came over to take care of us. He was very soft spoken compared to the other two, but very nice nonetheless. It was then when the Italian stallion returned, and took over like he never left. People were rushing all around the cellar gathering wine to purchase and it was like time was standing still at the bar for our tasting. We walked back upstairs, stopping in the bathroom; which was so elegant like a palace. There were no doors so you could see right in to the sinks and stalls. It was a bit of a wait to get in, but after we continued to tour the castle. The hallways were open to the outdoors and seemed like a maze within. Walking up to the roof deck gave us a gorgeous panoramic view of the grounds. As I peered out of the tiny stone windows, I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like to live in such a beautiful structure. On our way out, the pigs came out from their hut so we stopped in to see them quick before heading for the car. Our next location would be Sonoma Valley, Landmark Vineyard which was having an event with live music and food included in the tasting. We took a bunch of backroads to reach our destination, and when we did; it was another beautiful location. We paid for our event entry inside, and then joined the party outside; it was a BBQ themed wine tasting, and I was already famished from the two prior vineyards. Though we were informed that the horse drawn vineyard tour was about to embark on their last ride, we put our hunger on hold, grabbed a glass of wine, and hopped aboard. The tour was Anna and I, and two little girls; I am sure their parents are having a great time drinking wine at the event and just told the kids to ride the tour all day long. Our guides looked like two cowboys out of a movie; one was much older than the younger one, and they were characters in itself, but they were visibly intoxicated as well. The vineyard was a smaller one, so the tour wasn't terribly long. We learned that most grape growers also grow olives as we passed under an olive tree. Arriving back at the event, we got in line for some food; it seemed the event was almost over. I loaded my plate with a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, potato salad, and these huge gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes were by far my favorite, and the potatoes my least. As we ate, we listed to a live cover band of many different artists; which were very talented individuals. The band played their last set and I gazed around at the beauty of this vineyard. Everything within was so colorful, green, and well groomed. It was a place I could see myself relaxing at frequently, if geographical issues weren't a problem. As the place started to clear out, we went inside for some more tastings. At this point, either the wine wasn't tasting as great to me, and Anna stopped drinking all together. We each grabbed a complimentary bottle of Fiji water and returned to the rental. This afternoon I was unsure of how far we would make it, and if we would make it all the way to Big Sur; the mid-day wine was relaxing and I wasn't looking forward to driving all night. Anna's mother had offered to buy us dinner somewhere, and we were really feeling sushi. We looked up online a good destination of where we were, and where we were headed, and settled on Carmel. There was a highly rated sushi place in town and we called to make a reservation. Along the way, we drove through what looked like some kind of storm off to the left. The cloud was one of the biggest oddest clouds I had ever seen and I wondered if it was smoke. We arrived in the quaint town of Carmel and drove around looking for the restaurant, once we spotted Sushi Heaven; we drove around looking for parking. We circled around at least five times not finding anything, and not wanting to get ticketed again. As we drove around one last final time, and opening right out front of the restaurant was available, perfect! We parked, headed inside, and sat right down at a table near the entrance. There were many photos plastered all over the wall of famous people eating at the sushi place, always a good sign. We ordered edamame as an appetizer and I got rainbow roll, and tuna/avocado/cucumber roll; it was all so good and hit the spot! Thank you Anna's mom! We left the restaurant and I received my second wind, we decided to push through all the way to Big Sur for the night. What we didn't realize was it was now the weekend and we should have made a reservation beforehand; but we will get to that. We drove on and had to stop roadside to take in the beauty of a West coast sunset. There really is nothing quite comparable to what I've seen on the East coast. We were also now riding along the Pacific Ocean and that was a breath of fresh air to see even at night. We drove down the two lane winding road in Big Sur, arriving at the campground we wanted to stay at for the night; no vacancies. We looked up another to check out, also full. The best part was, the further in we drove, the less we had cell coverage. If you are looking to really get away in nature, go to Big Sur, there is no cell phone service, like anywhere. Anyways the night was growing closer and closer, and more tired and irritable I became. I just wanted to get out of the driver's seat, relax, and know where I would be sleeping that night. Worst comes to worst, we always know we can sleep in the car and that is comforting. There are many pull offs along the Big Sur highway and after passing many, we wondered if we could just pull the car in for the night. A few we passed had signs that said no overnight parking, but we just so happen to find one that didn't. We pulled in, and as I got out of the car, the sky caught my attention. I looked up to see the luminance of hundreds of stars and the strong visibility of the Milky Way to the left. The moon was so bright that reflecting off the water almost made it seem earlier than it was. I had already made up my mind I wanted to stay here tonight. A wave of excitement took over and I grabbed my camera; Anna was less comfortable than I with the thought of staying roadside and being unaware how legal it was. I wanted to cowboy camp under the stars; the car was too messy, and I never really slept well when we did car camp, not to mention the regret I would feel if I didn't sleep under the stars. We stood out taking long exposure star photos for awhile before I took out my zlite foam pad, my blow up mattress, pillow, and sleeping bag. I set it all up on the backside of a big rock facing the ocean, and Anna did the same. After a few minutes of laying there, I heard noises and scurrying around. Ugh what is out here I thought?! I asked if Anna heard that and she did, she said it was probably annoying field mice. That kind of reassured me, in a un-reassuring way. I didn't particularly want to sleep with mice, hence the reason I tented on the Appalachian Trail. But at least it wasn't something bigger, or more worrisome. As soon as I would drift off to sleep, one would sound as though it were right near my head, so I would wake up and try to make noise so it would run off. Last thing I wanted was it crawling in my sleeping bag with me to stay warm! Every time I opened my eyes though, I would put my glasses on to see the stars more clearly (I am basically blind when it comes to distance.) Anna decided she was going to sleep in the car, and at some point another car pulled in next to us; which at first kind of freaked me out, and then I ignored the fact that they were just looking to do the same as us. Sleep for the night. Although I did not sleep that night. It consisted of light drifting off, to wake up to the mice in a nearby bush, and rock, to staring up at the sky and smiling. I wouldn't have traded that restless night for anything. The experience to be able to do that was worth not getting any sleep.


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