Green contrasts For tourists in Northern California, Napa and Sonoma counties are most famous for their wines. Visitors can tour the many wineries and tasting rooms by car, train, stretch limo, or bicycle, and in the summer months the roads can be crowded. But these valleys offer other treats as well, in less-publicized corners with fewer visitors.
On a breezy sunny day, the air swept clear after a nighttime rainfall, we drove into the valleys along a Hedge with spring growth pleasant road bordered by wetlands and shelted by green rocky hillsides. We passed vineyards planted with yellow mustard, an explosion of color against the bare vines, with, here and there, clusters of men training the vine canes against their wires. Our destination was Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma.
Garden: Changing Rooms Unlike most of the gardens we have visited, which have a unifying motif, Cornerstone Gardens sponsors 22 spaces in each of which a landscape architect or design firm was invited to create a garden space. The project was begun in 2004. When we visited most of the gardens were prepared for visitors, with new spring growth providing soft light green touches.
Fish mobile The designers represent many different styles and come from near and far, including southern California, Quebec and Japan. In some gardens, the combinations of plants and trees welcome visitors to walk inside, or just admire from the outer path. In other cases, they have used elements such as concrete, gravel, wood, large stones; occasionally a garden had no growing elements at all. The garden filled with flyers and reports on Garden named "Rise" immigrant workers had an overtly political message, but the rest did not.
Although we had hoped for emphasis on plant species, we nevertheless enjoyed our visit, savoring the ingenious products of artists and gardeners. We were especially delighted with the mobiles which took full advantage of the light breeze, and were much more than mere copies of Calder. Some mobiles by the same artist were for sale in one of the stores. Fountain at Jacuzzi
The enterprise featured, in addition to the gardens, several shops selling garden statues and furniture, a tasting room for local wines, a sandwich-and-salad cafe and a couple of art galleries. We stopped at the visitor center where we were directed to a new winery which also features olive oil tasting, a recent addition to the area's food-centered culture. The Olive Press is the olive half of the Jacuzzi winery, named for the owner's grandfather, who was the inventor of the Jacuzzi bath, and also had quite a windmill business starting in the 1930s.