Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Looking for cherry blossoms in November as is irrelevant as looking for meat on a vegetarian menu. It’s just not there. And yet last Sunday when I took my family to Picchetti Ranch near Cupertino in the Silicon Valley, I was intent on examining each single tree of the orchard to find a cherry tree.
Why the nonsense? I recently suggested an article on Bay Area places that would remind families of the landscapes of the movie Where the Wild Things Are, and my editor at SFKids was enthusiastic. One of the scenes has Max twirl in a forest of delicate pink cherry blossoms swirling in the wind. Now, I had a problem and no immediate solution.
Apart from Brentwood, the cherry-picking town, I didn’t know many places with cherry orchards in the Bay Area. I sent a half dozen emails around to nature-related places, asking for forests with cherry trees. Might as well have asked for the moon. However, I did receive this from Jane Huber at Bay Area Hiker: “Can’t think of one. Cherry trees are pretty uncommon. There are a few plum trees mixed through woods in places like Edgewood County Park. There might be cherry trees at Picchetti Ridge Open Space Preserve, but not mixed through a forest.”
I looked up Picchetti Ranch. It was in Cupertino and there was a winery on site. Aha. Two reasons to drive down then. We packed a picnic lunch and hit the road.
However unlikely the idea of a winery in the Silicon Valley sounds, there are actually quite a few, but Picchetti Winery has an edge over most: the 1892 winery complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and there are hiking trails starting right outside the tasting room. Frankly, that’s a winning combination.
Right on the parking lot, I saw a gorgeous Fuyu persimmon tree loaded with pale orange fruit. I dared not hope that the orchards would be so accessible. We proceeded to the winery complex with our picnic. What a lovely red-and-white brick building the tasting room is. It’s just really charming. Once filled with redwood storage tanks and oak casks for aging and storing wine, the inside features a strong cellar smell, a long bar and strings of white lights on the exposed ceiling, giving it a very festive look.
Outside on the lawn, we easily spotted a picnic table by the creek. The winery provides a public picnic area with 10 tables every day from 11am to 5pm. Fittingly given the location, we saw someone bring back a glass of red wine from the tasting room. In less than a minute, my husband got up and came back with a glass of Zinfandel. The “glass of wine for the picnic” thing is so well organized that there is a small wicker basket outside the tasting room to return dirty wine glasses.
Picnic only lasts so long and our girls soon got antsy. Since we were there for the orchards, we started hiking the short (1 mile) orchard loop. Jane mentions plum, apricot, and pear trees in Bay Area Hiker’s description of the trails there. I would be lying if I said I positively identified cherry trees. I know vaguely what they look like and I don’t think I saw one, but then, poison oak obliging, I mostly stayed on the trail. That said, the hike is very easy, wide, and makes for a relaxing post-lunch walk. For more challenge, I suggest the Zinfandel Trail.
An hour and many photo stops later, we were back at the starting point. No we didn’t see the cherry trees I came to see – but we saw gorgeous black oaks, some arching their sturdy branches over the path, and we discovered a local winery inside a historic building. To me, that’s a pretty fine day.