14 participants joined my co-guide Gary Passon and me on the five-day trip. We started in Sonoma, biked across the county line into Napa Valley, and spent a few days in that beautiful area. We then crossed back over into upper Sonoma County and the Alexander Valley.
The key to the trip – and what everyone I tell about it wants to know – is how the biking part mixed with the wine tasting part. I must say I was pleasantly surprised! Most participants were there for both the biking and the wine tasting and we tried to accommodate. We had three biking routes each day (Short, Medium, and Long) and tried to place the bulk of the riding in the morning hours. That left the afternoons for the wine tasting.
So, as a sample day, the group might have ridden 20 miles in the morning to a good lunch spot without any winery stops on the way. In the afternoon, we might travel another 10 miles but stop at four or five wineries to taste the delicious local wines. Each person chose whether to drink or spit and how many wineries to visit. However, we found that with a mile of riding in between each winery, we had a great time and never felt as if we were jeopardizing our safety.
Personally, I had two favorite experiences on the tour – one related to biking and one to wine tasting. The first was when I was able to ride the Long Route on the third trip day with tour participant (and friend) Greg Johnson. The route was 50 miles long and only four of us total elected to bike it that day. Greg and I pushed each other and had a great time. In fact, we were so beat by the end of the day that neither of us wanted to stop at a winery!
The other memorable experience I had was on the fourth day. I drove the support van that morning, shuttling a few of the Short Route bikers part way, dropping off the luggage at our next hotel, and then shopping for a picnic lunch we set up at the Alexander Valley Winery. After lunch at the winery, I swapped with Gary (who rode in the morning) and was able to ride the last 10 miles to the hotel. Of course, that meant I was able to visit the wineries!
By the time Gary and I were done cleaning up the picnic, most of the group had already started out. I rode with Cathy, Chad, and Theresa and the four of us stopped at four wineries that afternoon. We had a great time sipping the different wines, chatting with the winery staff, and enjoying moving through the incredible scenery on our bikes. What a day to remember!
The California Wine Country is truly an incredible locale and biking is really a great way to see the area. I am pretty excited about the prospects of this tour becoming quite popular for us as more people learn how fun it can be!