Winter in California wine country. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
One, no crowds. Two, many sunny days in the 60s. Did I mention no crowds? That means fewer cars on the roads, too—making it the perfect season to bike and sip. But who needs to count? The point is, you’ll have a blast pedaling at your own pace past quiet, idyllic vineyards, then capping your day off with, of course, wine tasting at an eco-friendly winery… or two… or whatever (now pace yourself!).
I talked to Green Diva Meg about why wine country in winter is a great idea in this Travelin’ Green Divas segment. Listen up then read on for more…
All of California’s wine regions offer awesome biking opportunities, and here are just a few.
In Northern California, why not start with a self-guided tour of Sonoma County, getting healthy exercise as you cycle past spectacular views? Stop in tasting rooms to pick up a detailed biking-walking tour guide. Tours offered at sustainable Sonoma wineries include Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Mauritson Family Winery and Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
For those who prefer a guided experience, there are many options for bike tours that take you to wineries in and around Santa Rosa, in Sonoma, some with picnic lunches or with tasting fees waived. Vendors include Life Cycle Adventures, Ace It Wine Country Bike Tour, Getaway Tours Sip ‘N Cycle Tour (Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Carneros), Napa Valley Bike Tours and St. Helena Cyclery.
In nearby Napa Valley, there’s the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 47-mile path for exploring the world-famous region by pedal from Vallejo’s ferry terminal to the foot of Mount St. Helena in Calistoga.
For a packaged but still self-guided experience, Clif Family Winery at VeloVino offers bike rentals. Start with an expresso at the winery’s Clif bar and a map of the winery team’s favorite routes. End your day with a food and wine pairing at the tasting bar displaying cycling memorabilia.
Just a quick day trip from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe is the Sierra Foothills wine region, which includes the wine sub-regions of El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras. They’ve been producing wine here since the Gold Rush days. Most of the grapes are grown on rolling hillsides at elevations above 1,200 feet—making for scenic bike rides.
The El Dorado Trail boasts 28 miles of mountains and vineyard views. If you’d like to ride but want someone else to do the planning, Giro D’Oro Cycling offers weekend and five-day trips through the area, as well as daily bike rentals.
First-time visitors to Livermore, east of San Francisco, are often surprised at the many closely situated wineries surrounded by open space and gentle hills lined with vineyards. Cycling routes are plentiful and winery and bike path maps are available through the Livermore Valley Winegrowers.
Further south, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, don’t miss Fremont Older—a 763-acre open space preserve bordered by Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards. The oak-studded hillsides are home to many native animals, from bobcats, coyotes and deer to bird species. Begin the trail in the Cooper-Garrod parking lot, and end in the tasting room for wines from their Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing vineyard.
Named the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Paso Robles has a lot to offer the biking fan. Take a self-guided tour from City Park town square through vineyard country up to J. Lohr Winery for a tasting and return to City Park to enjoy more tasting rooms, boutique shops, galleries and wine-centric eateries.
For guided tours, Paso Bike Tours offers several wine country tours, including “On a Mission,” where guests bike to the historic San Miguel Mission. Or sign up with Central Coast Outdoors for a Pacific Coast/Paso Westside guided biking tour where you’ll pedal past stretches of coastline and rolling hills and enjoy a picnic lunch at a local winery, followed by tastings at sustainable wineries such as Lone Madrone.
Santa Barbara, known for the Sideways movie that made this wine region famous, is also a prime biking area. Cyclists also can sign up with Santa Barbara Adventure Company for a full-day wine country bike tour. Cycle through vineyards along Foxen Canyon Trail or Santa Rita Hills, stopping at notable vintners such as Zaca Mesa Vineyards and Riverbench Vineyard & Winery. Tours includes a picnic lunch.
Finally, just 90 minutes from L.A. and San Diego is the Temecula wine region. Green travelers may want to book The Ponte Family Estate, which offers AAA Four Diamond, sustainable accommodations. The winery and vineyard are third-party certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program—one of the most widely adopted programs in wine for sustainable practices. The estate has 300 acres of scenic, sustainably-farmed vineyards, and is popular for guests who want to cycle, run, walk or hike.
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