This is the fourth post in the “An Unforgettable Anniversary Weekend In Sonoma” series highlighting Sonoma Valley and surrounding areas. Other posts in this series include Addendum, El Dorado Kitchen, and Basque Boulangerie.
I’m not sure why, but it never occurred to me that you could bike around wine country. I guess the first few times I came, the wineries that we visited seemed so far apart from each other, I could not imagine traveling between them in any other way except by car.
And then I tried it – in Napa Valley – and loved it.
It turns out, there are a TON of very bike-friendly paths all around wine country. You can easily bike between vineyards on roads that are virtually never frequented by cars. For a city girl like me, these rustic, relaxing bike rides along country roads are a rarity, and thus these paths were a real treat.
If you’re spending a few days in Sonoma Valley, definitely consider setting aside half a day to bike to a variety of vineyards. I was so surprised to find out how easy it was to bike between them, and how nice (and pretty) the paths were.
We rented bikes at Wine Country Cyclery, right in Sonoma Plaza, where they will also provide you with a map showing bike routes to nearby vineyards as well as discounts to tastings at those wineries. They have plenty of parking for cars, so it's a convenient place to leave your car if you want to explore all day via bicycle.
And off we go!
A large part of the path consists of dedicated bike paths, which is great. You get to bike right through rows and rows of grape vines.
The first stop, Ravenwood, is not too far away. It's a large winery and a popular stop pouring all different sorts of wine flights.We used our "buy one, get one free" tasting coupon to do two tastings for $15 (check out that gorgeous view out the window!).
We then entered Bartholomew Park, which included Bartholomew Park Winery. The winery itself was quaint and rustic. Plus they had a free water cooler, which was invaluable because the bike ride up to this winery was not a piece of cake. It was definitely hilly, and we were sweating a bit (and slightly out of breath) by the time we got to the top!
The best part about Bartholomew Park? The picnic benches!There are many of them, and despite the fact that it was one of the busiest days of the year in Sonoma, we didn't have trouble finding an empty picnic table not far from the winery.
It was lovely to just sit, relax, enjoy our sandwiches from Basque Boulangerie, and soak in the view.
After lunch, we headed to Buena Vista Winery, which had beautiful grounds and a large tasting room packed with people. Unfortunately it so packed we were unable to squeeze in and try a tasting. We waited for quite awhile before deciding to move on.
After walking around for a bit and exploring the grounds, we decided to bike back to our starting point. If we had wanted, we could have biked further and visited at least one more winery. However, after having been out for a solid four hours, we decided it was time to head back into the Plaza.
Our last stop was Roche Winery, which is located right in Sonoma Plaza.
What makes this place unique is that you can sample their wine while enjoying food from the Sunflower Caffe.
Oh, and you get to try Roche's olive oil too, which is quite delicious.
At Roche we had an extended tasting where we tried all sorts of wines - everything from exploring the difference between unoaked, American oak, and French oak chardonnay (very different, by the way; we preferred French oak), to sampling their solid selection of red wines.
Bryan's favorite? The 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros. My favorite was the Late Harvest Topaz, a Sauternes style dessert wine.
They even have a barrel right in the tasting room so you can try a barrel taste, which is kind of fun.
We finally dropped off our bikes after a long day of traversing the valley via pedal power. The final bill was $60, not too bad for a long day of bike riding. $10 gets you an hour; $20 for 2 hours; and then $30 for a whole day. We got the least expensive option ("comfort/hybrid" bikes), which was fine. They offer a lot of other options, such as endurance road bikes, race road bikes, kid trailers, and even tandem bikes (ha ha, wouldn't that be fun to try!).
General Notes about Biking in the Vineyard
1. Bring Water and Plan Your Path
Some parts of the path do go uphill, so take that into consideration when deciding how long or how far you want to bike. If it's hot out, bring plenty of water, since you’ll get dehydrated, especially if you plan on doing a bit of wine tasting while stopping at the various wineries.
2. Purchasing Wine
If you do want to purchase wine at these wineries, most of them understand that you can’t quite cart the bottles away via bicycle. If you are staying nearby, some of them will actually offer to deliver the wines to your hotel, which is a really nice service. Of course, you can always buy the wines and then just pick them up later by car.
3. Be Responsible
This goes without saying, but you are operating a vehicle, so treat biking as you would driving. If you feel that you wouldn't drive, you most certainly shouldn't be biking. There are parts of the trail that are shared with cars, and even though the cars don't come that frequently, you will still see them. Stay safe!
That's it! Have fun and enjoy the unique scenery that wine country has to offer.
Disclaimer: this trip was organized by the Sonoma County Visitor's Bureau. Some of the activities and meals in this series, such as the cost of bike rentals and the tasting at Roche Winery, were paid for by the owners of the establishments.
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