California Wine Country Cycling, Rediscovered

Traveling along bucolic roads, I caught myself humming along to an inaudible score and smiled. I had scheduled an end of year trip to the California Wine Country to attend meetings and visit each of the hotels listed in our 10-day Napa/Sonoma cycling itinerary, saying Thank You to those proprietors with whom our guests stay. Those connections were being made, but I also discovered a feeling growing stronger with each mile spent on these roads cycled by our guests. This was the same countryside I spent many days in, long ago, yet I was seeing it with new eyes. I was rediscovering the magic of the northern California wine region.

Three days earlier, I had arrived at the Santa Rosa airport. Named after the Peanuts cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, the airport boasts one conveyor belt for luggage, a friendly volunteer-staffed information desk decorated as Lucy’s psychiatric booth and is situated in the heart of the wine region. Convenient and welcoming are understatements. From Santa Rosa, it was a quick one-hour drive to Napa. Misty skies had encouraged growth, and green slopes along the drive were the reward. Areas hard hit by fires during the past two years were showing growth as well, the tight knit community working together to re-build.

The smile in my heart quickly made its way to my lips as I entered Napa County. A bike path for the first part of the ride leads to Yountville, a self-proclaimed “art of the stroll” town that lives up to the name. Here you can enjoy a stroll, or an on-saddle detour, around this small town known for award winning chefs and art. Even the local city hall/post office participates with a rock mushroom garden welcoming you as you enter town. I did not stop for lunch, instead making my way to the Oakville Grocery along Hwy 29 for a wine country picnic. Founded in 1881, Oakville Grocery is the oldest continually operating grocery in the state and is in the process of opening a museum on site. With a full deli counter, coffee bar, local offerings, and more, this is my favorite stop for a bite.

After lunch, a ride along famed Silverado Trail led me to historic Calistoga and my home for the evening. My choice this night was EuroSpa and Inn, a quaint but nicely appointed lodging just one block from Lincoln, the main road through town. From Calistoga, one can visit an impressive collection of wineries, explore back roads by bike, retreat to a spa or mud bath for an afternoon of relaxation or put on some walking shoes for a hike in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. At the end of the day, a casual dinner with locally-sourced ingredients at one of the many iconic restaurants in town followed by a walk back to the inn sets the stage for a great night’s rest.

Leaving Calistoga, the next day, I felt a jolt of energy. One day earlier I had the pleasure of visiting with Brent, one of the proprietors of Embrace Calistoga, and he reminded me of a short but lovely road on the edge of town. I took the detour past the Old Faithful Geyser, vineyards glistening with early morning dew and goats playing in fields, then made my way toward one of my personal favorite sections of riding. Country roads lined with trees and a couple of 2-mile climbs, slowing one down enough to take in the views, lead out of Napa Valley and into Alexander Valley, the largest and most fully planted wine region in Sonoma, en route to Healdsburg. It is also the area home to one of my personal favorites, Soda Rock Winery. A freshly made sandwich at the Dry Creek General Store, coupled with a community table conversation with locals completed a perfect afternoon. It was time to get back on the road and visit Healdsburg.

Healdsburg Plaza, the heart of this charming city, begs a walk. Leaving bags behind at Hotel Trio, guests can board a handy shuttle which delivers them to the square where five-star restaurants, boutique shops and, of course, wineries beckon. As the holidays were drawing near, I made a quick stop in Fideaux, the local pet store, and Levin & Co., a whimsical locally owned bookstore for some gifts. I grabbed takeaway at the second Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg Square and went back to explore and enjoy the newest lodging option in our itinerary. Next Up – Rustic and Redwoods.

Teri Smith is our Head of Operations and Cheerleader in Chief. She keeps the LifeCycle office energized, and is dedicated to creating the perfect trips for our guests.