For wine lovers and devoted cyclists, California wine country makes an exquisite and entertaining backdrop to a rural ride. Along the way, you can plan stops to enjoy the fruit of the vine right where it’s produced. Given the beautiful landscapes and the many rural attractions, many visitors choose to take in the sights from bicycles. When planning a trip, you can either take advantage of the many local cycling tour operators or dream up an itinerary of your own.
Wine Country Regions
“California wine country” loosely refers to all of those counties where wine-growing is king. Generally, the wine-growing areas of the state are centered around northern California. Napa and Sonoma counties are among the most famous destinations for wine-lovers. However, a trip through California’s various wine regions may also include stops in Gold, Livermore, Mendocino, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Temecula counties. The first step to planning a two-wheeled winery tour is to determine the specific region of greatest interest. Bear in mind that the wines of each region have distinct characteristics, so you may want to plan your trip according to your palate.
- Napa and Sonoma: Places to Explore
- Wine Country Regions
- Mendocino County Wine-Tasting Options
- California Wine Country: New Regions You Need to Know
- Ultimate Wine Country
- Charming Towns of Northern California’s Wine Country (slide show)
Before attending your first wine-tasting, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with some basic wine-tasting etiquette. For example, you should always hold the wine glass by the stem. Before sipping, it’s appropriate to swirl the wine in the glass and sniff it to appreciate the aroma. In most cases, it’s advisable and appropriate to spit your mouthful of wine into a provided spittoon instead of swallowing. Especially when cycling, this practice is highly advisable. Most wineries charge a fee for tastings. However, it is often acceptable to split a tasting between two people.
- Wineries in Napa Valley
- How to Taste Wine
- Tasting Tips
- What is Wine-Tasting?
- 15 Steps to a Successful Winery Visit
- Wine-Tasting Etiquette
Independent vs. Group Rides
Before planning the details of your ride, you’ll have to decide between a group tour and an independent ride. Joining a group saves considerable planning time, but arranging your own trip will offer more freedom and may prove more economical as well. In Napa, many wineries are situated right along Highway 29. In some other areas, getting to all of your top-pick wineries may require a more circuitous route. When planning an independent ride, local cycling associations are often an invaluable resource, offering extensive information on local routes as well as local bike repair and rental shops.
- Slow Ride: American Wine Tours on Two Wheels
- Popular Bike Itineraries: Cycling Through Wine Country
- Ten Great Sonoma County Rides
- Tools for Planning a Self-Supported Bicycle Tour
- California Wine Country: Planning a Cheap Trip Yourself
- Napa’s Top Secrets
Should you decide to create your own ride, plenty of resources provide details on the local cycling routes you have to choose from. For trail riding, options in Napa include the Vine Trail and the more challenging Pope Valley Loop. The Silverado Trail is a 29-mile route of highway lined with a dedicated bike lane. It passes by more than 40 vineyards and wineries. In Sonoma, the Highway 116 route is a popular choice, taking you all the way from Sebastopol to Forestville. If you alternate cycling days with days for winery visits, your route won’t be confined to vineyards. In that case, many state parks have beautiful and well-indicated trails.
- Napa Valley Vine Trail
- Napa Valley Bike Map
- Cycling Napa Valley: Six Great Rides
- Plan Your Bicycling Trip to Napa
- Hike and Bike Sonoma Valley
- West County Regional Trail
Basic safety practices are critical to a good cycling trip. If you’ve never cycled in California before, your first step is to learn the state’s cycling laws. Especially if you plan to do road cycling, it’s important to learn how to share the road with other traffic. Safe cycling also includes preparatory measures, such as bringing along your own pump, puncture patches, and a few basic tools. Give your bike a thorough check-up before embarking on your journey, especially if you had to disassemble it for transport. Keep weather forecasts in mind and bring along ponchos or cool-weather gear if needed. The climate is typically quite mild, but temperatures can drop off dramatically in the evenings.