We’d fantasised about cycling to Napa Valley long before the first pedal stroke in Whistler. So even though it’s not on the Pacific Coast route we decided to try and find a way to make it work.
This blog post is mainly going to be around our time there but if you’re interested here is the route we planned. Day reports of each section are listed below .
Now back to the wine… 🙂
On arriving in Calistoga, the northern end of the Napa Valley, we were both pretty excited to hit the vineyards – so much so that we went straight to Twomey as it was close to the Napa Bothe State Park. Twomey is part of the Silver Oak vineyard, which is pretty high end, so it was quite amusing parking our loaded bikes outside the cellar door. I’d tried one of their wines before and thought it was pretty average for the price but we went in open minded. We clocked a dedicated Twomey biking section as we waited to sort out our tasting. When they eventually spoke to us and we enquired about the link with biking they were pretty offhand -not the greatest of starts. The lady who was serving us was frankly terrible – just our luck to get her on first tasting – the others servers were much better. The wine continued to be pretty average and we didn’t hang around long. On the plus side they did give us two free wine glasses which was pretty handy as we managed to break one of the Riedel glasses we were carrying from Whistler.
Undeterred we headed to Sterling which is pretty much next door. Neither of us knew much about this vineyard and after seeing the line for the gondolas to get to their raised tasting room we decided against it.
The next one along was Clos Pegase – unfortunately we got there just as they were closing so we couldn’t do the full tasting. However, they took some pity on us and gave us a free taster which was pretty decent.
Unable to get to any more vineyards we checked into the Napa Bothe park. Rather surprisingly it only has one hiker biker spot. This was taken but the nice people at the registration booth gave us a full site, big enough for eight tents, for the hiker biker rate – result 🙂
We’d realised a few days before arriving that Labor Day would make things tricky. With no buses, taxis, shuttles and a reluctance to cycle we hitch hiked a lift into Calistoga. We sampled quite a few wines at the Calistoga Inn in their beautiful garden that day but rather unhelpfully we don’t recall much about them :-). We also managed to secure a high speed lift home in a police car which saved us a long walk. The police officer was great fun and even staged a mock arrest. Picture available on request – it looks a bit to realistic for general web availability 🙂
The following day, a little later than planned we headed to Chateau Montelena. This winery I was extremely excited about as I’d kept a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon on my shelf for about 3 years. The gardens and grounds were beautiful and the tasting was only $20 per head which was reasonable considering the price of their wines. The servers were very friendly and actually gave us some tips based on the wine we both like – big bold velvety reds. The wines we tried were were all pretty good with the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Zinfandel standing out. We decided to splash out on an 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and extremely reasonably priced Zinfandel for back at the campsite.
Having spent a few days in Calistoga we were keen to see the southern end of the valley so we cycled towards Napa. We were both a little ‘wined out’ but decided to head to Ehlers and Darioush – both of which were recommended by Montelena. We’d tried the Ehlers 2010 ‘One Twenty over Eighty’ Cabernet Sauvignon in Calistoga which was excellent. Unfortunately though Ehlers is appointment only so we headed for Darioush.
The Darioush cellar door is very grand and pretty pricey ($40 per head) especially for the cost of the wines they served. You did get some tasty pistachios though :-). We both thought the wines were good but nothing really stood out. We got chating to the hospitality supervisor by chance and this made the experience much more enjoyable. He was a keen cyclist and even went out to check out the bikes. He poured us some Darius 2 which is their flagship red and not available to buy unless your in their club. This was about $220 a bottle and was, unsurprisingly, very nice.
We continued our ride to Napa, cycling past more famous vineyards, but couldn’t face any more wine.
Overall, the detour to Napa was great fun and if anyone is cycling the Pacific Coast route and loves wine I’d definitely recommend it.