We go to “wine country” primarily to taste wine. The opportunity to meander from tasting room to tasting room, sampling the latest vintages and perhaps some older ones, is the adult equivalent of a kid in a candy store. One could easily build an entire vacation around that single activity.
But if you prefer to have a mix of activities when on vacation, there’s no reason to cross “wine country” off your list of potential destinations. From California’s Central Coast to the vine-covered hills of Tuscany, there are countless opportunities for adventures within steps of the tasting rooms.
Here are just five of the possibilities…
- Bicycling in Sonoma County.
One can really get away from the hustle and bustle of city life by riding a bike on Old Redwood Highway out of Santa Rosa.
A somewhat ambitious route will take you to Pleasant Avenue in the town of Windsor, then on Chalk Hill Road to join Highway 128.
A left turn will take you into the Alexander Valley, where you’ll be surrounded by grapevines. It also will take you to the Jimtown Store, where you can stop for coffee and stock up for a picnic later on.
At that point, you’ll need to make a choice: keep going straight and head into Healdsburg (with its charming town square surrounded by satellite tasting rooms, restaurants and shops), or make a right turn toward Geyserville, where you can continue to enjoy the country quiet or perhaps visit a winery.
Whichever way you decide to go, keep in mind that you’re sharing the road with cars, some of which are being driven by people who may not have done as much spitting as they should have at the tasting rooms. Always have a “bail-out area”… just in case.
- Bicycling in Tuscany.
If you’re a bicycle rider who prefers the safety and camaraderie of a group cycling tour, Butterfield and Robinson offers a six-day trip through the legendary landscape of Tuscany.
The route takes cyclists up the clay hills toward Siena, with stays at 5-star hotels and picnics at private estates. The guided tours are priced at $5,295, plus $400 for a quad-comforting electric bike.
- A shrine to wine.
Calling the new Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar a “tasting room” just seems… wrong.
It is so much more, from its subterranean cellar to its spiral staircase that leads to a rooftop planting of grapevines. The architecture is magnificent, and so is the on-site restaurant.
- Sip and zip.
Ancient Peaks Winery, located in California’s Paso Robles winegrowing region, offers guests a balloon-free way to view vineyards by air: on ziplines.
One of the lines spans more than 1,200 feet, and if you’ve never been on a zipline before, it can get the ol’ heart pumping. But don’t close your eyes, because that kind of defeats the whole purpose.
Also, if you’re a zipline newbie, you may want to zip first and sip later. The $99 zipline package includes wine at the Ancient Peaks tasting room.
- Take a trolley.
Sonoma’s answer to the famous Napa Valley Wine Train is the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley.
The trolley departs from the historic Sonoma Plaza, and the six-hour excursion includes a catered picnic lunch, plus visits to four boutique wineries. It’s a great way to experience Sonoma wine country while leaving the driving to someone else.