Monday, December 3, 2012

Biking through Calistoga - Napa Valley

Time to travel back in time a bit.  As regular readers will recall, Nick and I went to San Francisco back in September and then continued on to Napa Valley for a few days.  When we told people we were going to Napa we were given tons of great winery recommendations - I really had no idea how many wineries there were in such a small area!  Being super type-A, I took all of the suggestions and made charts based on location and tasting hours.  After some fun with Google Maps, I created a tentative itinerary, which only included three actual appointments over the 3 days of wine tasting.  This gave us enough of a plan to allow us to do all we wanted to do, but it had enough flexibility that we could change things up depending on what we saw and what recommendations we received during the day.

Along the bike trail in Calistoga

Not wanting to drive both days, I thought biking would be a great alternative.  Calistoga has a Bike Shop right downtown that was a short walk from Stevenson Manor, and they showed us some bike paths and gave us a handy map.  Easy enough, right?!  Turns out it was a bit more difficult than I thought.  Sure, the bike path in Calistoga was lovely and flat.

Along the bike path
However, once we left the bike path and headed out along the Silverado Trail, there were more than a few hills.  Our first stop of bike day was Duckhorn, which was about a 45 minute ride away, and even with the hills we arrived bright and early (10:00am) for our appointment.  The grounds and tasting room at Duckhorn were beautiful.  While there was a tasting bar and seating inside, we grabbed a table outside of their expansive veranda overlooking the gardens in the foreground with grapevines and hillsides in the background.

Turning down to Duckhorn
Front of Duckhorn tasting room
Gardens at Duckhorn
The tasting cards were helpful for keeping track of what we were drinking as well as having more detailed descriptions on the back of the card.  Our server was helpful, but not overly instructive.  The wines at Duckhorn were excellent, and their Sauvignon Blanc is something we have actually purchased since coming home more than once!  I would highly recommend Duckhorn to anyone visiting the northern part of Napa - this was definitely one of our favorites.

Tasting Flight
On the Duckhorn Veranda
From Duckhorn, we headed north on the Silverado Trail to Rombauer, located high on what seemed like a mountaintop in the middle of the valley.  Upon arriving at the driveway, we got off our bikes and climbed up the steep driveway, welcomed by the amazing views of the valley around us.  We decided to share a tasting here so as not to overindulge.  Our server was friendly and actually stopped that morning to grab some white and red grapes so that we could taste them and explain what the vintners are looking for in their grapes and what is considered ripe.  This was a fun addition to the tasting experience.

A view of the valley below
Grapes for tasting
While the tasting room was not impressive, their veranda was the perfect setting to enjoy the snacks we packed, including our cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery.  Rombauer indicates on their website that they allow people to bring in food so we were happy to grab a bite overlooking the gardens and the expansive views.

After we snacked, we took a quick walk around the garden paths only to be invited into the caves by one of their vintners!  Overall, I think I was expecting a bit more from their wine (although this did not stop us from bringing home their Zinfindel), but the grounds and our surprise wine cave experience made it worth the stop.

Entrance to the Caves
In the Caves!
Rombauer Gardens and Sculptures
Love this one!
Enjoying the downhill of the Rombauer driveway, we were headed north again on the Silverado Trail looking for a cross road to get us onto Route 29 and the entrance to our next stop, Castello di Amorosa.  When I saw the castle on their website, I knew this was going to have to be a stop.  The vineyard is known as "the castle that wine built."  The family who owns V. Sattui basically made enough money through through their first venture to build a true medieval castle, with pieces flown in from all over the world to keep it as authentic as possible.  Without intending to, we timed our visit just right since one of the tours was about to start, so we jumped right in.  The space is truly incredible, and if you have the time it is worth the tour.

The Castle
Amazing Views
Heading over the bridge
Wine Cellar
Every Castle Needs a Torture Chamber!
The most impressive room was the giant cellar room, with with all of its gorgeous arches.

Tasting from the barrel!
After the barrel tasting we went to one of their many tasting rooms and enjoyed tastings of over 10 types of wine between Nick and I.  The tour guide led us through the tasting and did a wonderful job explaining the wine.  You could tell he enjoyed what he was doing and was passionate about wine.  Castillo Di Amorosa would be a fun wine club to join because they have tons of parties in the various rooms of the castle, which I'm sure are a blast!

Our final stop for the day was just before the bike path back to Calistoga.  Clos Pegase is a distintive building surrounded by a variety of large sculptures.  Turns out the winery is known just as much for its wine as it is for its impressive art collection.  The tasting hall was large, but the servers were friendly and more than happy to discuss everything from the wine, the vineyard, the owner and the art collection.  It was the last tasting of our day and the bike riding took a lot out of us, so exhaustion was setting in and we didn't spend too much time exploring the grounds.  However, the wine was delicious - we have seen the bottles in this area a few times and would definitely buy another!

Clos Pegase
Vineyard, View and Art

At Clos Pegase
Along the bike path, a look back
We totally enjoyed our first full day of wine tasting.  I think I was a bit too ambitious with the biking distances, but we made it!  If you are interested in biking and are not a real biker, try to stay a bit more local.  While Route 29 is flatter than the Silverado Trail, there is a lot of traffic and the shoulder is not huge.  I was happy that we did not have to get back on the bikes the next morning!

The vineyards we visited offered a great variety in wine and settings.  Each offered something distinctive and memorable, preventing them from blending together.  My favorite of the day had to be Duckhorn - the wine was just so delicious!


  1. What a great post! We have visited the Castello a few times, and it is definitely an impressive property!

  2. So awesome!! I am very jealous, I'd love to go to Napa, too ;) One of my friends' brother works for Duckhorn and I've only heard wonderful things about them.

  3. We will definitely be doing this bike ride when we go in August! Such a fun idea.

  4. I think you need baskets on your bikes to fill with all those bottles of wine! It sounds really ambitious... I'm not sure I could make it, but what a fun day! And that castle reminds me of Italy a little bit!

  5. Biking through napa is pretty much my dream vacation. I need to make it happen!

  6. what an awesome day. biking is such a great idea...for the most part ;) you visited some amazing wineries. I hope I get to Napa someday!

  7. Good for you for biking!! I went to Napa this summer with girlfriends (yay pre-pregnancy drinking!) and saw tons of bikers up by Calistoga. Looked like a beautiful way to take in the sights!

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