Thursday, October 08, 2015

West Coast Vacation: Napa and Yountville - Day 2

There are lots of different ways to visit wineries in the Napa Valley.  You can drive yourself, ride a limo, ride a bus.  We elected to ride bicycles and had signed up for an outing with Napa Valley Bike Tours.  The description on their web site sounded like a fun way to spend the morning – a casual ride over beautiful back roads, pedaling leisurely between the rows of grapes, enjoying the sunshine and clear valley air and getting to taste some delicious wines.  We were looking forward to the experience.

Most of the marketing pitch turned out to be true. 

We arrived a few minutes early at the tour company in Yountville, well-rested from our first night at the Writer’s Retreat.  There were eight of us in the tour group – me and Mary, a couple from Toronto who looked to be about our age, and a group of four young women who were doing a girls’ weekend in Napa.  They had read the same description we had, and came dressed for a stroll in the park – cute outfits and sandals.  The couple from Toronto looked pretty serious – he had biking shoes.  We had sunscreen and athletic shoes.

We met Carolyn, our tour guide. 

She gave a short talk on safety, riding etiquette, and the route we would be taking.  The bikes were new, 18 speed models.  Most of us had paid the extra five bucks for the optional gel seat cover.  (This turned out to be a wise move.)

We pedaled for several blocks through Yountville, everyone getting familiar with their bikes and settling in to a single-file line.  When we got outside the city, Carolyn picked up the pace.  It was clear that this was not going to be “leisurely”.  We rode for some distance along a side road, then turned onto a much busier highway.  It had a bike lane, but it still took us a while to get used to the cars and trucks whizzing past. 

After a while – our memories differ on how long it might have been – we turned off onto another side road and stopped for a water and photo break.  I heard a lot of panting and some groaning as the group took a quick break.  Despite the unexpected exertion, we all enjoyed the scenery.

After catching our breath, we rode for another 10 or 15 minutes to the first winery – Saddleback Cellars.

We sat at a picnic table under an umbrella and sampled six wines.  We tasted some Charbon grapes straight from the vine – sweet and very tasty.

Much of the grape harvest had already been completed.  There were large boxes of Charbon grapes stacked near where we sat.  While we were tasting, these were being emptied into a crusher.

We might have been grumpy when we arrived at the winery, but we were happy as we saddled up to ride away. 

It was about a 20 minute ride to the next winery - Goosecross Cellars.  They had a brand new tasting room - it had opened the day before our visit.  We sat on their new deck that looked out over a vineyard. 

We enjoyed sitting outdoors  and sampling their wines   We tasted five and bought two. 
It was probably a good thing that the tour only visited two wineries.  The limos and busses were looking pretty good as we rode back into town.  We arrived back where we started about 1:15 in the afternoon.  We grabbed lunch at the Yountville Deli next door, then headed back to the Writers Retreat for a nap.  We needed to rest up before our dinner at Bouchon!

Note:  Reality had to set in eventually.  As I publish this post, I'm back home.  Vacation is over and I'm back at work.  It may take a few more days between entries, but I'm determined to continue writing the story of our vacation.  Going back and looking at the pictures takes me back to all the fun we had.  It's helping me maintain that post vacation afterglow, despite numerous challenges to my good mood! 

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