California Bike Tour Guest Journal – Day 1
SUNDAY: Ahh, my husband and I are heading to the California wine country for a much needed and long overdue vacation. I sigh, lean back in my seat, and close my eyes thinking ahead to strolling hand in hand through the vineyards, lingering over boutique winery tastings and… wait… what? Bicycling???
We’re on our way to our first bicycle tour with Sojourn. I’m not an avid cyclist – in fact I barely ride a bike and I’m hoping I can handle the trip. My usual rides consist of towing the kids around the neighborhood. Fortunately, I am somewhat expert at consuming delicious food and wine so at least I have that going for me. The trip promises to include amazing cycling as well as luxurious lodging and gastronomic consumption – we’re sure looking forward to that!
Our travel instructions tell us to meet at the Sonoma County airport at noon and be dressed for our first ride of the bicycle tour. Sojourn will meet us and bring us to the start of the ride at Sbragia Winery. I step off the shuttle and notice the group immediately – you can’t miss a group of spandex clad adults! My anxiety begins to flicker as I consider whether I’ll be able to keep up – this group looks like serious cyclists. As I turn to share my thoughts with my husband, Matt, I hear an odd horn blowing and see a big white van approach. From the van springs Cy, our guide. “Welcome to Sonoma!” she cheers with a big smile and mischievous glint in her eyes – instantly, I know that everything will be just fine.
We arrive at Sbragia after a short drive and head inside for our first tasting of the trip. The winery is set on a hillside with a gorgeous view overlooking the Dry Creek Valley. Everyone is anxious to get on their bikes so we soon head back outside to be introduced to our rides for the week. After being fitted to our helmets and bikes, our guides Luke and Cy give us a brief overview of our route for the day’s tour and we’re off!
After the long New England winter the warm breeze feels good on my face. First stop is Ferrari – Carano winery. We try their famous Chardonnay then spend some time admiring their beautiful gardens. Fountains and pools surrounded by roses and shrubs of rosemary fill the air with a fresh aroma. Upon returning to our bikes we find that someone has left chocolates on our bike seats – just in case we needed further indulgence!
I grin at Matt and finally feel like our vacation is underway – what fun and we’ve only just begun! A half-dozen more miles down the road is our next stop at Bella Winery. The setting is dreamlike with a grassy terrace shaded by ancient olive trees. The cave is carved out of the hillside and actually lies underneath one of the vineyards and is where I have decided to hold my next milestone birthday – complete with candlelight, crystal, and French Country-style furniture. But, I digress, back to the present – wine! A refreshing rose and hearty Zinfandel lead to more conversation with our tour mates and a toast to the week ahead before leaving the wine cave.
The bike feels great – I’m much more comfortable than I’d expected. Matt explains that this is because these bikes are the newest technology. Somewhat along the lines of hybrid skis making skiing easier, these new bikes are lighter, quicker shifting, and easier to ride than their predecessors that I was used to. In any case, I’m having so much fun riding my bicycle that we forego tours and tastings at the multitude of other wineries lining our route and ride all the way to the inn. It’s a beautiful ride on a quiet back road lined with vineyards and wineries.
We ride through the impressive archway marking the entrance to the inn and arrive to find a cooler full of cold drinks waiting at the bike rack. Sojourn thought of everything – our luggage is even waiting for us in our rooms. We head for the pool and relax under the shade of an umbrella. Orange trees and colorful plantings surround the pool, and there is a well tended herb garden on the hillside. This bicycle tour vacation idea is turning out to be complete bliss – I feel a million miles from reality.
Madrona Manor is a spectacular property and dinner was a truly gourmet experience. Each course was an amazing taste sensation and our wine was thoughtfully paired. The Manor grows their own organic herbs and vegetables, and uses locally sourced products. The service throughout the meal was five star.
We went to bed feeling contentedly tired and wondering what tomorrow would bring that could possibly compare to our fabulous day today.