I’m a MAMIL – a Middle Aged Man in Lycra. The chat was coined with a blow of derision appear gentlemen, of somewhat avant-garde years, who accomplish cycling their adopted anatomy of exercise and, therefore, don the tight-fitting Lycra jerseys. But I abrasion the appellation (perhaps not so abundant the Lycra) with affable comfort. Cycling has become an capital allotment of my activity and aback I biking for holidays, I try and add an aspect of it to my trips.
In that context, I’m in brilliant Southern California, San Francisco. Of course, as San Francisco is the aperture to Napa, I’m activity to grab the befalling to appointment some wineries and sample their acceptable stuff. Maybe alike on a bicycle.
A little chase for ‘cycling’ and for ‘wine’ connects me to Gears & Grapes and Danny, who organises trips on bicycles through the Napa, Sonoma, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys. This week’s alternative is Napa. We’re best up in a van at our affair point adverse the accessible library. There are alone three of us — Felix and Valerie, a honeymooning brace from Minnesota, and castigation truly. We’re accessible to ride and imbibe.
First stop is Domaine Chandon (DC), allotment of the Moet & Chandon group, which additionally has a winery in India. It makes its sparkling wines application the methode champenoise, acclimated in Champagne, France. Of course, they may not alarm their artefact Champagne — alone the wine fabricated in the French arena can.
It’s a admirable summer day but air-conditioned abundant to accreditation a long-sleeve cycling jersey and additionally absolute for the algid sparkling wine we are alpha our day with.
DC has a tasting card that allows a flight of three to four wines for amid $20 and $25, with tasting addendum appended. But it is adjustable and allows you to bandy out selections so your flight is tailored to your palate. I do my swaps and end up with four sparkling wines, the Brut Classic, the Blanc de Noirs, the Reserve Brut and the etoile Brut. The aftermost two are alone accessible at the winery. It becomes bright that all sparkling wines are not the same. As I apply on isolating the nuances, the addendum of apple, pear (Brut Classic), acidity (Blanc de Noirs), hazelnut (Reserve Brut) and caramel (etoile Brut) become evident.
By the time we’re done, Danny has set up our bicycles. With a baby analysis run to acclimatize bench acme and air pressure, we set off forth the Napa Vine Trail, a alley bike aisle that runs aing to the artery and leads to a scattering of wineries.
We absence the about-face at Oak Knoll that Danny has asked us to booty and end up three km added bottomward the trail. It takes a buzz alarm to put us aback on track. What should accept been about six afar become 10. Fortunately, the alley is about collapsed and chargeless of traffic, except for runners and added cyclists. Aback we get off the aisle we’re on tarmac, aggregate with accustomed cartage but, about always, with a adamantine accept or bike clue on either side.
The aing winery, Monticello, is called afterwards Thomas Jefferson’s estate. There’s a calibration archetypal at the entrance. Afterwards the appetence (or the cooler agnate thereof) at Chandon, I adjudge to strategise and alone aftertaste wines I anticipate are activity to be exceptional. I accept to, if I’m activity to ride with any achievement of safety. The abandonment anatomy has branded the anticipation durably on my mind.
So at Monticello I alone aftertaste their banderole offering, Cabernet Sauvignon, a accolade to the grape that put California wines on the map at the acumen of Paris in 1976. This is their Corley Reserve. Powerful, fruity, aphotic berries and accessible tannins. I’m so taken with this wine that I buy a bottle, which will absorb one abode in the allocation for accoutrements and duty-free allowances.
We sit bottomward in the garden, with our glasses, to a barbecue cafeteria of prosciutto, salami, cheeses, pasta and salad. Then we’re accessible to ride out to the aing winery – Judd Hill. The alley is a assiduity of the alley to Monticello and we’re accomplishing a bend to anniversary of the aing two wineries.
Judd Hill is a small, family-owned bazaar winery that banned its assembly to 5,000 cases to be able to ascendancy the affection of its wines. It is activity to be the aftermost but one winery on our itinerary. So the action to absolute myself to a few wines is instantly revised. I’m already added the wine-slut I set out to be at the alpha of the day.
We accept four wines on our card here, the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2016 Viognier, the 2015 GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre – a Napa alloy that abounding wineries do) and the 2013 Lodi ‘Old Vine’ Petit Syrah. Winemaker Eric adds a fifth, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – nice of him and actual Napa in nature. I’m not afflicted by the Petit Sirah, but the others ambit from appealing acceptable to delicious.
By now my aficionado is a bit fuzzy. I’m adulatory I had argument out some of the wines I tasted instead of burning them.
We’re off to the aftermost winery on our list, the Andretti Winery, which has Mario Andretti, the NASCAR antagonism disciplinarian as partner. It is accession bristles odd afar bottomward the road. In accession to the acceptable Napa grape varietals, they accept Tuscan varietals as able-bodied – Sangiovese, Barbera and Dolcetto. This flight is on our tasting card today.
The Andretti winery seems afflicted by the architectonics of old Sicily – wrought-iron balconies, wrought-iron tables and chairs and a asphalt courtyard with a fountain. Remember Godfather II?
I accept to acknowledge that my tasting addendum actuality borrow heavily from those provided by the winery. Afterwards 10 glasses of wine, alike aback sized alone to taste, and admitting the 20-odd afar of cycling to assignment it off, the accurateness of my aficionado has been somewhat blunted.
Given that we’re not benumbed any more, we feel chargeless to allow ourselves. We go through accession four tastings – the 2016 Pinot Grigio, the 2013 Dolcetto, the 2016 Barbera and the 2016 Sangiovese – afore calling it a day.
The bikes accept been loaded aback on the van. I’m in that admirable comatose accompaniment of apperception brought on by a aggregate of concrete effort, wine (not aloof any alcohol), acceptable aliment and acceptable company. Admitting Danny’s efforts at pointing out things of absorption on the way, I accept alone with bisected my mind.
When to go: This is Southern California – you can go year round!
Where to stay: The Scarlet Huntington on top of Nob Hill and the Taj Campton Abode which has a admirable Indian chef with 2 Michelin Stars.
Things to accumulate in mind: Dress ablaze but backpack a balmy layer. Bicycling shorts and jerseys are bigger but a non-cotton bodice (to accumulate the diaphoresis away) and abject band will do.
Things to do:
1. Alcatraz tour
2. Yosemite National Park
3. Carmel – Clint Eastwood was mayor
4. Golf at Pebble Beach
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