California Wine Country. Where to hike, bike, sip.

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I live near California Wine Country, not far from Napa and Sonoma, and I love to be active by day and sip and eat  sinfully by night.  Based upon dozens of trip to wine country, here are my suggestions of where to hike, bike and sip in

Napa Napa.4napa.3 Wine Tasting

Visit a Castle. That’s right, you can visit a medieval-style  Tuscany Castle in the Napa Valley and taste Italian-style wines. The Castello has all the elements of a medieval castle: a moat, drawbridge, 5 towers, high defensive ramparts, courtyards and loggias, a deep well, a functioning church, stables, a Great Hall and even a prison and torture chamber. I loved the tour that took me through some of the most beautiful vaulted wine cellars I’ve seen anywhere in the world. There are 3 acres of rooms and lots of tasting opportunities.

Following fourteen years of construction, Dario Sattui opened Castello di Amorosa in April of 2007.  Situated in the hills above Calistoga, Castello di Amorosa – a family-owned business – produces world-class wines including popular white and red wines as well as proprietary Italian-inspired blends, including Il Barone, La Castellana and Il Passito. Wines are sold only at the winery.  The castle winery was made with brick, wood and iron imported from Europe and combined with over 8,000 tons of local, Napa Valley stone.  Today, Castello di Amorosa, a popular Napa Valley destination, offers a variety of wine tasting and winery tours in a unique Tuscan castle setting.

Visitors include: Madame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Clint Black, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, Audra McDonald, Sarah Chang, Sir James Galway, Frederica von Stade, Vida Blue, Gordon Getty, Jr., Robert Redford, and Renee Fleming.

For more information, please visit our website: www.castellodiamorosa.com

Free Self-Guided Vineyard Walking Tours in Sonoma County Wine Country

Take a free with no appointment necessary at several wineries in Sonoma County, getting a healthy burn as you take in spectacular views.  Stop in the tasting room to pick up a detailed walking-tour guide, with points of interest clearly marked along the route. You can finish at the tasting room and sample wines from the vines you just explored (tasting fee may apply).  Tours offered at wineries including: Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Landmark Vineyards, Balletto Vineyards, Mauritson Family Winery, Stryker Sonoma Winery and Francis Ford Coppola Winery.  

Guided Sip & Cycle Tours of Sonoma County, Napa Valley and Carneros Regions

 If you prefer a guided experience, there are many options for bike rentals and guided tours that take you to wineries in and around Santa Rosa, some with picnic lunches or with tasting fees waived.  Vendors include , (Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Carneros), , and  (includes stay at the inn).

Hike or Bike Napa Valley on your Own

The offers a 47-mile path for exploring the world-famous region by foot or pedal at your own pace from Vallejo’s Ferry Terminal to the foot of Mount St. Helena in Calistoga.  For a packaged but still self-guided experience, offers bike rentals through Calistoga Bike Shop.  Start the day at the winery’s Clif bar for an espresso and a map of the winery team’s favorite routes.  End the day with a food and wine pairing experience and wine by the glass at the lively tasting bar displaying cycling memorabilia or at the outdoor patio and wine sensory garden.

Sierra Foothills

Hiking or Biking the Sierra Foothills Wine Region

Just a quick day trip from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe is the Sierra Foothills wine region, which encompasses the great wine sub-regions of El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras.  These regions have been producing wine since the Gold Rush days.  Most of the grapes are grown on rolling hillsides at elevations over 1,200 feet above sea level – making for scenic bike rides and hikes. The boasts 28 miles of mountains and vineyard views.  If you’d like to ride but want someone else to do the planning, offers weekend and five-day trips through the area, as well as daily bike rentals.

 San Franciscso East & South Bays

Livermore Valley Wine Tasting by Foot, Bicycle or Train

First-time visitors to Livermore are often surprised at the numerous closely situated wineries surrounded by open space and gentle hills of vineyards in San Francisco’s southeast bay.  Cycling routes are plentiful and winery and bike path maps are available through the .  where six wineries are within less than a mile, including Big White House Winery, McGrail and Bent Creek Winery.  where walkers can visit Wente, Steven Kent, Page Mill, Concannon and Retzlaff.  offers a laid-back way to taste Livermore wines paired with hors d’oeuvres.  The wine-tasting trains run alternate Sundays in the summer.

 Hike, Bike and Horseback Ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains
Whether your favorite transportation is your own two feet, a bike or a horse, —a 763-acre open space preserve bordered by Garrod Farms Stables and home of — is a great place to hike or ride.  The oak studded hillsides are home to many native animals, from bobcats, coyotes and deer to a variety of bird species.  Begin the trail in the Cooper Garrod Estate Vineyards parking lot, and end in the tasting room for wines from their vineyard. Horseback riders can rent from the stables, and book a tour of the sustainable chardonnay vineyard and the estate.

South Central Coast

Bike Tours from the Vines to Coast in Paso Robles Wine Country

Named the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Paso Robles has a lot to offer the biking fan.  Take a for a tasting and return to City Park to enjoy more tasting rooms, boutique shops, galleries and trendy wine-centric eateries.  For guided tours, offers several wine country tours, including “On a Mission,” where guests bike to the historic San Miguel Mission, winding through the countryside past farms, ranches and vineyards.  Or sign up with , where you’ll pedal past stunning stretches of coastline and dramatic rolling hills and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch at a local winery, followed by tastings at wineries, such as Lone Madrone.

 Hike, Bike and Sip in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Santa Barbara, known for surfing and the “Sideways” movie that made the wine region famous, is also a prime hiking region.  Work up a sweat on the seven-mile Reyes Peak trail in the Los Padres National Forest.  Reward yourself afterwards by checking out nearby   Cyclists also can sign up with .  Cycle through vineyards along Foxen Canyon Trail or Santa Rita Hills, stopping at notable vintners such as Zaca Mesa Vineyards and Riverbench Vineyard & Winery.  Tour includes a picnic lunch. 

Inland Valleys

Hike through Nature Preserves near Lodi Wine Country

Surrounding Lodi are thousands of acres of nature preserves, a paradise to avid birders and nature lovers.  The is a favorite among visitors and offers year-round hiking trails and an educational visitor center.  Nearby is the interactive where you can walk through the demonstration vineyard, learn about winegrowing and winemaking, find out more about local wineries and taste Lodi wines.

Southern California

Hike, Bike or Jog through Temecula Wine Country

Just 90 minutes from Los Angeles and San Diego is the Temecula wine region.  Several wineries offer opportunities to walk among the vines.  Eco-conscious travelers may want to book a stay at   which has 300 acres of scenic, sustainably-farmed vineyards, and is popular for guests who want to run, walk, cycle or hike. The winery also formed a marathon team of staff, locals and guests who meet weekly to jog through the vineyards at dusk.  Celebrate your efforts by sipping wines in the tasting room or at the restaurant.

Thanks to the Wine Institute for suggestions.

Category: Travel

Comments (1)

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  1. Dani says:

    Hi Marybeth,
    I’m so pleased to have come across this piece about California Wine Country. We are planning a trip there (from New Zealand) in a couple of months
    Cheers!

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