Sonoma Wine Tour
Sonoma Valley / Healdsburg, California
More wineries than one could visit in a day - and - oh yeah, you'll ride a bike around too!
by Dana Farnsworth - Outdoor Travels
You’ve either done it or dreamed about doing it. Winery touring by bike is an amazing experience - given you have an appreciation for wine and biking. For those who fall into this category, nothing compares to a scenic ride in the Sonoma Valley in northern California. With more wineries than a liver can weather in a day, beautiful Tuscan-like scenery and motorists that are used to seeing bicycles on the road, Sonoma can arguably take the prize for most idyllic wine bike tour region.
For our tour, we chose Healdsburg for our base. With a quaint downtown, bike rentals available, and dozens of wineries within a convenient radius, Healdsburg is a perfect place to launch a pedaling wino’s dream excursion.
Sonoma Valley is where California’s world-renowned wine industry began. Today it is home to more than 40 premium wineries, all just a short distance apart in a scenic 17-mile span. Due to a happy set of circumstances, duplicated in only a few places on earth, Sonoma Valley is blessed with exactly the right combination of soil, sun, seasonal moisture, and geography for growing some of the finest wine grapes. As a result, this small valley today ranks as one of the finest wine production regions in the world. Geographically, it includes all or part of three federally designated viticultural areas or appellations: Sonoma Valley, Carneros Sonoma, and Sonoma Mountain.
Just 45 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and cooled during summer by the drifting fogs of San Pablo Bay, the Valley begins in the south in the Carneros area and extends 17 miles north to the edge of Santa Rosa. In this span, you’ll find more than 13,000 acres of vineyards and more than 40 premium wineries, a number of them family owned and operated. Sonoma Valley is one of the few wine regions that produces high-quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other varietals, all in one location - just waiting to be explored (and sampled) by bike.
As I said, bike rentals are available in Sonoma. We reserved two nice, well maintained hybrid bikes that were fully tricked out with the appropriate accessories: map holder and rear pack that was capable of carrying four bottles of vino! Trips from as little 2 miles to somewhere upwards of 24 miles are available for any preference. Note: With so many wineries in a small radius, the longer trips will probably be more focused, with fewer winery visits and more emphasis on riding. There are just too many places to stop during a longer ride. We chose something in between, covering about 12 miles and visiting eight wineries.
Heading out of Healdsburg isn’t hard mind you, however, since we were not yet familiar with the streets, it took us a few minutes to orient ourselves. Once underway, we navigated several relatively quiet residential streets before spotting our first stop, less than a mile into our ride, at Seghesio winery specializing in world-class Italian varietals and Zinfandels. After tasting a few great wines (no spitting here) we were off to Ridge Vinyards. Ridge produces single-vineyard lots of premium wines served up with a stunning view of the surrounding rolling hills. The hostess was friendly, knowledgeable and the wine superb. Next up, after a short ride up the road, we decided that Mazzocco Vineyards looked just too tempting to pass by. Perched atop a hill, sharing the same gorgeous scenery as Ridge, Mazzocco Winery is a small family-owned winery between Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, overlooking the Healdsburg airport and mount St. Helena. One of the great things about Sonoma as compared to the wineries in Napa is their policy on tasting wine - it’s generally free (or refundable if you purchase a bottle). After a great tasting, our wine toting panniers were beginning to fill up with bottles from Ridge and now Mozzocco.
After about a mile or less, we stumbled onto Mauritson winery. Since the 1870's the Mauritson family has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley, selling the fruit to many top wineries in Sonoma County. Six generations and 130 years later they decided to take advantage of their own bounty and start making wine under the Mauritson label. In 1998 the first vintage of Mauritson Dry Creek Zinfandel was produced and the Mauritson Family Winery began. On the outside, Mauritson looks like a nice warehouse. On the inside, we were welcomed into a nicely decorated tasting room, with a nice long bar. We had the pleasure to have Clay Mauritson who was now carrying on the family’s tradition (quite well I might add) as our pourer. Wineries generally have a resident dog or cat mascot. Mauritson’s was a Labrador who was a new mother to many puppies. After a great tasting, a purchase or two and petting their dog, we were off to find lunch. Wine tasting and biking can build up an appetite!
Food might be the only inconvenient thing while riding around in Sonoma. Their wineries don’t serve food as a general rule. The only winery that we found that served food was Korbel who we visited later in the week - and they're off the beaten path. At any rate, as luck (or good planning) would have it, we were pretty close to the Dry Creek General Store. I’m not sure I can improve upon their own description: “When you’re out frolicking from winery to winery in Dry Creek Valley, there is no better place to stop for a cold brew or quick picnic lunch to go. Established in 1881, this full service deli serves sandwiches made to order, salads, great cheeses and French bread. Handy and reliable information available on wine tasting, touring, biking and fishing. Sit in the weathered, funky bar or shaded beer garden for live music and spectacular views of the valley.”
The Dry Creek General store is a great choice for a lunch break, which is good news since it is the ONLY place in the area to chow down on some fine grub and sample more local wines.
After a delicious lunch and a couple glasses of red vino, we were ready to get back on the wine trail. Our next stop would be Dry Creek Vineyards. Set in a lovely garden atmosphere, their tasting room was nice, if not locked into the 1980s era of design. It was a bit too bright, and a bit too cheesy, but their wines were fine and plentiful. There were many to sample here. Dry Creek seems to be famous for their Chenin Blanc which was indeed one of my favorites there.
Pedaling literally across the street we pulled into the Passalacqua Winery. Passalacqua is yet another small volume producer. We were warmly greeted into a setting that really lends itself to a very personal experience. With great wine, a nice deck and pretty views, we really enjoyed our visit. By this time, our wine hauling panniers were getting quite full - but we were not done yet!
Our next to last visit was at Lambert Bridge winery. They strive to make the finest merlot available, and honestly, it didn’t disappoint. Our last stop involved a climbing a pretty hefty (especially after a good bit of wine) hill, up to the Evertt Ridge winery. Set atop a ridge (go figure) their tasting room offers up sweeping views of the valley below. Evertt Ridge produces small lots of quality wines. They produce Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Touriga Nacional port varietal from grapes grown on the estate as well as Sauvignon Blanc from the Dry Creek Valley, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, and a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend from the Napa Valley. I have to say, that although their wine was a bit pricey, it was worth every red cent. After topping off our wine panniers, we headed back towards town. I was surprise to find that we were very close to town and our bike rental shop. Although there are may routes available, this loop was really quite perfect! With many bottles of fine wine, great memories, a decent ride, and a greater appreciation of Old Vine Zinfandel, I would return and create a new route at the drop of a grape.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Every year, they bring in approximately 35 lots of Zinfandel averaging 25-30 years in age. The best of these lots are selected to make Sonoma Zinfandel. A small amount of Petite Sirah is added to the wine for added complexity. The result is a tantalizing black raspberry and classic briary flavored wine with a balance of components for which Seghesio wines are known.
14730 Grove Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Toll Free: (866) 734-4374
Ridge now makes between sixty and sixty-five thousand cases of wine per year. Cabernet and zinfandel account for most of the production; merlot, mataro, and petite sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge also makes limited amounts of Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay.
17100 Monte Bello Road, Cupertino, CA 95014
Mazzocco Winery is a small family-owned winery located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, between Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, overlooking the Healdsburg airport and mount St. Helena.
1400 Lytton Springs Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Dry Creek General Store
Established in 1881, this full service deli serves sandwiches made to order, salads, great cheeses and French bread. Handy and reliable information available on wine tasting, touring, biking and fishing (tackle and licenses sold here). Sit in the weathered, funky bar or shaded beer garden for live music and spectacular views of the valley.
3495 Dry Creek Road
Dry Creek Vineyards
3770 Lambert Bridge Road
Headlsburg, CA 95448
Passalacqua Winery is family owned and operated in the historic Dry Creek Valley. Their handcrafted wines are available at our winery and tasting room on Lambert Bridge Road.
3805 Lambert Bridge Rd., Healdsburg, CA
Their mission is to produce the world's finest Merlot, along with other limited releases expressing the character of Dry Creek Valley.
The wines are crafted to reflect Lambert Bridge's distinctive house style - balanced, complex and refined.
4085 W. Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Their Winemaking Philosophy begins in the vineyard. Dick Schultz, their winemaker says, “the goal is to always make a wine that is the purest expression of the fruit. To me, this means conscientious grape growing practices followed by minimal intervention and quality caretaking at the winery. We all know that when fruit is taken care of in the vineyard, it really shows in the finished product.
435 West Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, Ca 95448
Trail: Up to approximately 24 miles of paved road riding. Can be customized for more or less distance.
Outdoor Travels Rating:
4.5 bikes out of 5.
Less food than say, Marlborough in New Zealand, but more wineries packed in a similiar area.
- Lots of great wine in a very customizable distance.
- Little to no tasting fees when compared to Napa
- Less pretentious and an abundance of smaller vineyards
- Down home personal experiences
- Dry Creek General Store - a wonderful stop with GREAT food and cool atmosphere
- Great bike rental opportunities
- Lack of wineries serving food
- The Western Boot restaurant in Headlsburg sucks!
Nuts & Bolts
Location: Headlsburg, California
Admission: Free if you go on your own. Some wineries charge a small fee for tastings. Tours obviously have a small cost associated with them.
Activities: Biking, dining, wine tasting, sight-seeing
Lodging, rentals and stuff
- Bike rental and information:
Wine Country Bike Tours
Headlsburg Country Gardens
Three fully-equipped vacation homes located on a 25-acre wine country estate just 1½ miles from charming downtown Healdsburg.
Lots of great photos to give you a good idea of what riding here is like!
Maps & Stuff