Sonoma Valley: Seeing the forest through the trees
Cruising through the rolling Sonoma Valley, we see winding asphalt stretched out before us, and rows upon rows of grapevines lining the idyllic countryside. Every crest in the road offers a new view of something old – weathered barn, quaint windmill, cozy farmhouse – steeped in striking contrast to vivid fall colours. Every downhill dip brings exhilarating speed and momentary relief to our hard-working legs. Every corner turned brings promise of the next vineyard, just around the bend.
Welcome to bicycling in California’s wine country, which is on my bucket-list and can now be checked off. Wine Country Bikes, located in Healdsburg, outfits riders with top quality biking gear, and customized itinerary for your desired length of time (from a few hours, to multiple days). They can also provide experienced guides, locally-grown picnic lunches delivered to predetermined locations, luggage shuttling from one inn to the next, and whatever you need to support your own biking adventure.
Visiting wineries is the thing to do here. Whether you travel by bicycle, motorcycle, or automobile, it’s hard not get caught up in the spirit of spirits. With over 400 wineries dotting Sonoma County, the next tasting is practically just a stone’s throw from the last. And each one has an interesting story, and something unique to offer.
Quivira Vineyards specializes in Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, has a lush garden that supplies local markets with fresh produce, and a 130 year-old fig tree growing onsite. Martorana Family Vineyards has picnic tables alongside the creek, bocce ball courts, and old-fashioned swing nestled in a colourful floral garden on top of their tasting room’s ‘living roof.’ Dry Creek Vineyard was the first new winery established in the Dry Creek Valley after prohibition, paving the way for the renaissance of winemaking in the region.
In the heart of wine country is Healdsburg, 110 kilometers north of San Francisco. This eclectic locale has a population of just over 11,500, and is the ideal homebase for day tripping with cozy bed and breakfasts, rustic retreats, and luxury hotels. The Camellia Inn, built in 1869, boasts a vintage blend of charm and modern amenities. It’s walking distance to Healdsburg downtown Plaza, where you’ll find trendy boutique stores, antiquing, art galleries, locally grown organic produce and artisan breads, and of course, plenty of wine, cheese and olives everywhere.
Healdsburg is heaven for foodies, with coffee shops and delis, bakeries and bistros, and five-star cuisine. Just about any dish you can dream up, you’ll find it in this town. Also, since there happens to be more varietals of wild mushrooms growing in Sonoma County than anyplace else in the country, delicious mushrooms grace many a dish.
After all that eating, you’ll need to get out and move. Nearby Lake Sonoma has 65 kilometers of hiking, biking and equestrian trails meandering through rolling coastal foothills, with many short loops you can complete in just a few hours.
The most astounding place for a stroll is Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, where you’ll encounter the majestic ancient coast redwood – the tallest living thing on our planet! Some of these towering trees are over 1000 years old, four-to-five meters wide, and beyond 100 meters tall. Thank goodness there was foresight to preserve 805
acres of this absolutely magnificent forest that covered much of the region prior to 19th Century logging.
These trees are true testament to the wonders of the natural world. Walking amongst them makes you feel about as big as an ant, and truly humbled as a human being. It’s the kind of place that surges with inspiration, and begs for quiet reflection.
If you take a moment to just stop and take it all in, honestly, you can’t help but see the forest through the trees.