A couple of weeks ago, I saw an image that my friend and fellow photographer George Rose put on Facebook. It was of bicyclists and cars, sharing the road… And, it was scary. With a new law in Sonoma County that says we have to stay at least five feet away from bicyclists, our roads aren’t really equipped for sharing the road anymore, because most back roads have no shoulders. It’s definitely more of a slow down and smell the roses as we head to and from work in our cars, in many instances… riding in a bicycle parade.
Don’t misunderstand me… I have my own bicycle. I choose to ride where there’s a shoulder, though, because I don’t trust drivers of cars with my life. I’ve seen four separate accidents, where seven people never made it home for dinner… three of them were mere babies… So, I’m just not a daredevil anymore. And, that’s my own choice. I’m not advocating for only riding where there are shoulders. The chatter that came from George’s image was from locals advocating for that, however; for the riding of bikes, where there’s at least a shoulder for that margin of error, because we read about heart wrenching accidents pretty frequently out here.
So here we are, the conundrum, “How to truly ride safely in wine country? How do we see the vineyards, enjoy the landscapes, meet the friendly locals, and taste some wine along the way?”
One Great Example ~ Windsor Oak Vineyards & Winery
I just experienced that slice of heaven, and I found it right in my own back yard. Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery is about a seven minute walk from my home… I’ve driven past it on my way to getting things done at least two to three times a week for the last 10 years, and just haven’t had time to explore this bicyclists gem of Sonoma County. I doubt that there’s anything else like this in this part of California.
Don’t expect to find a sign that says bicyclists welcome… You need people like me to tell you about it.
First of all, be advised… most of your journey will be on a dirt road. It’s not a rough and tumble dirt road, just one that’s part of a vineyard, an ultimate wine country ride. Be prepared to take your time and use your bodies in a more serious way, than cruising down paved Hillview Road’s. The long ride up to the Salon… it’s not a tasting room, it’s a Salon experience of more slowing down and smelling the essence of wine… is well worth your time. The ride along the tarred road first takes you though a small neighborhood until you reach the gated property. You’ll proceed up a long road, though vineyards, through a pristine conservancy, and then to their Salon. An old waterway system with stone bridges meanders through the winery property… the waterway protected by Fish and Game rules and regulations…
The property has a lot of history, the landscape has immense beauty, and the roadway is safe and far from the madding crowd. If I were coming to wine country to ride my bike for the benefits of fresh air, naturally landscaped beauty, and wine tasting in the process…. I’d point my bicycle toward Windsor Oaks Vineyard. Bring your picnic lunch and a small blanket. Then, stop along the roadway to enjoy the real beauty of wine country, and why those of us who live here choose this lifestyle… on or off our bicycles.
Windsor Oaks produces ultra-premium wines from their estate vineyards located within three of California’s most famous wine appellations: Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Chalk Hill. Overlooking Russian River Valley, their 710 acre estate enjoys many highly diverse micro climates and terroir, including rare soil and slope combinations. Approximately 350 acres are dedicated to “Forever Wild Open Space,” while the remaining 250 acres are planted with eighteen different wine grapes varieties. It’s a true wine country destination that ardent bike lovers will also enjoy… the best of both worlds.
Their estate is open to the public only eighteen days a year, yet they offer limited VIP tasting and tours, by prior appointment only 7 days a week. So, call ahead! To schedule a visit, contact them directly for reservations; email us or call 707.433.3810.
Check it this video, it says it all…