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Gears and Grapes

Hello friends! I hope this post finds you happy and well. I seem to be all over the map lately. If you recall, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a quick trip to visit family and friends in both Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Monterey for Thanksgiving. One of the highlights of this trip was a cycling and wine tasting tour through Napa Valley with the wonderful company Gears and Grapes. I booked this tour (at a great and discounted price) through the Gilt City website. I thought the whole concept of combining my love of cycling and wine was a great idea, so i decided to book a Saturday tour.  A couple of weeks later, the Gears and Grapes van was outside my hotel in downtown San Francisco. In all there were three couples and two guides on the tour. The guides were extremely friendly and we talked all the way to Napa about traveling, wine, and cycling. They also explained the itinerary, in which we were going to cycle to four different vineyards in Napa Valley. Each tour they give is unique and they visit a wide variety of wineries in both Napa and Sonoma Valley.  Each winery we were scheduled to see that day varied both in size and the types of wines offered.Our first winery, Atlas Peak, was a little boutique winery run by a really nice older couple. The husband was from Italy and was the creator of Mr. Espresso, a very famous and high-end espresso machine that finds it home in many fine restaurants. He and his wife, a lovely french woman, decided to retire in Napa. A vineyard came along with the house they bought so they decided to start making wine. Since then their wine has won many awards. Their beautiful estate was located pretty high up in Napa Valley. I later learned that high altitudes allow the grapes to see both sunrise and sunset without the punishing temperatures common to lower elevations. Cooler temperatures allow these grapes to ripen slowly in the sunlight, building flavor and character, and creating their own very distinct taste. When we arrived at this beautiful vineyard, we were ushered into a little tasting room. The owners joined us as we were treated to an assortment of cheese and crackers and tasted our way through their amazing wine selection. All of us left with at least two bottles in hand! One of the great things about Gears and Grapes is the fact that the van meets you at every location, so you are able to buy as much wine as you want and they carry it for you! Seriously, these guys know what they are doing.After Atlas Peak, we hopped on our bikes and proceeded to cycle through Napa Valley. The scenery was breathtaking and all the leaves were a bright orange, yellow, and red. The weather that day was perfect- a slight chill but completely comfortable once your legs started moving. We cycled about 6 miles on our first leg, but it was mostly downhill (which equals easy and fun!) and the pace was very comfortable. This tour does not require you to be a hard core biker. In fact, I showed up wearing jeans and flats and was just fine. You can pretty much wear whatever you are comfortable in- except for heels- I would stay away from those! Biking through Napa was so enjoyable and really afforded us a more intimate and closer view of the valley.  As we made our way to the second vineyard I was able to quickly stop and snap some beautiful photos of the valley.The second vineyard, Trefethen Winery,  was very different from the first in that it was a lot larger, both in acreage and the amount of wines they produced. The tasting room was large, beautiful, and rustic. There were many people there and seem to be a pretty popular tasting room. Although the wines were great, I think I preferred the intimacy of the first winery- where we actually met and spent time with the owners. However, I did purchase a couple of bottles of their Dry Riesling which ended up going great with our turkey on Thanksgiving.

After the second vineyard, we cycled another five miles and pulled up in front a beautiful stone building. This is where we were scheduled to have lunch and a well deserved rest. By this time it was around two in the afternoon and I was definitely in the mood for some food..and of course, more wine!

My breath was immediately taken away when I entered the Whetstone Wine Cellars tasting room. The interior was absolutely gorgeous and you were immediately greeted by a large inviting stone fireplace. The interior was a mix of french rustic architecture meets modern luxury. The lighting was intimate and warm. As I stared in awe at the beautiful stone floors and walls, I thought to myself that this would make a perfect place for an intimate dinner party or even engagement party. The Portuguese woman who worked at the tasting room was incredibly nice and told us all about the winemaker and the wines. We sat down at a long wooden table and proceeded to eat a delicious lunch of artisanal cheese and meats, fresh bread, prawn and quinoa salad, curry chick pea salad, and ceasar salad. The food was delicious, healthy, and exactly what I wanted. We enjoyed all the wine while encompassed by beautiful ambiance and company. This was definitely the highlight of my trip.

For our last tasting we headed into the village of Napa and sat down at another lovely tasting room serving a variety of wines. By this time, we were all exhausted. In all we had cycled ~16 miles. Although it was at a nice slow pace and easy terrain, all the wine and food had made me sleepy. After our last glass, the eight of us piled into the van with at least 20 bottles of wine and headed back to San Fran. In all, this tour was amazing, organized, and incredibly enjoyable. With Christmas right around the corner, why not treat your loved ones or friends to a very unique and enjoyable experience?

Thanks again for reading and as always, travel well and travel often!

~Maia

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