HALF MOON BAY, Calif., December 28, 2012 — No matter the time of year, a vacation to California’s Napa Valley includes a wealth of opportunities to taste amazing wine and cuisine. But if lounging about all day makes you a little stir-crazy, the region has plenty for the outdoorsy set.
Take two wheels out for a spin with Napa Valley Bike Tours, an outfitter that offers organized tours as well as self-guided tours. For a leisurely ride, take the classic tour, which travels to three or four wineries throughout the day and includes a catered picnic lunch. The more adventurous can choose to cycle in the vineyards, visiting three wineries in the Carneros District while off-road biking between them. If a full day tour is a little too much, there’s even a half-day option.
Hikers can easily fit in an excursion between winery visits, or even first thing in the morning, before the wine tasting day has begun. Two of my favorite spots are Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and Westwood Hills Park. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park includes 5.3-mile Mount St. Helena Trail, which has sweeping views, but not a lot of shade. Westwood Hills Park is a short drive from downtown Napa and its three miles of trails meander through wildflower meadows and oak groves.
Get a rare, water’s-eye view from the Napa River by kayaking with Napa Valley Adventure Tours. The easiest kayak tour is on the north part of the river, and leaves from downtown Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. Moderately more challenging central and south river tours, as well as kayak rentals, are also available.
A good way to get acquainted with Napa Valley’s wineries and tasting rooms is a stop at the Napa Valley Welcome Center at 600 Main St. in downtown Napa. Tasting rooms abound in the surrounding blocks, but it’s always good to take a trip out to winery tasting rooms, so you can see where the wine comes from.
One of my favorite places to get a taste of great wines, a vineyard view and a walk through an extensive vegetable garden, is at Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford. The high quality wines are plentiful enough to please both white and red wine enthusiasts. But the options don’t end with wine at Cakebread. The winery offers a range of culinary programs, and the highlight is the annual American Harvest Workshop, featured during harvest season in September.
The workshop runs for four days and Cakebread Wine club members who sign up for the event as a “Cakebread Cook” have an opportunity to take part in all tastings, workshops, farm visits, cellar tours, and menu-planning sessions. They also work alongside the five featured chefs in preparing the two harvest dinners. I attended the 2012 American Harvest Workshop and wish I could return every year. The dates for 2013 are September 7 through 11.
Where to Stay
Make your home base right in downtown Napa at the Andaz Napa. The boutique-style hotel has 141 guestrooms and suites, all which seem perfectly roomy for a Napa Valley escape. Dine in-house on farm fresh food at the Andaz Farmers Table restaurant or grab a glass and wind down your day at the Mercantile Social bar. If the weather’s good, head outside on the terrace and enjoy your nightcap next to the fireplace. Rates start at $169 per night (not including tax), and vary depending on time of year and type of room.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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