A road trip to Sonoma Valley Tahoe residents can escape winter at lower elevations
SONOMA – At less than four hours away from South Lake Tahoe’s entrenched winter climate, it’s still fall.
The vineyards of Sonoma Valley come alive with a kaleidoscope of colors this time of year, when red, orange and yellow leaves line the roads and winery workers enjoy the break between the crush of grapes and the crunch of the upcoming holidays.
“We like this time of year,” one Mayo Winery worker said, as he poured a Cabernet Sauvignon to just a few people bellied up to the tasting bar. There lies a good place to hear about people’s lives.
One of 36 in the valley, the winery is situated west of Highway 12 on Arnold Drive, a favorite route for cyclists touring the rolling terrain of California’s premier wine country.
Out the door of the centrally-located Lodge at Sonoma, a weekend warrior may receive an ideal, two-hour sampling of the Valley of the Moon. It’s flanked by the Mayacamas and Sonoma mountain ranges.
The 27-mile route heads west on Leveroni Road and north on Arnold Drive, where along the way golfers at the driving range try their hand at another leisure activity on a quiet, 65-degree morning in the valley. The country roads lead to Glen Ellen, a village tucked back in time and off the beaten path.
Park enthusiasts may veer off to Jack London State Park, but they need to prepare for a steep grade on the way there.
With the nearby Sears Point Raceway calling to the adventurous, a loop on the tree-lined Warm Springs Road beg for a sports-car drive – if a visitor comes with no bike.
Along with the Sonoma Valley Cyclery about a half mile up on Broadway, the Lodge rents bicycles for $10 an hour and $25 per day from the concierge desk for its sprawling 182-unit complex.
General Manager Donna Collings considers the resort a getaway for athletic types seeking a full experience during a season of fewer people.
That’s why the resort creates a wine and cycling package.
“It’s a delightful area because it has a lot of bike paths,” she said Thursday.
Its central location aside, the Spanish-inspired resort is known for its fully furnished adobe cottages, indoor gym, refurbished Carneros restaurant, Cellar Door wine tasting on the property and Raindance Spa therapeutic treatments.
The pampered life beckons those signing up for spa treatments.
The sanctuary allows a guest to bask in the serenity and aromas of the spa garden before indulging in the steam room or the multitude of massages, facials and other treatments. The place even sets aside a “fire” room for lounging amid the warmth of a dual-sided fireplace.
Rooms range from $189 to $339.
But it’s the outside where one could get lost in the senses. The grounds are blanketed with peach, red and white roses that blend in with pomegranates and multi-colored trees.
A trip to Sonoma may mean much more than covering the leaf-splashed roads as well as the many varietals and food pairings of the wine country – but there’s no reason why one can’t do both.
At a mile away – a mere 20 minutes one way, those venturing on foot from the Lodge grounds can get to the Sonoma Plaza, home of Mission San Francisco Solano built in 1823- the last of the 21 missions.
Once there, a visitor may learn about the history of the quaint town through Sonoma Plaza Walking Tours.
Shoppers could spend hours walking the streets in search of a unique novelty, but they won’t go far on the Plaza.
Uniquely California displays a book series titled “Nude Cooking for Wine Lovers.” At the Cheese Factory, a clerk handed out sharp cheddar.
“It’s rare we get a 54-year-old cheddar,” she said. The customers took her word for it, taking the sampling.
Pastry lovers and coffee addicts find a home at the Basque Boulangerie Cafe, where indoor and outdoor seating invites browsers to stay planted.
Visitors continuing with walks of the area may head north up Second Street to the Lovall Valley bike path, where one resident had to remind visitors of animal etiquette. A sign saying: “Don’t Feed the Horses” was posted.
To get on the path, turn right at the pumpkin patch. The winery radar will lead strollers to at least four wineries within reasonable walking distance. First on the list is the massive grounds of Sebastiani, where tastings start as early as 10 a.m.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org