There is a pleasure in the pathless woods
There is a rapture on the lonely shore
There is a society, where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar
I love not man the less, but Nature more
- Lord Byron
The term “Wine Country” has become a generic term describing ubiquitous regions ranging from the southern tip of Argentina and as far north to include
ALASKA-DENALI WINERY who boast the unique wine mantra of, “We specialize in crafting personal, micro-brewed batch of wine that meet the discerning palates of our customers.”
Having never been to Alaska, I don’t know how discerning one’s palatte can be but last I heard, the process of wine-making involves fermentation rather than brewing but maybe things have changed in the wine making business. Stil, anything with a moose logo is cool enough for me.
As far as I can tell, the designation of Wine Country seems to be driven by commerce, increasing property values and tourism as much as viticulture. Middletown lacks most of these criteria but is still considered part of the wine country. You'll see why as only Oakland Harley-Davidson can download this route on your touring bike. We highlight this route for the diversity of terrain, views, long rolling hills, elevation changes and for offering more than a few items that will make you say, “Hmmmmmm. I’ve never seen that before”…
The fun starts once you head north along the SILVERADO TRAIL (Mile 44)
Most every road in NorCal is picuresque, including freeways 129 and 121 and especially the many two lane country roads that spider web and connect the major thoroughfares which run parallel to the trail. However, if the day’s focus is on riding rather than wine tasting, I always prefer the Silverado Trail as it’s free of commercial trucks, most tourist traffic and controlled intersections. There are plenty of GREAT WINERIES along the trail if one wants to stop and take a tour or sample one of the local offerings. After 17 miles, turning east on Highway 128 is where you’ll start to experience the differences in climate, terrain and sunshine. Turning left on Chiles-Pope Valley road, you are officially outside of the Napa Valley and you’ll discover why as the fertile soil turns to mountains of red clay, sage brush and Manzanita trees. Twisting through the valley chaparral will increase your heart rate but decrease your RPM’s as the scenery, elevation and terrain change often. Just when you’ve settled into the rhythm of the road at mile 82.8 you’ll come across #1 of “things I’ve never seen before”. Hey, if you have seen something like this before, please send me the info. I love stuff like this!!!
Further north through Pope valley you’ll see the changes in the terrain and ground water table as the land transitions into more recognizable features of lakes, Black Oak and soft turns. The 25 miles of fencing belongs to:
Summer temperatures are often in the 90's so if you want to stop under a shady tree and talk to some knowledeable folks in their elegantly comfortable tasting room, you’ll always have a friendly face and plenty of wine and non-alcoholic tasting suggestions. Take advantage of the shade and the picnic tables under the wisteria vines and turn this into a romantic mid-day picnic if you can remember to bring some snacks.
Resist the urge to call this the, “Middle of Nowhere” as the area was first developed in 1888 by San Francisco socialite Lillian Langtry. Not much has changed with the geography so you’ll get to witness what California looks like in its natural state without water, tourists and construction zones which is ironic as you reach mile 100 and ride straight into:
Twin Pines Casino In California, Indian casinos are as common as wine regions but this particular casino is different. I’m not sure what non-gamblers do other than enjoy the facilities and air-conditioning but the hotel and restaurant are as well appointed as any place in NorCal. If you prefer a more casual setting for lunch, the best Mexican food in ANY wine country is:
LA PARILLA MEXICAN GRILL The service is fast and friendly, the portions are large and the prices are cheap. Air-conditioning, cold drinks and fast service makes this a pleasant surprise for being in the middle of nowhere (not the official designation).
At mile 115 you’ll pull into the parking lot of #2, “things that I’ve never seen before” at:
My dad impressed upon us to mavel and appreciate the engineering of the natural wonders of our planet. I didn't much listen to my dad in my yourth, but I always loved the look of amazement everytime he'd see something new. This is one of those things. It's not as impressive as other thermal features found in the west but if you like to see things you've never seen before or if you're into geology, hiking along shady trails, thermodynamics or just a pretty view don't be afraid to pull into the park and have a look around.
The coolest fact is that this natural plumbing system is under the entire town of Calistoga which has attracted those souls who believe in the healilng powers of the earth, her rejuvinative mineral properties and the overall value of a hot bath.
If getting hot and sweaty is not your thing, 8 miles west is #3 on the list:
I'm always flattered when guests share their interests and hobbies with me. I've spoken with PhD's, clergy, farm hands, lawyers, geologists and ranchers who all have different opinions on what's going on with our planet's condition. However, all share a united belief in our responsibility for the stewardship for the earth and an obligation to conserve, nuture and share our resources.
When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree prophecy
If you and/or your passenger need a rest, the town of Calistoga is only 7 mins away. This "perfect little town" has been ground zero for the spa culture that now permeates much of the California lifestyle. Ancient cultures always knew of the healing properties of mud baths, natural hot springs and the purification of the temascal. Calistoga has enhnaced their reputation for spa treatments by including food, shopiing, "wine country" living and retail shops. I don't think the ancient cultures would see the value in antiquing, but no doubt they would appreciate a cucumber infused mineral water on a warm day.
The last 28 miles are nestled in the Sonoma Valley and features gentle undulations and long, sweeping turns until you reach;
Most wine country destinations have the same touristy vibe for food, wine, shopping and souvenirs. If you just roll through each town you'll notice the community pride, quaint architecture, history and friendliness of NorCal, however, you'll miss the essence of what makes NorCal unique: The people who live here. Walk into any business and you'll immediately notice the energy, sense of gratitude and level of joy we have for our community and the area. The easiest way to experience this is to walk in and comment, "You have a beautiful area". Repeat as needed.
Need someone to ride with? Check out Oakland HOG and if you aren't yet a HOG member check out 10 Benefits of HOG.