The Sonoma wine country bike vacation is no secret. Thousands of cyclists take to this region north of San Francisco every year to climb its long, scenic hills, hopping from winery to winery by day, and sleeping it off in a cozy inn at night. The problem? It's often a logistical nightmare that either costs more than you'd expect or ends up being a headache to rival anything brought on by all the wine.
For those who want to leave all worries behind (and are willing to pay for it,) there's Trek Travel, a spin-off from Trek Bikes. The company's California Wine Country Long Weekend package is a fully supported vacation that strikes a balance of cycling and wine tours, providing upscale hotels, meals, and cycling gear throughout the four-day, three-night trip.
The service starts with a shuttle from the Westin San Francisco, which then drives an hour and a half north to Point Reyes Station. Riders spend the first day along the seashore getting to know the guides and group, and getting fit for their bikes. The next day is a country road ride into Healdsburg (with an optional winery stop or two), which will be the home base for the next two days of riding from winery to winery. There's only one guided tour and tasting built into the travel plan; the Michel-Schlumberger Winery, with representative offerings like its fruity chardonnay or a regional rarity of pinot noir. The rest of the tour is designed with flexibility in mind, leaving ample time for tastings in each day's schedule, letting the guests pick and choose where to ride and what to sip. For a truly local taste, try Ridge Vineyards' estate-grown zinfandel at the winery's Lytton Springs vineyard, or savor the spicy, blackberry taste of Bella Vineyards's zin from the cool confines of a cave-turned-tasting room. With dozens of wineries a short bike ride away, finding an excuse to stop is never hard.
One of the biggest perks of Trek Travel's package is the bike support. If you want to take it easy, you can start out on one of Trek's 7.7 FX hybrids. If you're here for a hill workout, too, then go for the carbon fiber Madone 5.2, which is an efficient workhorse. For an extra $400, you can upgrade to a dream bike: the lighter Madone 6.9 pro model, complete with hassle-free features like electronic shifting for a Tour-like ride. Two guides flank each group in support vans, leapfrogging the ride to assist with any mechanical problems, as if you were on a competitive tour. (Have a malfunction? Here's a new bike!) The van is also there to carry any wines you buy or provide a boost, should the sampling turn to quaffing. Another guide rides along offering encouragement, coaching, or route recommendations if you want to forge ahead.
Cruising wine country outfitted this way can have side effects, according to veteran guide Jonathan Hershberger: "I would say two or three people go home and immediately buy a new bike." [$2,199; trektravel.com]