I love spending a day wine tasting with friends but unless you have a) a really good-natured pregnant friend who wants to chauffeur a bunch of giggly winos around b) plenty of $$ for hiring a driver for the day or c) an extremely high alcohol tolerance, then transportation logistics can put a bit of a damper on an afternoon in wine country.
A biking and wine tasting tour in Wine Country sounded like a great way to avoid the drinking and driving conundrum but with a price tag of $125, not including tasting fees, it sounded like an expensive way of playing biker-car roulette. So I decided that I would create my own bike and wine tasting tour that avoided roads and used bike paths to get between venues.
The West County Bike Path that goes between Sebastopol and Forestville is the best kept secret in Wine Country. A 5.5 miles paved path that winds its way past farms and vineyards, it is the perfect way to enjoy the stunning California scenery and drink some wine DUI worry free. Added bonus is the possibility of a swim in the Russian River and a good meal to round out the adventure.
Note: There are sections of the bike path where you have to cross roads or ride on streets for a few blocks to reach the next section of the bike path. Don’t worry there are plenty of helpful signs. Don’t have a bike? Not a problem, you can rent one in Sebastopol at Sebastopol Bike Center for $35 for the day. Sebastopol Bike Center. 6731 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol,CA, 95472
.If you start in Sebastopol plan on doing approximately 17 miles round trip. If you have your own bike I would recommend starting anywhere between Occidental Road and Forestville, which would shorten your journey to approximately 12 miles.
If you’re starting from the downtown Sebastopol area the first portion of the bike path meanders through Sebastopol and then goes next to Highway 116. At Occidental Road take a left and go along Occidental Road (beware this is a fairly busy road) until you reach the bike path. At this point it becomes significantly more shaded, relaxing, and car-free. The path will end at Grey Street. Take a Right on Grey and then a quick left onto Bowen Street. When you reach the charming little town of Graton you can stop at any of the tasting rooms, grab a bite to eat, or continue on your journey. If you chose to make a wine stop Bowman Cellars has a beautiful patio area and is easy to find. Bowman Cellars. 9010 Graton Road, Graton, CA 95444
A little further along you’ll notice some processing plants and the distinct smell of apple cider vinegar. You’ve made it to Manzana, which means apple in spanish. There’s not a whole lot to see here and you’re about to reach some really nice spots so it’s best to just keep on cruising. Take a left on Green Valley Road and continue until you see the bike path.
As you bike along you will see a sign adjacent to the bike path for Ektimo Vineyards. This is the only winery that is directly on the bike path. Fill your water bottle at the water dispenser then enjoy the different chardonnays, pinots, and zin on the tasting menu. Cost: $10 for a tasting. Tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine. Ektimo Vineyards. 4950 Ross Road, Sebastopol, CA 94572
Your next stop, Iron Horse Vineyards, is not too much further up the bike path. Continue on the bike path until you reach Ross Station Road. Take a left and ride along this quiet, country road and continue up the hill. It’s a little daunting, but the view at the top is worth the leg burn. Drink some wine, enjoy the views, take a few pictures and then glide down to the bike path. Cost: $25 for a tasting. Tasting fee is refunded with the purchase of a bottle. Reservations required. 9786 Ross Station Road. Sebastopol, CA 95472
Pedal along the bike path past more vineyards until it ends at Pajaro Lane in Forestville. If you want to grab some food, continue wine tasting, or cool off at the Russian River go to the end of Pajaro Lane and take a left on Forestville Street. Go up a few blocks and you will be in Forestville. If you want to keep your wine buzz going pop into Joseph Jewell , which is about half a block to the left on Front Street, or any of the other nearby tasting rooms. There are also a couple different restaurants in Forestville if you’re feeling like you need something more than wine in your belly.
To reach the Russian River you will keep going on Forestville Street, it turns into Covey Road when it crosses Front Street. There isn’t a bike path but there is a wide sidewalk and enough of a shoulder along the road that it doesn’t feel too perilous. However there is a massive hill that’s really fun on the way down to the river and a really good calf workout on the way back. At the bottom of Covey Road take a right on Trenton Road and wind your way through the cute river neighborhood until you reach River Road. You will see a sign for Steelhead Beach Regional Park. Enter the park and explore the different little paths until you find the perfect sandy spot to take a dip. The main beach is the closest to the parking lot, and the easiest to find, but it’s a bit gravely and can get crowded. With a little extra effort you can find a spot with some shade and serenity.
Where to Stay:
The Sebastopol area has a plethora of Airbnb options. We stayed at Mary’s guest cottage and it was absolutely perfect for our bike+wine adventure. It’s only a few blocks from the bike path and is on the section of the path that’s closest to many of the wine options. In addition to having a great location for biking it has its own private little yard, the perfect place to store your bikes. On top of all that, the unit itself is a clean and inviting place for a good nights sleep after a day of fun in Wine Country.
What to Bring:
- Bike lock
- Helmet (not as glamorous but you are drinking and biking so…)
- Water bottle
- Swim suit
- Lightweight towel for river ( I like Raqpak microfiber travel towel)
- Pick up a free map of the wineries/tasting rooms from a winery or info booth
- It is significantly easier if you have bikes to bring them. The bike path is a lot more scenic and enjoyable after Occidental Road heading towards Forestville. If you do rent bikes in Sebastopol it adds a six or seven miles to your total riding distance, including a 1/2 mile stretch of busy road when you ride along Occidental Road after crossing Highway 116 before rejoining the bike path.
- Stay hydrated.
- Mix up the order of stops in whatever way makes the most sense. The big hill to the river is by far the most challenging so you might want to swim first and then relax with a wine tasting or two or three after that..