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California Wine Country’s Greatest Hits

Expansive view of vineyards in California Wine Country

Our 2021 California Wine Country trip is better than ever, and we can’t wait to tell you more about it!

California is constantly innovating and so are we. After 14 years of our long beloved California Wine Country trips, we have had a long and critical look at our rides, wineries, restaurants, hotels, and distilleries. We have taken to heart many reviews and suggestions from our guests in order to distill the itinerary into its most exquisite self. We hope that you’ll join us to experience the best of California Wine Country with us.

The Trek Travel Trip Design Team loves new ideas and is always looking for new opportunities. We pay close attention to our guide team’s feedback in the region and our guests’ reviews to get a better understanding of what guests love in a region. On occasion we receive underwhelming or negative feedback, but this is instrumental in keeping the wheels of innovation turning for our team and continuing to improve our trips.

In the California Wine redesign, we have removed a few hotels that were not consistently meeting our high standards for guest care. We are sticking with Indian Springs, which receives rave reviews and also adding a new hotel for 2021: Harmon Guest House. This new and trendy property is part of the Hotel Healdsburg collection, which never disappoints. We have swapped out wineries that had received intermediate reviews and upgraded to include only truly spectacular spots, some that we have worked with since the beginning of our California Wine trips. We have quite a library of possible riding options in the area, but over the years, we have listened to specifics from our guests and guides to only include those with the best views, roads, and experience in general. We challenge the assumption that if a trip is popular and has great scores that it means there can’t be more items to improve upon.

Explore California Wine Country on a Trek Travel bike tour

We are proud to say that this California Wine redesign is a testament to the fact that “really good” can become exceptional when we constantly strive to add that additional tweak to an itinerary that truly makes Trek Travel’s trips the trip of a lifetime!

Think of our 2021 California Wine Country Tour as California Wine’s Greatest Hits.

See the trip

Trek Travel’s Blackberry Farm Bike Tour

Riding bikes in the great Smoky Mountains is a treat in itself. But finishing each day at Blackberry Farm, the best spot in the country for foothills (or Appalachian) cuisine, makes this trip worth the splurge. Blackberry Farm, located near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, has expansive gardens, its own butcher, charcuterie kitchen, and on-site cheesemaker. It’s a glutton’s dream come true, and experiencing the place between bike rides is the ideal way to maximize your calorie intake while on the property. (Side note: I know the man who built the on-site mountain bike trails, and they’re a dream to ride.)

Read on»

Before, During and After: Andalucia

Andalucia is a perfect destination for a cycling vacation of a lifetime. If you find yourself with a flight to Andalucia for a Spain bike tours, consider any of the following cities before or after your trip. From the flamenco caves of Granada to the northern Pyrenees and coastal cities of Catalonia, you will be enchanted by Spain.

Like any country, the landscape and culture is unique wherever you go in Spain. Andalucia, or Andalusia, is a region in southern Spain known for its warm weather, agriculture, sherry, Jamon Ibérico, flamenco, bullfighting and Moorish architecture. It’s an incredible experience for a cycling vacation with a variety of climbs and rolling hills, stunning views, friendly people and endless tapas throughout your ride that continue into the night alongside a glass of sherry or local vino. Just a train ride away you’ll find a handful of popular and to-be-discovered cities throughout Spain that are also worth a trip.

Before: Seville, Spain

On Trek Travel’s cycling vacation, we begin in Seville, Andalucia’s capital city, where we meet up with the guides to start the bike tour. If you arrive at the end of April, you could catch the beginning of Feria, one of Spain’s biggest festivals. On the night of the festival, follow the crowds along the river to the grounds that house hundreds of decorated casetas, or little houses, for private gatherings that celebrate well into the night and into the following morning. During the day, be sure to enjoy the local tapas bars and explore the history and architecture of Seville. Lonely Planet named Seville the “Best city to visit in 2018.”

Travel to Sevilla, Andalucia on an Andalucia bike tour
Travel to Sevilla, Andalucia on an Andalucia bike tour

Empty streets of downtown Sevilla. The entire city made their way to the Feria de Abril festival.

Travel to Sevilla, Andalucia on an Andalucia bike tour
Plaza de España in Sevilla

During: Ronda to Antequera, Andalucia

If you’re a lucky guest on the Trek Travel trip, hop in the van with the guides and drive into the hills to a lovely olive oil farm. Your first ride will lead you down into a valley and up through the hills towards the hidden gem of Ronda. Ronda is a historic mountaintop city overlooking a gorge that includes the diverse “old town” and “new town”, separated by an iconic stone bridge. The “old town” houses residents who’ve lived there for centuries, and across the bridge you’ll find shops, tapas bars, flamenco dancing, the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain and more. The whole city is quite small and very walk-able. Ronda is extremely charming and a gem of the South.

Travel on an Andalucia bike tour
The hills of Andalucia bring slow climbs and views of pueblos blancos, or white villages, dotted throughout the landscape

Travel on an Andalucia bike tour
A hidden gem in Andalucia, Ronda is a historic town that overlooks a breathtaking gorge

After (Southern Spain): Granada

After the Trek Travel trip, consider taking a train to experience Granada. Granada features the Moorish castle Alhambra which overlooks the old neighborhood of Albaicín. Sit down and have a beer or glass of wine here and you’ll also receive a small plate of tapas – whatever the kitchen is serving up that day. You might never have to pay for food here, as long as you have a drink ordered. Be sure to get tickets in advance to tour the Alhambra, it’s a popular tourist sight, but you’ll find the city itself is filled with friendly, charming locals. You can’t miss the flamenco in Granada either – here, step into a cave, sit down with a drink and enjoy the dancers and musicians perform the traditional flamenco.

Travel to Granada, Andalucia on an Andalucia bike tour
Travel to Granada, Andalucia on an Andalucia bike tour

The view from Generalife at Alhambra and a hot air balloon floating over the city of Granada

After (Northern Spain): Barcelona, Girona and San Sebastian

If you’re looking to head north, book a train to Catalonia to find a variety of cities to fall in love with. Travel to Barcelona for its seaside cityscape, world-class dining, museums and famous architecture. Or hop on a quick train just north of Barcelona to Girona in Costa Brava for cobbled streets, medieval architecture, a cycling scene and endless pintxos. Girona is just 20 minutes from the coast where you’ll find unbelievable views of the Mediterranean sea, and roads that are perfect for a scenic bike ride. San Sebastian is only a train ride away and nestled into the northern edge of Spain on the border of France. San Sebastian is in the Basque region, home of some of the best seafood and beaches in the world. It is a foodies delight, with enough Michelin star restaurants and world-class pintxos and cidre to keep you full for your entire stay.

Wherever you choose to travel to in Spain, you will not be disappointed. This warm and welcoming country will keep you busy with activities or relaxation and make you want to come back for more.

Visit northern Spain in San Sebastian before or after your Trek Travel cycling vacation
Old town in San Sebastian and one of the best beaches in the world, La Concha

Plan your cycling vacation to Andalucia with Trek Travel

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California Wine Country, in Three Ways

Whether it’s a rich, full-bodied pinot, a crisp chardonnay, an invigorating ride through the countryside or just a romantic escape, California wine country has got it all. Which is why we offer three different styles of trips right in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Here we’ll compare our luxury, explorer and wine weekend trips so all you have to do is ride, sip and enjoy.

Luxury  |  Explorer  |  Long Weekend

Ride along vineyards on a California Wine Country bike tour

Enjoy wine tours and tastings on a California Wine Country bike tour
Dine at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller on a California Wine Country luxury bike tour

California Wine Country Luxury

Price: From $3,299
Rider Level: 2 | Recreational
Start | End: Healdsburg to Yountville

Accommodations:
Hotel Healdsburg – An perfectly luxurious hotel located in the heart of downtown Healdsburg and winner of Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice award.
Vintage Inn – A newly-renovated AAA Four Diamond boutique hotel and winner of the 2016 Conde Nast Travelers Reader’s Choice Award. Home of one of the most bountiful breakfast spreads on any Trek Travel trip.
North Block Hotel | New Hotel in 2018 – This quaint, Mediterranean-inspired property is perfectly suited for a romantic wine country getaway. Redd Wood, the hotel’s restaurant (with James Beard Award nominee and Michelin-starred Chef Richard Reddington at the helm) offers Italian-inspired cuisine.

Riding: The terrain is hilly with available shuttles and great climbing options.

Meal Highlights:
• Trek Travel signature picnic, private tour and tasting at Summit Lake vineyards
• Picnic in the Redwoods State National Reserve
• Dine at Thomas Keller’s trendy Ad Hoc restaurant in Napa
• Dine at SHED restaurant in Healdsburg

Activity Highlights:
• Visit the Armstrong Redwoods Park
Summit Lake Wine Tasting — tour a family operated small batch vineyard with the family
Dry Creek Valley Wine Tasting
• Private Olive Oil Tasting at Trattore Farms

Biggest Differences: On our California Wine Country luxury bike tour, guests will experience Napa and Sonoma Valley and its iconic countryside and legendary acclaimed wines. We will stay at luxury accommodations with five-star meals throughout the trip, including a dinner at the Napa Valley staple Ad Hoc by legendary Chef Thomas Keller.

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Stay at Indian Springs Resort and Spa on a California Wine Country bike tour
Wine tastings and tours on our California Wine Country bike tour

California Wine Country Explorer

Price: From $2,599
Rider Level: 2 | Recreational
Start | End: Calistoga to Healdsburg

Accommodations:
Indian Springs Resort and Spa – A newly-renovated and award-winning hotel and spa with a bohemian vibe and geyser-fed pools located in Calistoga.
h2 Hotel – Located in downtown Healdsburg, this hotel is rooted in nature and fluid by design and has been recognized by Conde Nast’s Traveler’s Gold list, Travel + Leisure World’s Best Hotels and Fodor’s Top 100.

Riding: The terrain is hilly with available shuttles and great climbing options.

Meal Highlights:
• Trek Travel signature picnic at Summit Lake vineyards
• Picnic in the Redwoods State National Reserve
• Dine at Spoonbar, a trendy market-driven restaurant with reknowned craft cocktails
• Dine at Sam’s Social Club, a highly acclaimed poolside restaurant

Activity Highlights:
• Visit the Armstrong Redwoods
Summit Lake wine tasting
Velo Vino food and wine tasting and Bruschetteria food truck

Biggest Differences: On our California Wine Country explorer bike tour, we begin in Calistoga, known for mud baths and spas, then make our way to Sonoma county. This trip offers great flexibility for guests to explore additional activities in the area.

[trek-fullwidth-img src=”https://trektravel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/03CW_03TT_CA_Wine-1600×670.jpg”]

Ride along vineyards on our California Wine Country weekend bike tour
Stay at Hotel Healdsburg on a California Wine Country luxury bike tour

California Wine Country Long Weekend

Price: From $2,499
Rider Level: 2 | Recreational
Start | End: Healdsburg

Accommodations:
Hotel Healdsburg – A perfectly luxurious hotel located in the heart of downtown Healdsburg and winner of Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Aaward.

Riding: The terrain is flat to rolling and is based in Sonoma. This trip has the least amount of climbing, but there are longer route options available for those who want more riding.

Meal Highlights:
• Dine at Dry Creek Kitchen, Chef Charlie Palmer’s charming restaurant in Healdsburg
• Picnic in the Redwoods State National Reserve
• Dine at SHED restaurant in Healdsburg

Activity Highlights:
• Visit the Armstrong Redwoods
• Tasting at Hanna Winery in Russian River Valley
• Tour Ferrari-Carano vineyards in Dry Creek Valley

Biggest Differences: On our California Wine Country long-weekend bike tour, guests experience a luxury getaway to explore Sonoma at some of our favorite spots in the region in just four outstanding days. During the entire duration of your trip, you will stay in one luxurious hotel, so you can unpack and unwind.

Rosé All Day

Spring and summer are the seasons of rosé. Served chilled and ranging from pale blush to bright ruby in color, these light fruity wines are dangerously easy to enjoy on a hot sunny day.

While any red grape could technically be used to craft these wines, there are a few that have developed a pedigree to make exceptional rosé. Rosés account for vast majority of Provence’s wine production, and the Grenache-based rosés of Côtes de Provence are an absolute classic.

The often pale rosé wines of Provence are blends of at least two different grapes, with Grenache usually being the protagonist. They aren’t overtly fruity on the nose, but rather exhibit aromas that are reminiscent of the sun-kissed flora that grows around the Mediterranean, which the French call garrigue. The palate offers notes of white and golden raspberry moving toward orange fruits, like peach, the longer you savor it.
 
 
Visit Provencal Markets on Trek Travel's Provence, France Bike Tour
 
 
I indeed had the chance to savor this special varietal many times on my trip to Provence, as sunshine and high temperatures meant that my glass was always full. To kick off the trip, we toasted to new friends before a beautiful dinner on the terrace of Chateau de Mazan. Day two brought a great ride to a traditional market filled with spices, cured meats, olives, fresh bouquets, lavender soaps, and handmade table cloths. After getting lost in the colors, smells, and local conversations on this magnificent Monday morning, we capped off the experience with a chilled glass and laughter. The following day was one for the books: 22 kilometers up Mont Ventoux followed by a stop for gelato in the charming town of Beaumes de Venis. We of course clinked our glasses at the end of the day to celebrate those that conquered the Giant of Provence. I’ll drink to that.

Day four was the most gorge(ous) ride through Gorge de la Nesque, and we ended the day with a wine tasting at Hotel Le Mas de Gordes, overlooking one of the most picturesque villages in France. And finally, on the last day, we cooled off with a refreshing dip in the pool and a taste of ‘rosé piscine’, because only in Provence do they have a particular type of wine to drink by the pool. That evening we upgraded to a 1.5 liter bottle of rosé at dinner, because what better way to cap off the vacation of a lifetime than with a glass of the good stuff.

There’s a reason the common Provencal saying is, “Life is Good Here.” The French countryside is incredibly charming, and together with fabulous wine, its a combination that makes you never want to leave.
 
 
Trek Travel Provence France Bike Tour
 

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Guide Favorite: Piedmont

These words are written next to a fireplace in Girona – our European base – where I am now spending my days. The writing began when I opened a bottle of Barbera, a gift from my lovely co-guide Terra, that I have been carefully saving for many months. Naturally the memories travel with the wine, and I’m now anxious to find myself back on Trek Travel’s most undiscovered Italian vacation.

 
Trek Travel Piedmont Italy Bike Tour
 
 
This year I fell in love again.

Last August I was assigned to work in Piedmont. If you are trying to find that on a map, look towards the foothills of the Italian Alps, just east of the French Alps. And if you’re worried about the hills, don’t be. Its location in the foothills provides a perfect combination of flat riding and alpine views.

But what, in all my years of guiding, makes Piedmont stand out? Picture waking up our one and only hotel for the week with big windows overlooking the valley below Monforte d’Alba. The vineyards of Barolo, king of Italian reds, spread as far as the eye can see. On the horizon you can see clearly the white tips of the proud Alps reflecting every ray of sun. At sunrise the peaks are colored with shades of purple, pink and orange until the sky finally turns blue and we are off to explore this new playground by bike.

We might be off to a tasting of the best Italian wines, out to watch the hazelnut harvest take place, or on a truffle hunt discovering the white gold that grows in the Piedmontese land. Every day is an adventure, and every night is a celebration filled with playful jazz sounds and full glasses of vino. Che dolce è la vita!

In retrospect, how could I not fall in love with this place?
 
 
Trek Travel Piedmont, Italy Cycling Vacation

Top 5 Meals of Italy

In Italy, food isn’t just fuel. It’s religion. The country worships the recipes of its mothers and grandmothers that have been handed down for generations. Cheeses are made from local ingredients. Pastas are hand-cranked. Pizzas are baked to a crispy perfection. Prosciutto, parmigiana, caprese and fagioli are all the best you’ve ever tasted. As long-time lovers of Italian cuisine, we’ve picked our top five meals of Italy.

 

1. Ristorante Nicolao
Ride Across Italy

Enjoy views of the mountains and Mount Ingino on the Park Hotel ai Cappuccini terrace before joining the group for a traditional and delicious Umbrian dinner at the acclaimed Nicolao restaurant. Using simple, genuine ingredients produced from the surrounding land, such as meat, mushrooms, oil, and truffles, the chef revives traditional recipes and creates the highest quality seasonal fare.
 
 
Ride Across Italy Featured Meal
 
 

2. Cielo
Puglia

During you stay at the 5-star Relais La Sommità you will enjoy a Michelin starred meal at the elegant Cielo restaurant. Served in an ancient Spanish garden under orange and olive trees providing a perfectly charming backdrop, be prepared for an incredible gastronomic experience as the chef combines traditional plates with innovative flavors.
 
 
Puglia Featured Meal at Cielo
 
 

3. Agricola Marrone
Piedmont

For several years the passionate Marrone family, now at its fourth generation, has been guiding visitors through the discovery of their wines and the lands in which they are produced. It is here, under the instruction of Mama Giovanna, that you will learn the secrets of typical Piedmontese recipes and prepare your own dinner while enjoying some of the local varietals.
 
 
Piedmont Featured Meal
 
 

4. Fattoria di Corsignano
Tuscany Luxury

Enjoy a private cooking class at a local winery where you’ll create your own masterpiece under the guidance of a local Italian chef. Learn the emotions behind each recipe as you make the dishes that have been a staple on Tuscan tables for hundreds of years. Tonight the wine will steal the show as we sample the pride and joy of the region, Chianti Classico, and learn why it’s so significant to the area.
 
 
Tuscany Featured Meal
 
 

5. Assirto
Cinque Terre

Rated the #1 Meal of the Year by award-winning travel writer Larry Olmsted, Assirto is a charming restaurant that few tourists are likely to find themselves. Enjoy a variety of surprising flavors, from fresh caught anchovies to Serano ham, as you listen to the owner Luca tell us the history behind each delectable handmade dish, which is served up with a perfectly paired wine. It is sure to be a meal to remember!
 
 
Cinque Terre Featured Meal
 
 
VIEW OUR ITALIAN CYCLING VACATIONS»

Harvesting with Summit Lake Vineyards

For thirteen years, Summit Lake Vineyard has held a special place in the hearts of Trek Travel guides and guests. Perched atop Howell Mountain (one of the most highly regarded viticulture regions in all of Napa Valley, California), it is one of the highlights of our California Wine Country trip agendas with Trek Travel.

Words by Trek Travel Guide Beth White
 
 
Tour Summit Lake Winery in Sonoma California with Trek Travel cycling vacations
 

But this forty year old, family-owned vineyard that produces 1,500 cases of wine a year was threatened by wildfires in Lake County and Napa Valley, right at the peak of the Fall 2015 harvest. Three generations of the Brakesman family (along with two horses, goats, chicken, cats, and several dogs), had to be evacuated from their home the night of September 11th, as there was only one small mountain ridge separating the fires in the valley from racing up the side of Howell Mountain. And the four-year drought conditions in California created a tinderbox and made these wildfires challenging to fight due to rough terrain.

Several days later, the family (and all the animals) were able to return to Summit Lake Vineyards. While the fire was contained, the was still a preeminent threat to the harvest. Smoke can be absorbed by the grapes, thus affecting the flavor and results of future wines. Most winemakers determine when to pick their various types of grapes based on a number of factors, from the sugar content, size and skin color, to the general health of the vines and future weather conditions. It is a science, with a lot of experience and creativity thrown in, and ultimately decided based on the intentions of the wine maker’s future vintage.
 
 
Trek Travel goes to Summit Lake Winery in California
 
 
Given the recent scare, Summit Lake decided they could not wait any longer and they needed to start harvesting various blocks of grapes over the next few weeks. Many vineyards in Napa Valley rely heavily on contracted labor for seasonal pickers, whom are often in high demand. The work is grueling, requiring skill and speed, as grapes perish quickly after picking when left in large plastic bins under the hot sun.

As one of several guides leading trips in the California Wine Country, I have learned a lot about the wine making process and have had the pleasure of enjoying many picnic lunches, wine tastings, and tours of the Summit Lake Vineyards. Understanding the time constraints and labor shortages (due to the early harvest and wild fires), my co-guide and I volunteered to help out in any way possible. Although the family had everything in control, they agreed to put us to work for a day, helping to sort grapes (quality control) before they went into the de-stemmer and bladder press. We had a great time and it was exciting to see everyone work together like a peloton!
 
 
Harvesting grapes at Summit Lake Vineyards on Trek Travel's California Wine Country bike tour
 
 
“With the drought this year, we harvested about three weeks ahead of schedule, along with most of the valley. On the years where this happens, our small family is spread rather thin between all of our respective jobs. My Dad, Bob Brakesman, my brother and myself are the only full time employees here at the winery. My husband works full time as a vineyard manager on the valley floor and my youngest brother, Danny, is working at another winery. During harvest, when we bring in more than a couple tons of fruit, it is important to process the fruit while it is still cool in the morning,” said Heather Griffin from Summit Lake Vineyards.

She continued, “We had a day when we knew we would be short handed, as it takes at least five people to run a harvest and process fruit at the same time. In general, I run the crew in the field and drive the tractor to take empty bins out and bring in the full ones. My dad and brother run the crush equipment, and we need the extra hands to sort fruit as it goes into the top of the stemmer-crusher machine. Jake and Beth heard we were short on people and volunteered to help us! I think they now have a hands on appreciation for the work that goes into wine, as they spent hours on our catwalk sorting through our fruit all day. We couldn’t have done it with out them!”

Frankly, I think they wanted us to have an opportunity be part of the “crush” process more than they truly needed our help! We’ve grown to love this special family and vineyard that it made us feel good to give a little back to them, considering all the special hosting they have done for Trek Travel over the past years. The harvest was a success and all the grapes were picked and processed, awaiting the long fermentation cycle. We look forward to next year’s challenging cycling ride through Pope Valley and up Ink Grade Road to Summit Lake Vineyards. And now we can’t wait to taste the 2015 Zinfandel in two years!
 
 
Experience the grape harvest at Summit Lake Vineyards in the California Wine Country on a Trek Travel bike tour
 
 
VISIT SUMMIT LAKE VINEYARDS ON TREK TRAVEL’S CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY VACATION»

Industry Insider: Doug Margerum

In Santa Barbara winemaking circles, Doug Margerum is indeed a celebrity. He’s been credited with singlehandedly launching the local wine scene, and his restaurant, Wine Cask, is the place for collectors to find coveted single-vineyard Santa Barbara wines. A legend in his own right, Doug sat down to with us to share his passion for red wine and the American Riviera.

Eat and drink at the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara bike tour

Tell us your story. What spurred your passion for food and wine?
I began my wine and food exploration at a young age, tasting wine in France and eating in France and Italy with my parents at 13 years of age. I worked in restaurants as a cook and server throughout my high school and college years. After graduating from University of California – Santa Barbara with a degree in business economics, my family purchased Wine Cask (an existing wine store, wine making & beer making supply store) in 1981. What began as a retail wine store expanded to include an adjacent bistro. The restaurant expanded again to the Gold Room in Santa Barbara’s legendary El Paseo building in 1981, and the adjacent Intermezzo cafe opened in 1996. The two restaurants and the wine store have become a destination of choice in Santa Barbara among food and wine cognoscenti locally and throughout the world.

Tell us about your handcrafted and personalized wine production.
Margerum Wine Company is committed to creating handcrafted wines using only the highest quality grapes so that we can make wines that are indicative of the place where they are grown. We strive to make wines naturally, to make wines that have individual characteristics, and to make wines with personality. The scale of production is kept at a level where we can touch and know the wine as it is raised to the bottle – the antithesis of mass production. The standards of quality are measured by our criteria, not by external sources. We make wines we personally enjoy – some to drink young, all for the table, and others for long aging in cool cellars for our children to enjoy.

Taste Margerum Wine Company vintages on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara California bike tour

Can you give our readers any wine tasting tips?
1. Taste as many different wines as possible: taste the unknown to experience new flavors, discover new styles, new varietals from new lands and continue to learn more about wine.
2. Wine makes food taste better: It is healthy, improves your digestion, and makes conversation easier and sometimes more profound.
3. Be patient and age wines: Wines properly stored–at a constant 55 degrees, free of vibration, and free of light–improve with age.
4. Serve wine in proper stemware and at the proper temperature: Reds at 60 to 65 degrees and whites at 40 to 45 degrees.
5. True wine critics are the practiced: They are those who taste wine with food, meet winemakers, travel, study, learn and know wine. They are the sommeliers and wine merchants of the world. Trust these people. They know and love wine and are our best source of knowledge.

Taste a handcrafted vintage at Santa Barbara's Wine Cask on Trek Travel bike tour

What is your favorite vintage or vineyard and what makes it unique?
I love red Rhône varietals. The red wines made from Rhône varietals produce wines that are diverse and have an array of styles. They share the common characteristics of fresh red and black cherries, strawberry, kirsch, black pepper, black raspberry, spice, earth and herbs. The textures can be lush, rich and mouthwatering when young and then become silky and complex with age. While these wines are delicious young, they have the ability to age and develop for 5 to 15 years. My favorite wine is the Margerum M5. This is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend using five grape varieties from the highest quality vineyards in Santa Barbara County. The “M” is for Margerum and “5” for the five grapes we use: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, and Cinsault. M5 is all about Grenache and, as it is every year, the trick is to balance the crimson, aromatic, lean, bright, tight Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault based components with the bombastic, dark, black, plum, tannic, bold, intense, full-bodied Syrah we make. M5 is wine created from a thought–a blend that is an amalgamation of memories, both distant and recent, of wines we’ve tasted and loved the past thirty-three years.

What makes Santa Barbara a great wine-producing region?
The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt of microclimates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the country. The valleys in the Pacific coastline actually run east-west rather than north-south, and both the coastal Santa Ynez Mountain range and the more interior San Rafael range are transverse too. Because of this geologic oddity, the ocean breezes sweep eastward, channeled by the hills and mountains that ring the region. Heading east into the foothills, the temperatures are warm during the day and very cool during the night, whereas the vineyards that lie westward toward the ocean enjoy a mild and moderate climate. Coupled with soils that run the gamut from ancient beach and diatomaceous earth to chirt and limestone, there is a near-perfect place for a wide variety of wine grape varietals.

There are currently five federally-sanctioned American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) within Santa Barbara County: Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley. As grape growers continue to advance their understanding of the best places to plant particular wine grape varietals, the Los Alamos region, the Los Olivos District, and the Santa Maria Bench are also showing distinct characteristics that may one day lead to AVA status. The Los Alamos Valley area between Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley also hosts several vineyards, although the area is not officially recognized.

Visit the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara bike tour

What are the five must-dos while traveling in Santa Barbara?
1. Wine Tasting: Urban Wine Trail, Wine Collection of El Paseo, and the Presidio Neighborhood.
2. Sterns Wharf: I love walking out on Sterns Wharf to get a fish taco, watch the boats, and get a unique perspective on Santa Barbara.
3. The Zoo: I love our zoo!
4. Eating: My favorite places are Wine Cask (of course) and Intermezzo for casual dining and great wines by the glass. Bouchon is incredible for fine dining. Arigato for sushi. Lucky’s for great steak and awesome atmosphere. El Encanto for cocktails with a view. And finally, Pane e Vino for Italian.
5. Museums: Our Natural History Museum is definitely worth a visit.

Fresh food from the farmer's market at the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara vacation

TASTE A HANDCRAFTED VINTAGE ON TREK TRAVEL’S SANTA BARBARA BIKE TOUR»

Il Gallo Nero

The Black Rooster marks some of the greatest wines in the world.

It is easy to see why Tuscany remains one of our most popular trips. I moved to Italy some 12 years ago to immerse myself in this magic, and have determined that cycling through this region is the ideal way to learn about the place.

On a bike, we leave other tourists behind and get to experience places as they have remained for thousands of years. The epicenter of Tuscany – flanked by Florence to the North and Siena to the South – for its wine, wild boar, small, winding roads and forested hilltops. In the center of Chianti is the ideal, 9th century one-strip hilltop wonder of cobblestones enotecas and cafés known as Radda in Chianti. Ride up to the entrance of Radda in the morning and you’ll find Fabrizio Ferrucci, owner of Bar Dante making panini for the hungry denizens who flock to his café for local treats. Fabrizio will assure you that while Radda is not perfect, it is pretty close.

Visit Tuscany on a Trek Travel bike trip

Radda is so ideal, in fact, that the two warring city-countries of Florence and Siena have fought over it for centuries. Legend has it that late in the 12th century, these two archenemies finally decided to end their bloody land-feud peaceably. By parliamentary agreement, at the first crow of their respective roosters on the appointed day, one knight from Florence, and one knight from Siena would depart on horseback down the road the connects the two cities. At the precise point the two knights meet on their journey, the line would be drawn to divide the Province of Florence from the Province of Siena.

While Siena chose to fatten and spoil a fine, plump rooster, the Florentines were far more devious. They selected a lean, black rooster and locked it in a windowless dungeon without food or water. When the date arrived, the rooster’s hyper-sensitive retinas led him to crow his heart out, giving the Florentine knight a dramatic head start. He reached all the way to Fonterutoli, a territory of Castellina, before he met the Sienese knight. And so they established the border at Castellina, a mere 19 kilometers from Siena’s walled city.

To this day, the internationally recognized symbol of Chianti is a silhouette of Il Gallo Nero, The Black Rooster. It marks some of the greatest wines in the world, and cyclists wear the jersey with pride. Next time you find yourself in Radda, ask Fabrizio about his story. He just may fill you in on some more history of this remarkable area that we are fortunate to ride our bikes through. The rest of the learning comes from the air flowing in your face while you spin down the winding roads, the same roads the two knights thundered down all those years ago.

By Jacob Young, a guide for Trek Travel

Visit Tuscany on a Trek Travel bike trip

Experience a Trip to Tuscany for yourself»

Private

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What is the Difference?

Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.

Luxury:

Enjoy luxurious accommodations handpicked for a refined experience. From signature spa treatments to delicious local cuisine, you’ll be more than provided for; you’ll be pampered.

Explorer:

These handpicked hotels provide relaxation and fun in a casual and comfortable environment. Delicious cuisine and great service mix perfectly for a memorable stay.

Combined:

On select cycling vacations, you’ll stay at a mix of Explorer and Luxury hotels. Rest assured, no matter which hotel level you’re at, our trip designers carefully select every accommodation.

Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

What are your trip styles?

Classic - Reserve:

Savor the finer things as you relax in luxurious 5-star accommodations and wine, dine, and ride in some of the most unforgettable destinations around the world.

Classic - Signature:

Explore beautiful destinations by bike, enjoy extra inclusions, savor delicious local cuisine, and enjoy the perfect mix of accommodations.

Classic - Discover:

Enjoy a casual cycling vacation with fantastic routes and comfortable accommodations.

Ride Camp:

Train like the pros in some of their favorite riding destinations.

Pro Race:

See the pros in action at the biggest cycling events of the year.

Cross Country:

Tackle an epic adventure that takes you point-to-point across mountains, countryside, and more.

Self-Guided

Enjoy a bike tour on your schedule with just your chosen travel companions.

Single Occupancy

Sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own room while on vacation. We understand and that’s why we offer a Single Occupancy option. The additional price guarantees a private room all to yourself