Seize the Day in Alexander Valley
It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy (especially when you are vacationing in the beautiful Alexander Valley). The activities are endless and on a single day you can pack in as many wonderful, sensory, fulfilling adventures as you would like! Submerged as I am in the local wine industry, I love the summertime because guests that come through the valley continue to introduce me to all kinds of new, cool day trips.
Whether you are a bride-to-be, a groom-to-be, honeymooning, visiting for the sake of visiting, or even passing through to another destination, Alexander Valley has the views, the food, bikes, canoes, kayaks, the river, the back-country roads, and wine tastings as well as places to stay after you’ve had as much fun as you can. (Is there such a thing)
The Hope-Merrill House is a quaint, old-school B&B that is sure to please those that want hospitable attention from the innkeeper/owners, good food and cozy rooms. The Geyserville Inn is another wonderful place to stay with views that are so absolutely stunning they are sure to take your breath away!
It’s a good thing the days are much longer in the summer because there is so much to see and do throughout Alexander Valley.
I always enjoy a bike ride to take in the views and I begin near Simi Winery at the north end of Healdsburg Avenue. I like to stop along the roads to record the beauty with some iPhone photos. In the early part of summer, the rusty railroad tracks with purple, white and orange flowers are the perfect setting for the envy shot (the one I post for my friends who are unable to enjoy it in person). Even when the grass turns brown in some spots, the rustic elegance shines through in the bright sunshine with the rough rust peeling from the tracks.
Fresh fruit is key to the Alexander Valley experience, and just past my photo stop is a small stand across from Alexander Valley Road where I like to pick up a few things to enjoy with a picnic lunch. I continue north, up Lytton Station Road to Geyserville Avenue; the vineyards are endless and the view of the mountain range in the distance is spectacular.
The road into Geyserville shows off new art: a bright pink stick-person, “Running Home,” aptly named because Geyserville/Alexander Valley feels like home to anyone! After a leisurely ride through the valley, I like to get my hands on a hearty turkey and cranberry sandwich from the Geyserville Mud. Pair that sandwich with the refreshing taste of the Mud’s famous cold-pressed coffee (take it black, you will be surprised at how naturally sweet the beans really are).
After a nice filling lunch and some fuel for the soul, I like to make a stop at one of my favorite Ma and Pop wine-tasting rooms: Route 128. Not only are owners Lorna and Pete two of the best people, but their Viognier is to die for and it will be the perfect accompaniment with my dinner later. But the ride is not yet over.
The journey deeper into the heart of Alexander Valley is phenomenal. Past the Grange Hall on the left are vineyards belonging to Rodney Strong. Their Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon (from this vineyard we are passing) is something to write home about. Moving along, I see the River Rock Casino and many beautiful private homes in the distance when finally I arrive at the driveway of one of my favorite stops: Stryker Sonoma.
I like this winery mostly because of the wine and the people, but to be honest, after riding through the valley, it’s the one hill I can cycle up without feeling like passing out, and I still get rewarded with a view from above. Cycling through the valley in the summer can be difficult, so it’s imperative to stop and say hello to friendly folks—plus, they do not mind if you stop in for the restroom or to see the view.
Heading home on Alexander Valley Road, I cross the bridge at the Alexander Valley campground. This is a popular spot for locals and visitors to take a dip or relax by the Russian River. The canoes below the bridge remind me of the fun of canoeing down the river and biking through the valley. Getaway Adventures offers a fun tour called the Pedal ‘N Paddle. River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe in Healdsburg is another local option where you can rent a fun water vessel for the afternoon, should you fancy creating your own experience.
Although I enjoy abiding by my own itinerary, I also recommend a guided tour to visitors because it is a more in-depth experience and a wonderful way to learn about the area from a professional. Getaway Adventures offers a “Sip ‘N Cycle” tour (among others), tailoring an ideal itinerary for each group or individual. Visit vineyards such as DeLormier and Robert Young with your tour guide, who helps to broaden the wine tasting experience. You can even enjoy a luxurious lunch.
Ride along the wine country roads like Red Winery Road, visiting some of the family owned wineries that Alexander Valley is known for. “Our philosophy is ‘Get away from it all,’ so wherever tour buses go, we head in the opposite direction as far and as fast as we can,” says company president Randy Johnson. Exclusive tours are available at wineries such as Skipstone, a hard to find, off-the-beaten-path estate making some of the most amazing Cabernet Sauvignon I have tasted—definitely worth a visit.
Getaway Adventures strives to create the perfect experience for their guests. All of the tours are supported with a van and a local guide for both safety and education, on the bike and off. “Our guides are the best in the business…we select, train and retain the best possible guides that act as a wine educator, Sherpa, concierge, chef, confidant—all wrapped into one,” explains Johnson. The company also offers services to ship the wines that you buy.
I know first-hand what they do for their guests and would recommend their services and experiences to anyone. It truly is one of the most fun ways to experience Alexander Valley!
Photos by Sarah Bradbury of the Sonoma West Times
Article written for the Sonoma Discoveries Magazine, Sonoma West Times