Last Saturday, four of us rented bikes from Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals where a nice guy named Buck gave us a map and explained an easy ride we could take. We had a beginner cyclist with us, so the 12-mile “Oakville Loop” would be perfect. Besides, this is an area in which to take your time. As highend as Napa is, there is much charm, beauty, and quietude. There are roosters, sheep, apple trees, blackberry bushes, and acres and acres of well-tended vineyards. And naturally, there’s Oakville Grocery, the quintessential market of Napa, conveniently situated at the halfway point of our ride.
But before I talk about lunch, let me tell you about our race. To get to the market, we had to bike for a short stint on busy Highway 29 where the picturesque Napa Valley Wine Train started gaining on us from the other side of the road. The train must have had a bath recently because it was positively shimmering in the sunlight against a backdrop of green. Jennifer, an 18-year-old, decided to race it (while staying in the bike lane, of course). Quickly and unknowingly, she flew past the market and got smaller and smaller as she sped away. The others stopped as planned, but I decided to try to catch up with her, to make sure she knew where we were when she finally had enough, and to add to my exercise for the day. The wind was strong, the train noisy, and Jennifer was way too far away to hear me yell, so I chased her hard as she chased the train. It felt like we were in an old-fashioned movie. And Jennifer actually kept up with the train! Which means I must have been going even faster because I finally gained on her enough to yell, “Stop!” Winded yet satisfied, we made our way back to the market with a new appetite.
At Oakville Grocery, we liked the Turkey Panini with Apple Butter best, but everything’s great. While there, it’s nice to reflect upon the fact that people from around the world visit this place. They should have a guestbook.
After lunch, we rode past Opus One, Silver Oak, PlumpJack, and Paraduxx, to name just a few of the wineries along our route, but we sadly didn’t have time for tastings. So the next day, a friend and I decided to visit Viano Vineyards, which is closer to home, and a fair substitute. I would say that Viano is the best kept secret of the East Bay, but that is cliché and I don’t want to slight other gems. In any event, the tastes were delightful, my favorites being Hillside Pink (only $5 a bottle!) and their award-winning Reserve Petite Sirah. I just looked at a map and drew up a 16-mile bike ride from my home to Viano. I think I’ll call it the “Viano Loop” and give it a try next time.