One of the best ways to truly appreciate the terroir (or “sense of place”) of a particular wine-tasting region is by peddling your way through it. Take a slow ride from vineyard to vineyard, over the land and under the sky that come together to produce a perfect grape—and wine that can’t be recreated anywhere else.
If you want to experience a tour—or a generous pour—at the world’s most exceptional wineries, you’ll need a little time away, a sense of adventure, and a passion for wine. The one thing you don’t need? A car.
It just so happens that the star ingredient used to create top bottles of merlot, pinot, chardonnay, and syrah is grown in some pretty spectacular country-side, along quiet country roads and rambling lanes that easily double as bike paths. Pedal your way from vineyard to vineyard, experiencing the sights, smells and atmosphere of the region before sampling its bounty at the bottom of your tasting glass.
While you can always choose your own adventure by renting two wheels and mapping out the wineries you want to see, there’s something to be said for going with a guide who really knows the territory—and exactly how far it will be to ride between stops.
The next time you’re headed to wine country, hang up your keys and become a pedal pusher with the help of one of these five top bike tour operators.
Gourmet Cycling Travel
Ride under canopies of oaks, glide past groves of olive trees, and pedal into villages offering truffles, honey, goat cheese, and other troves of southern France. Throughout the five-day, four-night adventure, you’ll cycle up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) daily over sloping hills from Le Drôme Provencal to Les Dentelles and Mont Ventoux, enjoying a private wine tasting with a master sommelier, a visit through medieval ruins, a private cooking class, and local chocolate and wine pairing. The trip includes luxury accommodations: The first, a house and winery with rose pergolas, an infinity pool, and panoramic views of Mont Ventoux; the second, a fortified castle and gourmet restaurant close to local markets.
Upcoming Tours: June 15-20 and Aug. 24-29, 2014 (www.gourmetcyclingtravel.com; $4,295 per person)
Napa and Sonoma, CA
Duvine Cycling + Adventure Co.
This west coast tour guides you alongside working farms in Sonoma County, the waterfront of Bodega Bay and the rugged precipice of Sonoma’s coast—and that’s just on the first day of your journey. Prepare to cycle about 25 miles (40 km) each day on the four day trip; you’ll be riding past 1,400-year-old redwoods, Dry Creek Valley vineyards surrounded by the Mayacamas Mountains, and the wine-growing regions of Alexander Valley, all while sipping some of the finest Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. Make time for a hot air balloon excursion (with Napa Valley Balloons) so you can watch the sunrise over the mountain peaks.
Upcoming Tours: March 15 -18, 2014, Apr 19 – 22, 2014, May 24 – 27, 2014 (www.duvine.com; $2,595 per person, $800 single supplement)
Prague to Vienna, Europe
Begin this historical trip in Ceské Krumlov, a small town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic that’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a private tour of the Budejovický Budvar brewery, then coast over cobblestone streets along the Vltava River before heading to southern Austria. The forests, Danube River, and Baroque palaces offer an enchanting respite from traditional tourist traps, especially as you wind through centuries of preserved Renaissance towns and vistas. You’ll also have a wine tasting at a local vinothek (wine shop) in Wachau, Austria’s premier white wine making region. On this six-day, five-night tour, cyclists average 40 miles (64 km) daily, so be sure you’re physically prepared before you arrive (tours can be accommodated to riders who prefer a leisurely pace).
Upcoming Tours: July 20, 2014 – Sept. 14, 2014 (www.trektravel.com; $3,499 per person)
Finger Lakes, NY (Cayuga & Seneca Lakes Wine Trail)
While many of us think of Napa and Sonoma when we imagine American wineries, upstate New York boasts one of the largest wine-grape-growing areas this side of the Rockies. The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail has 15 wineries (best known for Riesling), a cidery (for making cider) and meadery (which produces honey wines, or meads) located among sloping hillsides, dairy farms, and apple orchards. You’ll ride along Cayuga and Seneca Lake, and see Taughannock Falls before stopping in the village of Auburn where historic walks await. Extra mileage is optional, but expect to pedal at least 125 miles (201 km) and at most 224 miles (360 km) total during the six-day, five-night journey.
Upcoming Tours: June to September 2014 (www.classicadventures.com; $2,089)
Willamette Valley, OR
Eola Hills Wine Cellars
Willamette, famous for its Pinot Noirs, is home to about two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries. Every Sunday in August, you can bike through the flowering fields and lush countryside of Eola Hills on a guided tour, or you can follow the blue vineyard signs posted along the road. All you need is a small backpack and a biking buddy.
Upcoming Tours: One-day trips available in August (eolahillswinery.com; $65)
Brittany Smith is a freelance journalist from Long Island, New York. Follow her on LinkedIn.
Heading on a bike tour? Use one of these bags or accessories to keep your essentials organized as you ride: