Sunday, October 11, 2009

Russian River Wineries and The Pink!!

Day Two of our biking tour here was the long ride of the weekend: 52.8 miles. It was a tour of the Russian River Valley's northern Sonoma County Wine Country. Think miles of mist-draped hillsides above valleys full of vineyards!! Usually it's sun-drenched rather than mist-covered, but....we had the luck of being here just as the remnants of a Pacific typhoon, Typhoon Melor, was moving east from Japan (where it hit with winds of 120 mph.) So...the weather is changing, and bringing cold temps and mist for the moment.

Being a motivated group, we were out the door earlier than expected....and made such great time that we arrived at the first winery - Martin Ray Vineyards - a full 30 minutes before they opened their doors for tastings!! (Sad!!) After re-fueling with the great snacks, drinks and munchies provided by Mary and Dot, the UDC Tours folks, we all continued on to Healdsburg, another 10 miles up the road. Most of the group were intent on finding a coffee shop for warmth and caffeine, and a respite from the mist that was dripping off our helmets.

Ron heading up the grade beneath the redwoods ahead of me

Mary and Dot cheerfully awaiting us as we made the
summit of the Green Valley Hill road. The climb reduced
some of us to trembling, gasping beings on the verge of
falling over. But we made it!!

Ron and I had the idea of stopping in Healdsburg ourselves along with the rest of the crew, but instead, figured we'd best keep going to the lunch rest stop at Arista Winery. Ron said if he got into a warm coffee shop, he'd never get started again! So...we played tortoise and the hare...just keep plodding along in the mist, shaking the raindrops off our bike helmets and ignoring the fact that our feet were ice in an effort to reach the winery. Oh, the rewards of arrival!!

Ron's fireplace at Arista Winery, where he stripped off
his shoes and spread out on the floor in front of the fire.
Not sure they appreciated his doing so on their doorstep,
but we did buy a case of their reserve wines after our tasting!

We relished the tasting at Arista, and fell in love with some of their Pinot Noirs! Even better, they had the TV on with samplings of the various games around the NFL...which we enjoyed watching as we warmed ourselves by the fire. We rejoiced in a late 4th-quarter Baltimore touchdown, but later were crushed when Cincinnati won in the last 22 seconds. (Why does that happen every year??? Heartbreak football!!) Good thing there was wine nearby to drown our sorrows!! Mary and Dot provided a great sushi lunch under the trees in the Japanese-style gardens outside, which was fabulous.

Of course, as luck would have it, on departure Karyn demonstrated why biking and wine-tasting can be hazardous, as she fell right over in the parking lot trying to get situated on her bike. (Left pedal is clipped in, no....? push on it. Oh, wait, yes, it is clipped in!...Ooops, off balance, let's fall over!) No worries, I was relaxed from the wine. No damage done (except to my ego) and away we went, to enjoy the flats along the Russian River on the way back to the Village Inn.

We all cruised back along the River Road, enjoying the scent of the redwood and conifer, and loving the fact we'd crushed a half-century distance during our ride. FUN!! Even better was the post-ride celebratory drinks and convivial atmosphere at....THE PINK! Clearly a Bohemian institution, the Pink Elephant is just down the street from the Village Inn and was where our riding group gathered post-ride to bask in the glow of a great ride. The Pink is no frills but its staff is welcoming, down to earth and friendly, and the place just has atmosphere!! Not to mention the fact its kitchen offers an amazing cheeseburger and fries that is unbelievable. Scott and Harvey indulged in the Satan Burger...and it was all I could do not to throw myself on their left-overs, it was SO good. For some reason, I was saving myself for dinner...!! When you're riding hard each day, it's good to reward yourself. Next time, I will!!

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