With the 40-mile run just 60 days away, my mind has turned toward the event and toward the sites I'll see on my journey through Napa and Sonoma wine country.I start the adventure in front of French Laundry in Yountville, California where Thomas Keller delights guests and dignitaries with an award winning cuisine backed up by Three Michelin Stars and the award for Best Restaurant in the World 2003 and 2004. I plan to leave amidst a little morning fog at around 7.30am.
From Yountville, I travel north through the Oakville region for a quiet tour around the Yountville Hills, passing Paradigm Vineyards along the way. Paradigm Vineyards is considered to be a great example of the essence of Napa with their small Oakville estate. Just north of Yountville Hills lies the well-known big hitters of Oakville – Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel, Mondavi, and many more.
From the shadows of the Yountville Hills, I journey Northeast on Yountville Cross Road – destination: Silverado Trail. Paraduxx’s award winning wines lie just to the North at their Napa Estate as I turn south on Silverado Trail.
As I travel south on the Trail, I enter the famed Stags Leap district. According to the Wappo Indian legend as retold by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars of Cask23 fame, hunters in the area long ago were pursuing a magnificent stag. The noble creature reached a large promontory in the palisades towering over the Napa Valley below. Trapped between the cliffs and the hunters, the stag paused, considered, and then leapt across the chasm to safety. Having eluded the hunters, the stag’s boldness earned him the enduring admiration of his pursuers and their descendants for generations to come.
As I venture south, I pass Stags Leap stalwarts – Silverado, Pine Ridge, Chimney Rock, Clos Du Val and more before I leave the district and move on to the district of Oak Knoll. As I approach the town of Napa, I will pass the Oak Knoll fields of Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The iconographic columns of Darioush are clearly visible just to the east of the Silverado Trail. Other notables include Signorello, Hagafen, Crushpad, and Judd’s Hill.
My goal as I wind my way through the town of Napa is merely safe passage. I’ll be pushing past miles 16, 17, and 18 as I pass through the often busy city center of California’s wine country. At the southern tip of Napa’s Bike Boulevard, I’ll pass through Fuller Park. Fuller Park is described by travelforkids.com as a big old shady park in the heart of historic Napa, with plenty of picnic tables, a large playground with climbing structures, and a great place for kids and parents alike to relax.
After I cross Napa, I’ll leave westward on Old Sonoma Road and enter the Carneros region of Napa County. In my first real test, I’ll move from the near sea level Napa village 100 meters higher to the base of the famed Truchard Vineyards. I’ll meet California Route 12 near the first stop on the 40for40 Vineyard Tour, available to our guests in California. Starting at 10am, our guests will have a sampler of the famed sparkling wines of Domaine Carneros. If I’m running swiftly, I’ll pass our guests as they stand on the terraces of the beautiful chateau at Domaine Carneros between 10:30 and 11:00am. To the west of Carneros lies my next test and mile marker 25.
(photo of Domaine Carneros terraces courtesy of jimg944 @Flickr)
As I pass from Napa County into Sonoma County, I must once again pick up 100 meters of elevation. At the peak of the ridge separating the counties, I will have a great view of Mount Veeder to the North and Nicholson Ranch to the west with their luscious vines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. To the south and west of the route, I’m proud to say that I’ll travel close to the fruits of the inspirational labor of Pablo Ceja at Ceja Vineyards. Pablo Ceja worked many years in Napa Valley in the 60’s in the brasero work program and immigrated back and forth from Mexico each year bringing gifts to his family and friends in his small village in Mexico. Over the course of many years of hard work, Pablo moved his family to the lands of California and eventually grabbed 15 acres of Sonoma County land to call his own. Now with 117 acres, Ceja produces 10,000 cases a year of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.
I will descend into the heart of Sonoma along Napa Road, and along the way I will pass the marathon distance traveled the first time so many years ago by Pheidippides as he carried his message of victory from the Battle of Marathon. I turn from Napa Road to Denmark Street passing by the 150-year old estate vineyard of Gundlach Bundschu on the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain Range.
Finally, I will pass mile marker 30 just to the north of the city of Sonoma. I’ll pass Ravenswood and Sebastiani and head west along the Sonoma Bike Path. I turn north and a little west onto Arnold Drive toward the quaint town of Glen Ellen. Along the route, I’ll pass the Sonoma Golf Club to the west and then run by Chandelle Winery, featuring Great Wines with the Spirit of Flight. Owned by the Arnold Family, descendents of five-star general Hap Arnold, Chandelle takes its name from an aviation term used to describe a 180-degree change in direction and an increase in altitude. This maneuver is a classic test of aircraft performance and pilot skill requiring a smooth touch on the stick and rudder.
North from Chandelle, the influences shift to Jack London as I pass the Jack London Village Shops. Flanked by huge bushes of rosemary, guests can pick up bottles of Sonoma’s best wineries not to mention some of the best olives and olive inspired products around. As I cross, Glen Ellen, I’ll have my sights set on the second stop for the 40for40 Vineyard Tour, Mayo Family Winery. At the Mayo Family Winery, our guests will enjoy a seven course pairing menu with wines ranging from Viognier to Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ll grab some water for the last stretch as I turn back south and west for the final two miles of my journey.
Back in Glen Ellen, I’ll make my final turn on London Ranch Road with a final 100 meter climb up to the finish line at Benziger Family Winery. Benziger is the epitome of a Sonoma Valley experience. They really enjoy showing their wares and encourage everyone to learn about the wine making process. Flanked by natural butterfly gardens to enable organic insect control, you won’t find a better spot for a vineyard tour. I look forward to raising a glass at this special spot in the shadows of the Jack London Historic State Park.
(photo of Benziger Gardens courtesy of daryl_mitchell @Flickr)