Grape expectations

My husband doesn’t always run and drink wine, but when he does, it’s because I registered him for another wine marathon. Mark and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on 7/17 by running 13.1 miles from Napa to Sonoma.mile9

A perfect temperature of 54 degrees, which felt chilly after the dreadfully hot weather we’ve been having in Pittsburgh, and cloud cover made for ideal race conditions. An initial downhill out of the gorgeous Cuvaison Winery led to what is known as “Butt-Burner Hill,” which is only three-tenths of a mile. Since Pittsburgh runners eat hills for breakfast, we passed a lot of people. Each mile marker had entertaining sayings like, “Another mile? Wine not?”carolyn1

The rest of the course was fairly flat with a few rolling hills and beautiful bucolic scenery, as well as a Guinness stop and a wine stop around mile 10. (Mark partook in both, while I only took pictures.) We finished the race by running down Broadway to City Hall in Sonoma. After we crossed the finish line, we collected our medal and wine glass and began wine tasting from the 25+ wineries present. Non-runners can purchase a wine glass or beer silipent for Lagunitas and participate in the festivities, too. I often joke that I don’t drink local wine, unless I’m in Napa or Sonoma—for good reason.

The following morning, we drove to Yountville to rent bikes for the day. Napa Valley Bike Rentals provides a map and tells you which wineries you can drop in without making an appointment. We chose a 17+ mile route traveling to St. Helena and down the Silverado Trail. Since we tasted a wide variety after the race, we opted to share a tasting at each winery.bike

At Beaulieu Vineyards, we met the original Kenny G. (older than the sax player) who walked us through a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and two different Cabernet Sauvignons. The last stop on our bike tour was our favorite. Cliff Lede named different sections of the vineyards after his favorite rock songs and albums, such as “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Rock music played energetically, but not too loudly in the background as we tasted five different wines. Since it was near the end of the day, the wine consultant gave us a bonus tasting of High Fidelity, which was a smooth, complex, and full-bodied red. He said, “If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.” He was right. This winery also had a lovely deck and seating area with a small calming waterfall. We sat outside on the comfortable chairs facing the vineyard and enjoyed our last wine for the day before biking back to Yountville.

Cliff Lede winery
Cliff Lede winery

For our anniversary dinner, we ate at Redd in Yountville. The Cliffe Lede consultant, who also worked in the food industry, said that Chef Reddington was intense—in a good way. We concur. We started with the warm duck confit and kale salad with stone fruit and candied walnuts, as well as the sashimi of hamachi. Both were excellent. Then, the chef sent a plate of the yellowfin tuna tartare with Asian pear, avocado, chili oil, fried rice and cilantro. Fantastic. For our entrees, we ordered the diver scallops and the parmesan gnocchi. I am particular about scallops, but these were cooked perfectly with slightly seared golden sides and succulent meat underneath. The gnocchi were parmesan pillows of perfection as they melted in our mouths. We savored every impeccable bite. I recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates exceptional food and service without the pretentious ambience.

Our final day in CA included a delightful drive to the coast along Highway 101 and a visit to Lagunitas Brewery, which is a short 25-minute drive from Sonoma to Petaluma. We took a tour and loved learning about the history, its current green energy practices (such as feeding local cows with the leftover grains from the brewing process and making efficient use of water) and philanthropic practices (sponsoring concerts onsite and donating all beer sales to local non-profit organizations). It reminded me of our local East End Brewing Company, who is also green and generous to local charities.

The after-race party
The after-race party

I couldn’t think of a more magnificent way to celebrate our anniversary than running a race, biking through Napa, wine tasting, and superb restaurants. This half marathon was one of my favorites. Registration opens in early November, and it’s imperative you register as soon as it opens at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. It’s limited to 3,500 participants and sells out in less than 30 minutes.

Here are the links to our trip:

http://destinationraces.com/runn2s/ – Napa to Sonoma race registration (5K or half marathon)

http://www.innatsonoma.com – Great location and exceptional service; delicious breakfast and evening wine and hors d’oeuvres; 10 minute walk to the shuttle stop and quick 15 minute ride to the start; 5 minute walk back from the finish at Sonoma Plaza

http://napavalleybiketours.com – Bike rental (Sonoma, Yountville, and Napa)

http://reddnapavalley.com – Redd Restaurant in Yountville

https://lagunitas.com – Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma

[box_lightRead a companion piece as Editor in Chief Susan Morgans takes us on a tour of the wineries of Napa.[/box_light]

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