Blog Post by Chef John McConnell
Cycling with the Napa Valley Seasons
Only in Napa Valley can you take in the landscape year-round from the seat of a bicycle. Having grown up in the Midwest, the notion of riding your bike in winter was totally foreign to me. Since embracing the world of cycling in California’s moderate Napa Valley, there are few occasions that I can recall where conditions didn’t allow for a beautiful ride. I jokingly say that my cycling season doesn’t start until late fall or winter as that is when things slow down in the kitchen. Knowing that all I must do to enjoy a ride is add a few layers of clothing, I have no excuses for not hopping on my bike.
When I start my ride out in the early hours of the day, the rising sun burns off the cold of morning and it is quite magical to see the frost turn to steam amongst the hills. In the winter there is less traffic on the roads and cooler temperatures moderate the pace of your ride allowing you to really take in the sights. The lush greenery from autumn rains provides a beautiful contrast to the picturesque valley lined with mountains and canyons. The reward of a hot cup of coffee after a brisk ride beckons.
Spring brings slightly longer days along with wildflowers, budbreak in the vineyards and creeks flowing with winter rains. To ride alongside these waterways is as soothing as it is peaceful. The smell of blossoms in the air and mother nature awakening from a brief slumber summons longer rides. This might be my favorite time of year to ride. The crisp morning air that transitions into a warming sun, brings a smile to my face.
As summer approaches, my time is often pulled back into the kitchen. And maybe that is for the best as I am not as well acclimated to the long summer rides in sun and heat. While the valley roads become more crowded, this tends to be the time of year that I spend fewer days on the bike.
But before I know it, fall is back and while the busy harvest season keeps me tied to the kitchen, I find myself sneaking away for a quick ride whenever I can. The morning air begins to cool again, the smells of harvest flood the valley and I am back in the saddle, heading to my favorite Napa Valley routes.
My favorite local loop takes some of the ride off the beaten path and explores the diversity of Napa Valley’s landscape.
Chef John’s Napa Valley Route
My favorite Napa Valley route starts with a good warmup for your legs before you hit some climbs and a little bit of off the beaten path scenic cycling. Be sure to end your ride back at the Clif Family Tasting Room and Food Truck for some wine tasting and lunch.