September 2010


Our get-away in August included a day of cycling in Marin and Sonoma counties on the Holstein 100. Kem found this ride online and it looked like it might be perfect for us to do while we were out in the Sonoma area tasting wines and otherwise just hanging out and enjoying the scenery.

With the ride being in its 17th year, we expected a fairly well organized and planned event. Generally speaking, that was true, but I was surprised to find minor details overlooked. The ride started in Tomales at the local high school and looked to be pretty well attended. The parking lot was jammed with cars. Tomales is small and the high school locker room has only two stalls. To be specific: rent a few more portable toilets next time – especially for the ride start/end. I think I waited 20 min or more just to use the toilet at the start of the ride. It was never quite clear whether there was or wasn’t going to be a mass start. We just took off ’cause it looked like others were already going.

Having just flown in from Texas and our typical hot August weather, it was a bit of a jolt to the system to start the morning off in the low 50’s with a steady drizzle. Ugh! I was freezing. Thankfully we’d planned ahead enough that we had jackets, but neither of us had packed anything for our legs. The day before though, we figured that might be a problem and we’d stopped in at Mike’s Bikes and I got some leg warmers. I was sure glad I had!

Conditions were not ideal for riding that morning – it was foggy and there was a steady drizzle going – but we came to ride and we were not disappointed with what we found. The route was interesting and the terrain varied. We started with the idea that we’d do the 100K ride. On that route we had a couple of really good climbs. The 2nd of those climbs was referred to by other riders as “the wall” but we found it wasn’t as hard as the 1st big climb of the morning.

The rest stops were great. There were plenty of interesting food choices and the folks tending the rest stops were nice and fun to talk to. The first one we pulled into was especially fun. They had set up wooden cutout cows and we took some pictures next to them. (See the one in this post.) They also had a big ‘hat with horns’ you could put on that was just perfect for a photo op. Sorry, no links to that one. 😉

Around 40 miles in though, we ran into trouble. Kem rounded a corner and caught the lip of the road and fell! She was really hurting and EMS came and carted her off to Petaluma. There she got some xrays and thankfully we concluded there was nothing broken or serious enough that it was going to require a further stay at the hospital. Just plenty of shoulder and thumb pain and a pretty good knock on the head. The EMS guys from Tomales were a great help and so were the other random riders that stopped to help and make the call to EMS. The crazy guy in the pickup that came by before EMS though and essentially told us all to “go to hell” was more than a little disconcerting. A big thanks to the guy from the coast guard whose name I never got that carted both Kem’s and my bike and me back to Tomales. That guy was a saint and more than did his good deed for the day.

All in all, despite the trouble we had, I liked the ride and route and would certainly recommend it. Maybe we’ll get a chance to ride it again some time but that’s a pretty big maybe, considering the logistics involved.

Though I’ve previously posted about our stay in Guerneville, I’m finally getting around to posting a few more notes about the trip I’m calling the “Great Get-Away” for 2010. The trip started with Kem and I heading to the Sonoma area with friends Jim and ML and hanging out for a long weekend in the hills above the Russian River. From that home base, we ranged down to Tomales for the Holestein 100 bike tour and up to Healdsburg and the Santa Rosa area for wine.

The house we rented was pretty nice. In addition to the view we couldn’t get enough of, you can see a shot of the back side and patio/pool in the post here. If you look close you’re see Kem lounging by the pool.

The picture of the wine was from Oakville grocery in Healdsburg. We stopped in there for a midday lunch. They make great sandwiches there. It’s right on the square in Healdsburg. It was well over 90 degrees that day and the rose wine hit the spot.

The other picture is another of the hills above the Russian River in Guerneville. We were blessed with some really great weather while we were there – as well as a full moon. I took this picture one evening from the deck of the house we rented.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of wine tasting nearby. I didn’t take the best notes in the world, but I still formed a few opinions based on the places we visited. You’ll find a few such thoughts below:

Porter Creek Porter Creek was the first place we visited for no other reason than it was one of the first up Westside road that we happened upon. That and it looked so quaint. It’s a very small place. There’s a cute little house surrounded by flowers and around the side is a very small tasting room. Maybe because it was the first we tasted I wasn’t blown away by the wines, but I do remember the Zin being excellent.
Thomas George A little bit further up Westside Rd we found Thomas George. This winery was a fair bit more upscale than the much smaller Porter Creek. Tasting are in a big wine cave. I was a big fan of their Viognier and we returned here on the way back to the house to pick one up.
Hop Kiln Hop Kiln was interesting not just for the old building they do the tastings, but also for all the other things you could taste in addition to the wine. There were mustards, oils and vinegars and someone was making and handing out samples of a chicken salad dish that was great. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything remarkable about the wines. Maybe it’s because I was too busy tasting everything else.
Alderbrook Alderbrook had some tasty Zins.
Harvest Moon Harvest Moon had some of my favs of the trip. We ended up getting the Russian River Zin and a Cabernet that we later enjoyed at the rental house.
Hook & Ladder These wines are from the folks that used to make wines under the De Loach label. Small, family run, the name comes from the fact Cecil used to be a San Francisco firefighter in 1970. Wines were good and prices much better than most we tried in the area.
Ledson Ledson is what I call a Disneyland winery. It’s very showy and there’s something artificially showy about it. Tastings (and clearly other events) are done in the Ledson castle. Tastings are correspondingly expensive. $15 for 6 wines, $20 for 9 wines. We opted to pass on the tasting. They do, however, have a great market right in the castle and they make some great sandwiches. We had a picnic under the trees on the park-like grounds. Don’t bring your own picnic basket of food though, you can only eat food there that you buy there. If you bring your own food or wine the very visible security staff is liable to throw you off the property.
Matanzas Creek Matanzas Creek was probably my favorite of the bunch we tried. In some ways this place is probably just as upscale as Ledson but they’ve really done a nice job with the property. The lavendar fields that surround the place are not just for show. They actually harvest the stuff. It smelled great as we wandered around their garden. All the wines I tried were great. Not to be overlooked at this place was the fact that the guy helping us with tastings was very knowledable and friendly. I even remember his name: Ira. He really knew their wines and the area. In fact, I googled for Ira at Matanzas Creek and sure enough, I’m not the first person to notice how helpful Ira was. Don’t miss Matanzas Creek.