We all need a weekend away once in a while. So when you’re racking your brain for the best way to spend it, why not combine your two most beloved things:
Cycling and Wine!
When we cyclists need to relax and enjoy a weekend, nothing beats a morning spent on a pleasant ride and an afternoon spent relaxing. Picture waking up, surrounded by vineyards, and heading out for a ride in the sunny foothills of the Sierra Nevada, followed by some visits to down-to-earth, family-run wineries. This is the blissful reality of a trip to Amador County. Ok, I’ll admit I’m usually a beer person, but the laid back vibes of Amador county are pretty amazing!
Weekend away highlights:
- Family-run, down-to-earth wineries
- Quaint & charming towns such as Sutter Creek
- Cycling past a turquoise lake along Mormon Emigrant Trail
- Cycling on North South Road
- Kicking back at an Air B&B located on a vineyard
- Drinking our wine from Cooper Vineyards
Amador County is one of the best wine counties to visit in California, if you are looking for a less crowded and slightly less pretentious version of Napa Valley. It is low-key, the wineries are plentiful, and – best of all – there are endless roads to cycle on. You can truly escape the hustle and bustle of daily life: there’s no fighting your way through traffic, and you won’t wait in line to sample wine. It is also known as Gold Country, as it was one of the regions mined during the Gold Rush in the 1800’s. So those interested in the history of the region may want to tour around by bike. Though it is not as well known as Napa Valley or Sonoma, this region has a unique charm and quaint feel that other wine territories lack.
On our trip to Amador wine country, we decided to stay at an Air B&B located on a winery in Somerset, which was an excellent experience. Staying in one of the small but endearing towns nearby the vineyards is also a great idea, and there are some wine room tastings offered. Sutter Creek, for example, and many of the towns up the Historic Highway 49 are nice places to see.
We got up early for a morning ride; the sun was shining, and we were prepared for the heat of the day to come. We packed extra food and water for the ride, as there are few places to stop in this region, and the heat can be intense. These are the only major downsides to cycling in this region.
We set out towards the Sierra Nevada (North and then East), climbing Mount Aukum Road, or the E16 and then Mormon Emigrant trail for a good 20 miles or so. Along the way, we happened upon a tranquil turquoise lake surrounded by pine trees, where we stopped to enjoy the scenery.
Afterwards, we continued climbing, very gradually. The climb wasn’t spectacular, but it was lined with towering trees, making for a peaceful stretch of the ride. It is a fairly large road, and several cars passed by, but it felt safe. Eventually, we hit a road called North South Road, and we were happy for a change. I’s a very narrow and winding road, and has some good rolling hills to keep things interesting. Rolling hills can be a fun break from a long and somewhat monotonous climb. It was an excellent road to ride on, and it’s deep seclusion within the trees makes you feel like you’re riding in your own forest.
After about 5 km going south on this road, we headed back west to complete a loop along a road called Capps Crossing, which was in poor condition. Although it also ran through a nice forest, we had to descend on some very rough tarmac, filled with potholes. Not fun. I would recommend another road heading back west. Eventually you turn onto Grizzly Flat Road. As you descend into the vineyards from here, there are some great, smooth roads and scenic views through forest and vineyards – a welcome rest after lots of climbing! If I were to do this ride again, I may choose a slightly modified route to avoid Capps crossing, but North South Road was a blast. There are plenty of beautiful, tucked away roads to pick from in this region. Be aware that there are no shops or gas stations along this route to stop at, so pack ample fuel!
Now, for the wine!
We had the pleasure of visiting a few wineries. My top pick would have to be Cooper vineyards located on Shenandoah School Road, which has a beautiful property, excellent wines and extremely friendly staff. We ended up grabbing a bottle of our favourite wine from the day here.
Each winery had its unique owners, property and tastes. Shenandoah School Road and the surrounding roads are chock-full of wineries, so you can’t really go wrong here. All were fun to visit.
The vineyards are enchanting, and with the sun and dry climate it can truly lure you into vacation mode.
Trying out different rides and wines in the region makes for a great and relaxing weekend away, although one weekend feels short for the bounty of Amador wine country. I would highly recommend this to any cyclist or wine lover.
Kick back and enjoy!