Napa-Style Winery Bike Tours in Oakland
By Ariel Newman
In the 1970s, a new Mecca for wine enthusiast was discovered in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, California.
The quintessential wine tasting trip was built; fine wines, breathtaking landscapes, perfect weather and upscale dinning.
Over the next couple of decades, the popularity of these tours rapidly grew. Along with the popularity, the prices also skyrocketed. This caught the attention of some locals.
Jon Zalon was a bike tour guide in the Napa Valley for several years. While commuting to the Napa Valley every day from his house in Oakland, California, he discovered the secret his hometown had been hiding; an extraordinary urban wine scene.
Now you can get the same Napa experience without paying the Napa price.
East Bay Winery Tours launched their first bike tour in April of 2010, and it has been a huge hit. Jon describes these wineries as how Napa was before it was ‘discovered’ in the 1970’s.
The tour lasts around five hours and it is about 12 miles over flat ground, with three or four winery stops, and a picnic lunch, and a short ferry ride. You can take the ferry from San Francisco right to their starting point in Jack London Square in Oakland.
Jon makes it very clear that his tours, unlike many other tours, are completely sustainable; leaving zero carbon footprints. “I don’t even use vans in my business,” Jon explains. “All wine purchases and picnic lunches are carried on my 300-pound capacity Xtracycle – thank goodness the route is flat!”
What, exactly, does this tour consist of? The East Bay Winery company explains it as a good mix of gritty and pretty.
“The first leg of the ride takes them to a scenic Oakland estuary, home to some award-winning wineries. Then they cross over a short bridge to the island of Alameda, and take a very pretty, flat ride along the beach.
There is lunch along the beach at a picnic area, and after, we ride to Alameda Point, site of the former Naval Air Station, and home to several more outstanding wineries.”
Jon’s website, the East Bay Winery Bike Tours, has absolutely everything you need to know about the tour, with links to the weather for the area and links to the wineries. The website also includes all the advice you’d look for before going on your trip, from what to wear to what to bring.
Each tour is fully paid for by the cover charge, $89 per person. Not bad for a day drinking great wine, and biking through the beautiful urban wineries of Oakland.
If this guided tour is not to your liking, Jon offerss to build your own custom tour for you and at least four of your friends and family. There are several routes and multiple wineries to choose from. You can even BYOB, bring your own bike, for discounts!
Since his start, Jon’s business has really taken off. Wendy, a bike tour rider from Bethesda, Maryland, commented about the tour; “What I like is riding right up to the wineries. Easy, breezy.”
“You taste this amazing wine and then you are out in the sun, using the energy of the wine to fuel your ride to the next winery. Alameda Point is very cool, too. Great, creative redevelopment of a former naval base!”
Perrin Meyer, a rider from Berkeley, wrote, “I really liked the whole idea of small, urban producers. You actually get to talk to the people who make the wine. You would never get a barrel tasting at most Napa wineries. It’s like wine tasting used to be in Napa!”
Jon not only emphasizes the sustainability of his business, but also the quality of his tours. “Many talented winemakers now crush, blend and age in urban warehouses; the way they did before the industry moved to vineyards in Napa and elsewhere in Northern California”
With this great alternative, everyone can now get the quintessential wine tasting adventure. Jon is ensuring his riders a day full of knowledgeable winemakers, one of a kind wines, beautiful urban scenery, and a trip to remember.
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Ariel Newman is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and a student at the University of Massachusetts.