Napa in December feels like autumn.  The fields are a blend of rich, warm colors–red brown from the bare vines, and underneath the branches, a sea of bright yellow flowers and green grass.  When the late afternoon sun hits the fields, everything seems to glow.

Originally, we had planned to ride a tandem bike through the vineyards and stop at various wineries en route.  Not only would it be romantic, but I figured it’d be safer for me, knowing my terrible track record with biking.  But my hopes were dashed when we mounted the tandem and realized that our legs couldn’t touch the ground, our feet dangling ridiculously as we struggled to rotate the pedals.  So we traded the tandem in for individual bikes and hoped for the best as we made our way on the Silverado trail.

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It was a easy ride once I stopped thinking about flying off my bike.  I loved the clicking sound of the wheels as we sped down the road, the chilly breeze numbing my bare knuckles and filling my unzipped jacket.  The fields stretched out from us in both directions, ending in dry, brown hills studded with shrubbery in the distance.  The flatness was broken by occasional vineyard fans that look like tiny wind mills meant to prevent frost by stirring up the cold air from the ground.  We zipped by the rows of vines, stopping to admire farmhouses, victorian mansions, and even a large winery that looked like a giant fort.  For the first time in years, I actually enjoyed myself on a bike.

We visited three wineries.  At Napa Valley Company, we were intimidated by the uncomfortable silence and the absence of other visitors.  We spoke in hushed tones like intruders trespassing on a private party while one of the staff poured our drinks without making much of an effort to engage us in conversation.  Maybe that colored our perception of the wine, but we decided that it wasn’t worth purchasing and promptly left.  At Mondavi, we found bigger crowds–which isn’t necessarily better–but better wine and a lighter atmosphere.  We tasted my favorite Moscato dessert wine, which manages to be sweet without being cloying.  At Silver Oak, we tried some heavy and thick cabernet sauvignons, the strong scents of which filled our nostrils, leaving behind a feeling of rawness on our tongues after each sip.

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We didn’t have time to visit smaller wineries.  Instead, we decided to ride back to the rental shop, pedaling hard so that we can return our bikes before the shopkeeper left.  The sun set behind the hills and the air seemed to drop 10 degrees.  My thighs were burning as I strained to keep up with Juan.  I imagined that I was flying as we passed by more vines, cows, fences, and mailboxes.  We made it back just in time, and when we walked back to our car, my sore butt let me know that it felt every rock and bump on the road.  I can’t wait to go back next time to experience what biking in Napa would be like in a different season.

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