USA Day 16: Duvine Cycling Adventure Day 4

Vines at Alexander Valley 

You may be wondering where the photos for breakfast have been over the last two days – but to be honest, the breakfasts at Hotel Healdsburg were a little disappointing.  A very limited buffet breakfast that tried too hard to be avant garde but didn’t quite make it. There was not much choice, and definitely no pancakes (I know, I was shocked too – what sort of hotel is this???).

Each day they had an egg selection – the first day being a mini frittata, and the second being scrambled eggs (served in a bain marie – in my mind, such a no-no) and both days these selections were accompanied by some home fried potatoes, roasted tomatoes or ham steaks (but not all three at once).  For a hotel of this calibre, it is a real let down – particularly since the other places we stayed had a la carte breakfasts, with beautiful selections, freshly made to order.

So, we’ll just skip over breakfast and get straight into the riding.  Now don’t be alarmed – of course, I ate breakfast.  I just didn’t feel inspired enough to take photos – ’nuff said.

Today was a beautiful day – again.  It started a bit cool (around 7 degrees), but it warmed up as we moved along.  Today we were travelling from the Sonoma Valley through to the Napa Valley.  So, we cycled up Dry Creek Road (part of which we had done the day before), before cutting across via Canyon Road into Geyserville.

On the road again…

We stopped in at a lovely winery – Trentadue, which specialised in port as well as red wine.  Andrew, being a port lover – was looking forward to it. The wines were lovely, but nothing really grabbed his fancy.  I guess we’re quite spoiled over here in Victoria, as Rutherglen makes some killer ports!

Here are some of the lovely vines in Alexander Valley.

And this is me with Jean-Guy –
being French Canadian, he couldn’t resist being in a picture with a pretty girl!!

We picked up the wind just before lunchtime (around 12pm), which proved to be a bit challenging but we kept pushing through – it’s all good training, right?  Finally, we pulled up to our lunch stop.

Jimtown Store

6706 Highway 128
Healdsburg  CA  95448
(707) 433 1212
Open: Mon – Thu (closed Tue) 7:30am – 3pm;  Fri – Sun 7:30am – 5pm
Note: these are the Winter hours, check the website for most current hours

This general store is another foodie’s delight.  So much to choose from, and a world of foodie goodies to tempt you while you waited for your lunch.

Andrew had the braised pork sandwich which was actually a bit spicy!

I had the ham and cheese gratin with a side salad – it was great.

Andrew and I actually shared, half and half  – but I reckon my choice was better! The gratin was so creamy, and the potatoes were the perfect texture – perfectly cooked.

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Fortunately, after lunch we only had to do another 5 km to the next winery and that was the end of the basic ride for the day.  However, to get to the winery – we had to go up their driveway…

I would just like to point out that while this looks flat –
it was actually a 5% grade – who put that hill there?!

I think I can… I think I can…

Yay – over the finish line holding hands!!

Hanna Winery – It was a beautiful tasting room.
You can just see Ray and Janet on the balcony!

As far as the wineries go, this one was yet another gorgeous winery. However, we all agreed that from a wine perspective, it was our least favourite of all the wineries visited to date.  Maybe it was something about the windy day?  Or that our server put us in a separate room and then disappeared for most of the tasting? I’m not sure – but it didn’t move us. Ah well…  Maybe we’ll have better luck at the next one tomorrow.

Now, I apologise, because the map is a bit small – which makes it difficult to read (but if you click on the picture a bigger version will open up).  We started in Healdsburg – you can just see a green pin where the red path starts (middle left).  You can see a blue star – that’s the Jimtown Store, where we stopped for lunch.  And then the red star is Hanna Winery – that’s where I stopped riding.  All up – I’d done 46 km, so I was happy with that.

By that stage, it was quite warm – and there was a nasty headwind.  Not to be thwarted – Jean-Guy and Andrew kept riding with Ryan.  What stamina!

Yay!! They made it! – does that say “Napa” or “Nap” on the road….
I’m sure they felt like a nap after that!

Andrew said this was a killer climb – worse than the ascent to the Lake Sonoma lookout – good thing I was in the bus!  A good day’s ride boys!  You are champions.

I was curious though…. how steep could it have been???  So, I got the data from his Garmin… and yes, it was steep.

Apparently Ryan kept telling the guys to save something for the end – and you can see why – those black bits are 14.4% and 14.7% respectfully. It looks to be a pretty steady uphill climb for about 7 kilometres, and then half a kilometre of pain.  That’s just nasty!!

Meanwhile… back in the bus…. we got to the Solage Calistoga and checked in – definitely the best hotel of the tour! Absolutely stunning – in fact – if we were going to to do this tour again, I wouldn’t mind staying an extra couple of days there.  If you’re in the area – check it out.  Absolutely beautiful rooms, stunning views, a resort that’s spread over 22 acres – and includes a world class spa.  This time I would be checking that out.  We settled in and started looking forward to dinner.

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen

1327 Railroad Avenue
St Helena  CA  94574
(707) 963 1200
Open: Daily  11:30am – 9:30pm

Tonight, we were dining at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena, touted to be one of the favourites in the tour itinerary.  That’s high praise – let’s check it out.

The restaurant’s website describes it as “a combination of a classy supper club with the flair of a speakeasy to create the perfect upscale eatery and neighbourhood hangout” – and it did have a really good vibe.  The restaurant had a number of rooms, and a very sexy bar you could sit at as well – and the food was pretty amazing!  We would come back to this eatery – apparently it has some good cocktails – and that deserves further research!

Achiote roasted pork tacos, with pickled onions and two salsas.

Andrew ordered the tacos for his starter and they were delicious, with the right combination of hot, juicy pork, and cool, tart onions and salas.  Very more-ish!

Ahi Tuna with Napa cabbage, pea shoots, crispy noodles and miso glaze.

I had the grilled rare Ahi Tuna salad for my starter, which was amazing! Great texture juxtapositions – with the incredibly tender and moist tuna, contrasting with the cruncy wombok cabbage and crispy noodles.  And the dressing was fantastic.  This starter was almost healthy!!  Actually – it probably was!

Polenta Chips

Our guides had been raving about the polenta chips, so we had to get a few serves for the table.  Now, there were more chips per serve – it’s just that it turned out Ashley and Ryan were right. They were so good, they were gobbled down before we remembered to take photos!  Yummmm… polenta.

The Mighty Meatloaf with horseradish barbeque and garlic mashed potatoes.

For his main (entrée) dish, Andrew had the Mighty Meatloaf – and mighty it was! The meatloaf was tender and juicy, and look at all those pan juices ready to be soaked up by the mashed potato.  Comfort food at its best.

Wood oven duck, with root vegetables and pan juices.

Dish of the night! Hands down.  The duck was soooooo tender – and full of flavour.  The root vegetables were lovely, but nothing could compare to the duck itself.  Amazing.

Buttermilk cheesecake, with blueberry compote and whipped cream.

Ahhhh…. dear reader…. the things I have to do for research.  This was a beautiful cheesecake. It was actually really light (well, as light as a cheesecake can get), and it was beautifully complemented by the blueberries which helped to cut through its creamy richness.  Thankfully, I was able to twist Jean-Guy’s arm and get him to help me out with it.

Here we are – all shiny and clean after our day of riding, and replete after a beautiful meal! Clockwise from bottom left: Ryan, Ashley, Jean-Guy, Ray, Janet (hiding behind me), me and Andrew.

Another glorious day of food, wine and riding!  Now to the sleeping part….  zzzz….

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