Amazing things can happen when folks get an idea and just go for it. Gary Erickson was on a bike ride when he decided he could make a better energy bar and went on to create what we all know now as Clif Bars. Throw in a love of wine making and the result is the Clif Family Winery tasting room at Velo Vino Napa Valley with a new spin on Wine Country.
Located on Main Street in St. Helena, Velo Vino is different from the typical Napa Valley tasting room. The first thing you see most likely won’t be wine. My guess is it’ll be a bike, cycling gear and accessories or any of the numerous pieces of biking memorabilia that is the essence of Velo Vino. They’ll be Clif Bars every flavor of the rainbow and yes, there’s wine too, but more on that later.
Two days a month, spring through fall, Velo Vino opens its doors early, 7:30am to be exact, and folks roll in to get a unique taste of Napa Valley. Espresso and Clif Bars are served, directions are given, but the only pouring, is a crowd of cyclists into the neighborhood.
The free group bikes rides got started about a year ago. Depending on the day, anywhere from a handful to 30 plus bikers show up and hit the road.
“It just really fit with our image and what we’re about,” said Jay Howard, Velo Vino Assistant Directeur Sportif. “It’s just about getting out there and having fun and enjoying yourself.”
The recreational focused rides are typically between 25 and 30 miles, with gentle rolling hills. Leave the cruiser at home, you’ll want a road bike for this ride. If you don’t have one, with a little notice folks at the Velo Vino can arrange a rental. You’ll also need a helmet. No exceptions.
“We’re very safety conscious so you have to have a helmet. It’s dangerous enough out there with a helmet,” said Howard.
Experience cyclists will instantly feel at home. There’s a core group of regulars that have the speed and equipment to prove it. Newbies could feel intimidated, but they are welcome.
“This is low pressure. We’re not out to destroy anyone,” said Howard who typically leads one of the two monthly rides.
All levels are encouraged to come out and give it a spin. Teens, ages 16 and up are allowed to ride with a parent. I did the ride with my teen, so there were no illusions of grandeur. The pros left us in the dust, but it didn’t matter, Howard was happy to hang with us, giving little tidbits about the area and the wineries we passed, and keeping a close eye on the comfort level of my daughter. We probably did about half of the 26-mile route, which actually worked out perfectly. Shortly after turning around the speedier bunch of the group caught up and then flew by.
Riders are invited to hang out on the patio when they return and maybe even enjoy a post ride tasting. My teen just wanted to go Clif Bar shopping for those favorite flavors hard to find at home.
Ride dates are posted on the Velo Vino website. Just click on the events tab.