Michelle La Sala has been running in Napa since she moved there in 2015. “Running here is a complex connection to land, agriculture and its workers, and it feels impossible not to appreciate every bit of your surroundings via your daily run,” says La Sala, who became the race director of the Napa Valley Marathon in 2018.
While Napa has its own special brand of beautiful, wine regions around the world are ripe for discovery by runners and cyclists alike. Exploring wine country on foot or by bike offers a unique way to see the land and local community.
We asked locals for their favorite routes in four wine regions around the world, with GPS-ready maps to help guide your next adventure.
Napa Valley, California
Runners looking to hit the double-digit mark would do well to follow Cliff Lede’s lead. The winemaker recently celebrated his 65th birthday with a 10-mile run in Napa, home of his namesake winery.
“A jaunt through the Town of Yountville, Napa Valley’s culinary heart, allows for glimpses of the town’s sculpture displays and hints of the daily specials at my favorite dining establishments,” says Lede. His preferred route begins at vineyard-lined Yountville Cross Road. Don’t forget to look up and take notice of impressive views of the Stags Leap District palisades to the east.
La Sala seconds the Yountville route though she offers a suggestion for runners. “What most people don’t associate with Yountville are great running routes, but there are several,” she says.
A local favorite is to do an out-and-back on Yount Mill Road, says La Sala. “This route has a little of everything including shady oak trees, cows, vineyards, Valley and Mount Saint Helena views, and unbelievable mustard blooms in the spring.” You’re unlikely to be passed by any cars on this stretch, even though the bustle of Napa’s wine country is a stone’s throw away.
Brian Larky, founder of wine importer Dalla Terra, has racked up the miles on his bike in Italy’s vast landscapes, thanks to InGamba, a tour outfit offering guided and private cycling trips throughout Europe and the U.S. Tuscany is probably the most popular of InGamba’s multiday cycling trips, says Creative Director Colin O’Brien, who understands why cyclists love the region so much. “There’s an abundance of food and wine…and everything is super local,” he says.
If you’re not up for an extensive multiday trip, you can still take a page from InGamba’s book. Explore Chianti by beginning at Castello di Ama, which O’Brien calls “totally unique both in terms of the wines they make and the property as a place to visit.”
Don’t linger too long because there’s a lot to cover in this idyllic stretch of wine country. Brancaia Winery & Osteria is next, and from there it’s just a few more miles to Castellare di Castellina. Then it’s on to Enoteca Nuvolari, where you’ll find Tuscan mainstays like bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu. Rolling hills take you finally to a viewpoint in Panzano where you can digest and reflect on the day’s ride through the vineyards of Chianti.
Famous for Malbec and Torrontés, Mendoza is the heart of Argentina’s wine country. Wineries in each town tend to be close together, so you can pass by numerous producers during a single run. If you’re traveling in the hot summer months or want to see and taste more, cycling is another great means of exploring the region.
Sergio Sanchi, a local who offers cycling tours, says discovering Mendoza’s thriving wine scene by bike encourages relaxation, making it highly preferable to driving. He recommends Luján de Cuyo as a jumping off point. The small town has a slew of wineries, excellent restaurants and an art museum.
Begin your journey at Bodega Vistalba, and then run, jog or bike three miles to Bodega Lagarde. Next, travel a short way to Bodega Norton P. Norton, one of the oldest wineries in the area. Next stop on your route is two and a half miles over to the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes “Emiliano Guiñazú.” Top off the day with one last stop at Colonial Helados & Cafe Chacras de Coria.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is home to more than 60 grape varieties and produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc and more. It’s also enjoyed by cyclists who traverse the winding routes leading to wineries and breweries. Kelowna-based travel writer Lisa Kadane has spent many a mile on bike exploring the area’s bounty. Kadane says there’s much to appreciate about the terrain and scenery, especially if you’re a wine lover.
She suggests starting at Back Door Winery in Summerland. From there, if you need fuel for the ride, make a quick detour to Granny’s Fruit Stand, which doubles as a bakery and cafe. Dog Beach is 1.6 miles away, and is a fun spot to take a break and watch the pups swim in Okanagan Lake. Next, ride along the lake for 11 miles to Poplar Grove Winery in Penticton, then off to the Nautical Dog Cafe to recharge. Continue inland up the hills to nearby Pentâge Winery. If you’ve got more gas left in the tank and want to loop back to where you began in Summerland, head to Heaven’s Gate Estate Winery for a well-earned meal.