It's a happy coincidence: the same undulating topography that makes Northern California's hill country so perfect for growing grapes has also challenged transportation engineers to create some classic motorcycling roads. So what better way to find a bit of heaven on earth than to sample the hills and valleys during the day, and a bit of the Cabernet Sauvignon when the day is done?!
Between Desert and Deep Blue Sea
At Stewarts Point General Store, south of Point Arena on California's Highway 1, Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road ricochets into the coastal hills, as I begin my journey into wine country. In places little more than a tarmac goat path, heaved and broken by tree roots, the road cavorts up the steep grades, leaving behind the chill ocean mist that drapes the coast most of the year.
Under the dense woodland canopy, the road continues to climb before emerging from the trees, along the brim of a broad valley of rocky outcrops, boulders, and rubble. Around mile 30, the rustic trail suddenly and inexplicably opens into a broad and smooth blacktop ribbon that swings and rolls over and around the baked, brown hills, while soaring to a summit overlooking Lake Sonoma. Under blue skies, the lake is a turquoise mirror surrounded by rolling hills of golden grass spotted with jade green trees.
The Sonoma, Napa, Alexander, and Russian River Valleys, each with their voluptuous grapes and the rich, heady wines they produce - where better to spend a two-day tour than cruising on a BMW R 1200 GS throughout northern California's wine country?