A California’s Winter tale: We find a sunny Saturday to cycle and wine taste with Cowgirls

Winter in California: a season synonymous usually with a smattering of rain and the usual mix of sun and pleasant temperatures. Most of the state (minus the Sierras) escapes the winter’s misery the rest of the country experienced: artic blasts, bomb cyclones, and nor’easters. As a result a certain amount of resentment exists between the remaining 47 states (Hawaii still remains perfect and Alaska, well, is Alaska) and California. Nowhere is this better described than by the great author Christopher Moore in his epic holiday classic The Stupidest Angel:

Winter denial: therein lay the key to California Schadenfreude—the secret joy that the rest of the country feels at the misfortune of California. The country said: “Look at them, with their fitness and their tans, their beaches and their movie stars, their Silicon Valley and the silicone breasts, their orange bridge and their palm trees. God I hate those smug, sunshiny bastards!” Because if you’re up to your navel in a snowdrift in Ohio, nothing warms your heart like the sing of California on fire. If you’re shoving silt out of your basement in the Fargo flood zone, nothing brightens your day like watching a Malibu mansion tumbling down a cliff into the sea. And if a tornado just peppered the land around your Oklahoma town with random trailer trash and redneck nuggets, then you can find a quantum of solace in the fact the earth actually opened up in the San Fernando Valley and swallowed a whole caravan of commuting SUVs. (p. 163).

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Rainy days are for muddy puddles!

Most winters in California aren’t all that bad, unless the jet stream shifts, the winds pick up, and a pounding of weather patterns unleash onto the Golden state. This winter was one of those years: as Mother Nature graced us with a constant stream of storms. For nearly two months the rain filled the weekends, but then on one Saturday morning I woke early (mainly because I have a newborn and a 4 year old) to clear skies and a gentle breeze, and knew a ride was in my future.

Over the six weeks since the birth of our second daughter, my wife and I managed to keep our sanity: we’d traded off responsibilities between ourselves while still giving our other family (the 4 year old and dog) their quality time. About the only real surprise I’d experienced came when returning from a work trip, I discovered that my garage workout space had transformed into a storage unit for Christmas stuff.

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Can you find the weight bench, weights, and bike on trainer in this picture?

Fortunately, my wife left my bike, still mounted on its trainer, accessible. Not hesitating for a minute, I sprang into action liberating my ride from its winter slumber and giving it a quick maintenance check. Tires full? Check. Brakes working? Check. Lube on the chain? Check. I changed into my cycling kit, grabbed my phone, essentials from my wallet (ID, debit card, and some cash), whispered into my wife’s still slumbering ear my plan, and ventured out on a cool clear California Saturday to explore.

Hitting the road it suddenly occurred to me that I really didn’t have a goal in mind as I road. Usually I plan these things out, but the suddenness of this morning’s ride, meant I needed something quick. Head towards Pebble Beach? No—too many tourists? Salinas? I wasn’t in the mood to risk a flat on some of those farm roads. Moss Landing? Now that was a possibility. In the middle of the Monterey Bay sat Moss Landing a mixture of fishing village, tourist trap, whale watching launch, and power plant. Cross the bridge and you can extend the ride up towards Watsonville and beyond. Why not? I turned north and peddled on.

I linked up with the Monterey Coastal Trail near Fort Ord Dunes Park and road toward the Moss Landing power plant’s stacks. At the end of the trail, I continued over the Salinas River towards Castroville before turning onto Nashua road and a desire to cross Route 1 just short of Moss Landing. Everything was going great: the wind was low, the sun bright, and my idea original. What could possibly go wrong? Route 1.

Iconic Route 1, running like a spine along the California coast was packed with cars going both ways. I waited…and waited…and waited for a break. After five minutes with no luck I accepted my fate: Moss Landing was not to be. I already rode over 14 miles at this point. If I wanted more I could find it around Ord and Marina. A little defeated, I turned my bike around and headed south. There would be other days.

Once home my family welcomed me eagerly. “Daddy, play with me!” my excited four year old announced by handing me two dolls. It was a great feeling, but it was so nice out still, I caught my wife’s eye and voiced two words to her, “Wine tasting.” A smile blossomed across her face as she visualized the possibility. We got our Saturday chores knocked out, then launched off towards Carmel Valley to enjoy one of our favorite spots, Cowgirl Winery.

We first came across Cowgirl Winery in an article in Monterey Bay Parent magazine about family friendly wineries and after our first visit became hooked. With its open airy atmosphere combined with chickens running around, bocce courts, outdoor seating, fish ponds, a waterfall and even a mock steer to practice lassoing, Cowgirl Winery is an ideal spot for the family—especially on perfect winter days such as this.

I picked up wine for my wife and I, keeping an eye on our oldest practicing her lassoing skills while our newborn slept. On this day we went with their red flight:

2016 Malbec: a nice violet color full of aroma and flavor balancing pepper, currant and cherries. As we like Malbecs, this was a keeper!

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: this Cowgirl cab doesn’t disappoint with flavors of blueberry, plum and other spices blended together leaving the palate wanting more!

2014 Cowgirl Red: by far this was our favorite with its blend of Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Franc & Cab grapes. The aromas and flavors are rich and inviting. Definitely a winner!

2015 Pinot Noir: this light ruby gem comes off complex with hints of black cherry, gingerbread, and other flavors. It is pure elegance all the way through!

With a good sampling of wine in us, our oldest now exhausted, and the sun setting, we headed home. The weeks that followed brought more needed rain and several soggy weekends, but on this particular one we’d enjoyed a California winter weekend and maximized our opportunities. That’s not always the case, but we’ll take what we can get, especially during a wet winter in California!

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