Unique tour styles make the travel part of winery hopping in Sonoma County almost as much fun as being at the wineries themselves. From Vespas to a horse and wagon and even a biplane, these unique transportation options weave in interesting storytelling from guides, refreshing open-air enjoyment and, sometimes, fine food and wine to partake on the road, too.
Hop on to these hot rides:
Artisan Wine Tours
Lin Durling, founder of Sonoma-based Artisan Wine Tours, says he “seeks to redefine luxury travel in Wine Country.”
For more than a decade, Durling owned and operated a niche aviation company and now focuses on creating customized wine tours and “dream adventures” for discerning travelers.
His specialty is relationships – with wineries, restaurants, planning coordinators, transportation providers, and guides – for bringing his customers authentic behind-the-scenes experiences.
The vehicle? A six-passenger Lincoln Navigator, custom designed for private-jet style and comfort.The details? The car includes sparkling wine, bottled water, and soft drinks.
The destinations? Wherever you can dream of, from exclusive wineries, to cooking schools, organic vineyards, local cheese producers, or Michelin-star restaurants. Cost: In most cases, rates are hourly, including concierge service.
Contact: Artisan Wine Tours, 707-235-9050
Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley
You don’t need to go to the big city to ride in a vintage 1890s San Francisco cable car.
This hand-built replica of an authentic trolley operates as a private charter vehicle that can handle groups of up to 28 passengers on six-hour field trips to top Sonoma Valley wineries.
Tasting tastes even better with open-air views, a sound system including an iPod dock, and on-board refreshments featuring a country French picnic lunch catered by the girl & the fig.
Contact: Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, 877-946-3876
Vin De Luxe Tours
Go "over and above" the typical tourist experience with a ride for two in a 1926 Travelair biplane, getting a birds-eye view of the places where you're going to sip and taste.
After a career first as an engineer and then in winery hospitality, owner and operator Bruce McKay founded Vin de Luxe Tours in 2013 with a goal of creating customized private tours for wine aficionados, couples celebrating special events, and "explorers who appreciate being guided by true wine country insiders."
Before going aloft in the biplane you will be given a map of the area, marked with your tour destinations. When you fly over each site, the pilo will the dip the wings so you can spot exactly where you're going.
Contact: Vin De Luxe Tours, 707-799-4148
The Wine Carriage
Leave the traffic behind and enjoy a relaxed pace and exquisite, world-class wines on a five-mile horse-and-carriage ride through the stunningly scenic and laid-back Alexander Valley.
Starting at Alexander Valley Vineyards in Healdsburg, the ride is slow and smooth, in a wagon outfitted with padded seats and a shade top. The horses stroll through the actual vineyards, letting you out at family-owned wineries for barrel tasting, cave tours, and a fabulous picnic. Along the way, your coachman guide shares local lore and an insider’s view of the area, it’s history, the vines, and the winemaking process.
Contact: The Wine Carriage, 8644 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-849-8989
Wine Country Vespa
Cruise through the gentle back roads of Sonoma Wine Country on two wheels on a sporty Vespa. Go where typical limousines and tour buses wouldn't dare to drive, led by an enthusiastic local.
Enjoy a fun, casual ride through rolling vineyards to visit world-class wineries. In private vineyards, celebrated winemakers will share the techniques and passion behind their award-winning vintages of world-class varietals. You can also taste olive oils and seasonal fresh fruits, and enjoy casual walks and panoramic vistas on an itinerary that will steer far away from the usual tourist stops.
All trips are accompanied by a support vehicle, which can be used to stow personal gear, carry special purchases, or pick up a rider for any reason. The Vespas are all less than one year old, and are fully automatic, with no shifting required. Each has an electric start, disc brakes, halogen lights, and comfortable saddles.
Wine Country Vespa(317 D St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-2371)