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Walk It Off

Winery offers vineyard hikes for insight and exercise

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At some point over the course of the holiday weekend, a turkey will become perhaps the last thing you will want to look at. So why am I directing readers to a winery whose logo is principally that, a turkey? Because to remedy the turkey, one must become as the turkey, which roams around the woods and estate vineyards of Fritz Underground Winery.

Fritz is one of the few local wineries now offering vineyard hikes for active wine tasters. Too often, when wineries talk about a vineyard tour, they're taking you just a few steps into the nearest vine row to the tasting room. Then they talk about how their vines "struggle," a fashionable and dramatic way of saying that their terroir is enviously suited for growing fine wine, while pointing to grapevines that are growing something like two-stories tall and still screaming toward the sun.

The Fritz experience takes visitors through several blocks in the 110-plus-acre estate. You see some Zinfandel vines and learn about the St. Peter's Church clone. Still holding a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, you shelter in the shade of some unruly vines, and find out how the shade affects the flavor. Even folks well versed in wine, my tour guide reports, are thrilled to learn something new while tramping among the vines.

Take the advisory about appropriate footwear seriously, because now the trail gets steep. Up past the culinary garden, the pumpkin patch and a head-trained block of older Zinfandel, the trail wends through a grove of second-growth redwoods. At the end is a spring: though it trickles slowly, it feeds two ponds that provide the vineyard's water needs.

"Underground" was added to the name around 2000, to emphasize the energy-saving design of the winery, which was set into the hillside in 1979. But keeping wine cool and wine tasters comfortable are two different projects, so the tasting room was recently remodeled and updated with temperature control. Too bad they ditched the wood stove that was necessary to keep the formerly drafty place cozy in cool weather, but in fair weather, the tour ends with a seated, outdoor tasting on the terrace.

Fritz Underground Winery, 24691 Dutcher Creek Road, Cloverdale. Daily, 10am–5pm. Tasting fee, $10–$15. Vineyard hike at 10:30am by reservation, $45. 707.894.3389.

Go to sonomavineyardadventures.com for more information on other vineyard walks.

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