The crush without the rush

Times Staff Writer
"The crush" has two meanings in wine country — the autumn harvest of grapes by vintners and the hordes of wine lovers clogging the roads. Why add to the traffic? There are other ways to enjoy the Sonoma and Napa valleys during the fall that allow you to leave the driving to someone else.

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By foot: Walk the valleys, including forests and old mining towns, with two guides. Groups top out at 18. Rest up at the Silver Rose, a winery and inn near Calistoga, and the Sonoma Mission Inn. Hiking burns about 400 calories an hour; red wine has 83 calories a glass. There's a four- to six-mile route, or a six- to nine-mile route. You do the math. Spa services at both hotels can treat aching arches. Tahoe Trips & Trail; (800) 581-4453, . Five days and five nights, leaving Oct. 2. $2,055 per person. Single supplement $500.
By bike: Cyclists cover about 30 miles a day. Accommodations are at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena and Madrona Manor in Healdsburg. Lunch is at the wineries, and there's a wine-pairing dinner at Napa's Greystone restaurant. What exactly is the legal blood alcohol content for biking? Beginners can stay in the flat parts of the valleys; Lance Armstrong-wannabes can hit the hills. Full van support means they'll pick you up if a grade looks too daunting. Bicycle Adventures; (360) 786- 0989, . Ten tours from Sept. 5 to Nov. 14. Four-day trips from $1,640. Six-day, $2,266 per person. Bike rental, $130.
By limo: Intimate and personalized tours of Napa or Sonoma vineyards. Guests — 12 is the max for any tour — typically stay at the Napa River Inn. Most meals, including dinner at Celadon, are included. The guides are Napa locals who chauffeur you in a limo to five or six wineries for private tours and tastings, including hard-to-get-into places such as Kuleto Estate Winery. (Four or fewer people, though, and you ride in a van.) Napa Insiders; (866) 918-8500, . Five-day (four-night) tours leaving Sept. 14, Oct. 12 and Nov. 9. $2,195 per person. Single supplement $595.
By boat: Two small-ship wine country cruises sail out of San Francisco Bay. Cruise West heads up the Napa River and takes passengers on motor-coach tours of the valleys. American Safari hits the Napa and Petaluma rivers. Shore excursions include private tours of wineries, estate gardens and personal art collections — which sound way better than trinket shopping in Ensenada, Mexico. And like any cruise, food — and most of the wine — is included. Cruise West; (888) 851-8133, . 11 sailings Sept. 30 to Nov. 7, from $1,103. American Safari; (888) 862-8881, . Nine yacht cruises from Oct. 24 to Nov. 21, from $1,695.