WineInk: A run through the vines
The Silver Moon Race
Those of you who read this column regularly may be aware that my jam is running in vineyards.
Over the years, I have made my share of surreptitious trots through the vines in various wine regions on different continents in both hemispheres and have bagged more than my fair share of brand name, prestigious vineyards — thank you very much.
If my cellar were stocked with wines from vines, which I have passed on these vineyard runs, it would be an impressive collection, indeed.
I write this not to be braggadocios but rather as context for why the following struck a chord.
On a recent visit to the Cass Vineyards in Paso Robles, California — a beautiful destination winery in one of the world’s most exciting emerging wine regions (more to come on that in future columns) — I asked owner Steve Cass over a wine-fueled lunch if he minded if I took a run among his vines, which sat just feet off the patio we were dining on.
“Of course not,” he replied. “Feel free. In fact, in a couple of weeks, we’ll have a couple of hundred runners coming for a race that we put on in the vineyards.”
Now my interest was piqued. “So, you guys do a 5K?” I asked, ready to be impressed.
“Actually, it’s a 100-mile race, but there is also a 10K that people can do, as well.”
Whaaat? A 100-mile race through the vines? How can that be? Cass explained that before COVID-19, a group looking to put on a vineyard run had approached the winery with an eye toward a race that would circle the Cass estate vineyard’s 145 acres. “It’s exactly two miles around on the perimeter road,” he said. “I guess that having a place where you could run 50 laps for 100 miles works for them.”
“Actually, we were fans of Cass wines before we even considered the run as a possibility,” said Terry Majamäki, founder of New Global Adventures, the Stallion Springs, California, race company that puts on the event. “We were looking for a place to do an extended run through wine country and vineyards, but it was hard to find the right sort of course.” Especially for an ultrarun of this magnitude. “We have another 100-mile run in Reedley, California, that runs through farm country and orchards that consists of 2.5-mile laps, and we thought a similar vineyard run would be perfect.”
After looking at some aerial images of the Cass site, it occurred to Terry and his wife, Jenny, who both organize and manage the races, that the Cass vineyard two-mile course was ideal for an ultrarun among the vines.
After approaching Cass and his team and making a few adjustments, New Global and the Winery teamed up for the inaugural event in 2021 under the moniker, The Silver Moon Race.
“It was actually our first race back after COVID,” Majamäki said with a bit of nostalgia. “And it was great.”
So great that next weekend, on Saturday, March 4, just as the sun sets over Paso Robles, the third iteration of the Silver Moon Race will begin at Cass Vineyards. This year will see over 300 racers participating in a number of distances. And, get this — much of it takes place at night.
At 5:30 p.m., those who just want to be a part of the festivities can walk the one lap of the course at their leisure as a part of the Vineyard Walk. At 6 p.m., the main event kicks off. Racers will compete in timed events to complete as many laps as possible in the time of 6, 12, or 24 hours. Or they have up to 30 hours to complete the ultra distance of 100 miles.
Yes, that means that all through the night, all through the day on Sunday, and until midnight on Sunday, runners will be doing two-mile laps around the vines in the Cass Vineyards. Incredible. Oh, and if you just want to do a 10K, that is OK as well. The three-lap loop begins at 6:30 p.m. and will likely include the largest contingent of runners. There are also opportunities for relay teams of up to four members.
Part of what makes this event so special — aside from the unique nature of running around a vineyard planted to Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the middle of the night — is that it is an event designed to be runner-friendly. A central support stop is set up on the side of the course, and family members and teams can erect tents alongside the route to supply runners with needed food, sustenance, changes of clothing, and even a place to nap during the course of the race.
Many of the ultrarunners will choose to take short rest stops on their journey through the vines, and these camping areas provide well-organized places to tap out for needed rest. Bet it makes those who run the Leadville 100 a little jealous. And while wine is not a part of the program, at least for those who are running the races, the chefs at the Cass Winery will be providing hot breakfast and luncheons for all in attendance on Sunday.
The bottom line is that the teams from Cass Winery and New Adventures have worked in concert to create an event unlike any other that brings runners from near and far together to participate in a fun race that puts people in touch with vineyards.
“This was my first race, but it couldn’t have been any better!” said Angella Raisian, who ran in the last spring’s Silver Moon Race. “Two-mile loops at the Cass Winery in Paso Robles meant food and water was available every few minutes. The spread was awesome! They had fruits, nuts, pickles, goo, etc. — at least 20-30 items laid out at all times. Not to mention Band-Aids, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.,” she enthused. “But the best part of it all was pitching tents at the vineyard and the beautiful views all around! I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. The cost was cheaper than the price of a hotel, with all meals included, and it was fun to boot!”
While I will not be a participant in this year’s race, I did take the opportunity this past week to run a lap on the actual course and found it magical. Dormant but beautiful vines all around, a trail that was lined with a carpet of dried pistachio shells (yes, pistachio shells), lushly green hillsides dotted with black-and-white cows, and fresh, clean air.
There is nothing quite like a run among the vines.
What: Silver Moon Race Vineyard Walk/10K/6-12-24 Hour/100 miles
When: March 4 and 5
Where: Paso Robles, California
Race Registration: silvermoonrace.com/paso-robles
Cass 2019 Backbone Syrah Paso Robles
Near the heart of the Cass estate winery “track” used by the runners in the Silver Moon Race there is a slightly elevated swale of land that has rows of Syrah planted atop it that they call the “Backbone.”This is the source of their 100% Syrah bottling. Garnet in color, this wine lives the life of the many Rhône varieties that have relocated to the Paso Robles region with such ease. Leather and sage mingle on the nose and the flavors feature dark berries, hints of pepper and a little coco at the conclusion. Soft on the palate, I sipped some with a nifty almond brittle in my room at the winery overlooking the Backbone. Satisfied.
Mountain Mayhem: Spring flings
Casa Tua hosted a dinner last month in partnership with Wyld Blue, the chic boutique in the Elks Building downtown featuring a collection of housewares, childrens’ clothes and women’s fashion.