When 2019 started, we knew that the 10th annual Fueled by Fine Wine, was in its final year. The RD was moving on and that left many people sad to think that this “bucket list” race was going to be no more. Luckily, this final year turned from an encore into a rebirth, with Foot Traffic agreeing to take over this iconic race. Nonetheless, the 2019 FBFW was (like always) one to remember and celebrate.
Course: My favorite thing about Fueled by Fine Wine over the years has been the ever changing and modifications to the race courses. As the race is supported by the Dundee Hills AVA, a combination of 25 wineries, and 6940 acres with 1300 acres planted with grapes. The only way to get to experience all of these beautiful locations is to rotate the course each year.
This was my third FBFW race, and it was as challenging as ever.
The morning views were incredible at Stoller Estate (as they typically are), and it was a perfect backdrop for a race start. Runners lined up on a thin road, but the quick downhill start allowed faster runners to cruise ahead and things spaced out pretty quick – at least up front. In fact, the downhill continued essentially for the first 1+ miles. This was terrifying. Because, in FBFW racing, there is an inverse of the popular saying and what goes DOWN must come UP. And up it came.
Right after the first mile came a category 5 climb that hit my legs pretty hard. I was determined to run this entire section as I figured walking sections would take hold sooner rather than later, so I wanted to give it what I had up front. Somehow, I managed this section decent enough, and was rewarded with a welcome downhill through some great vineyards at Sokol Blosser. But again, that downhill meant we were nearing an uphill. I held pretty steady, even through a mini out-and-back and some mild (all things considered) climbs out of the vineyards. I don’t think I was going all that fast, but my first walk break came right around mile 4. I did a mini-celebration, as I’m pretty confident that is the furthest I have ran in this race without stopping.
As we were eventually spit out on the road near Durant Vineyards, I was able to enjoy some steady pavement (as opposed to the dirt and rocks that had been in play through the trails). There was some more climbing but I was able to trudge along without walking until we hit a long downhill on Archery Summit Road. It was nice to feel fast again, but I still had the pit in my stomach, know what was coming next. As we turned into Archery Summit Winery, there was a relatively brief, but oh so steep climb between a few rows of grape vines. I half-jokingly told another runner that we needed a rope to climb this section. He agreed.
We meandered through the vineyards a little more, with some less crazy climbs, but my legs already weary so it made things even more challenging. After what seemed like forever, we hit the road and headed towards the huge and beautiful Domaine Serene for a lollipop-loop around their property (luckily) on pavement. From there we passed Domaine de Broglie and ran downhill on some rugged terrain, through Winter’s Hill Winery, and then into the northern part of Stoller’s large estate. It was at this time, that I was pretty spent. Mile 10 hit and I had that “bonked” feeling where my energy was just zapped.
A combination of hills, warmth (it actually wasn’t that hot, but it felt like it), and punishing rock-laden and uneven trails had my feet hurting and my legs slowing. It was a struggle and I was passed by more than a few people as a result. But that’s what comes with this course and makes the finish all the more rewarding. I slowly finished and was thrilled with my time at just over 2:05.
Despite my writing above being laden with a difficult and punishing run, I was so impressed with the race course. Sure it was a challenge, but it really made for a great story and I feel tougher for having powered through it. The support on the course, like always, was impeccable. From local police and volunteers blocking off some roads to the wineries passing out water and electrolytes, everyone was great. The fact that I have run the “same” race three times, and the course was different each time, makes it exciting and keeps me wanting to come back to see what if Foot Traffic will keep this tradition alive in future years.
Wineries and Views: While the event always does a great job with showcasing local wineries, I found this year exceptionally mesmerizing. Though I only live 25 miles or so from the hills, I don’t do near as much wine tasting as I should (darn kids). This year’s race went through about 10 wineries (if my counting was correct):
- Stoller Family Estate
- Sokol Blosser Winery
- Durant Vineyards
- DePonte Cellars
- Archery Summit Winery
- Nysa Vineyard
- Domaine Drouhan Winery
- Domaine Serene Vineyard and Winery
- Domaine de Broglie
- Winter Hills Estate Vineyard and Winery
They were all incredible and I want to return to all of them. Each and every one. Some were immaculate and some were more subdued with unbeatable views of the surrounding valleys. While it was amazing to take in this location while participating in the sport I love, I know that experiencing them with a glass of wine in my hand would also be incredible. You best believe I will be returning soon. After I had some time off my feet, I grabbed some much-needed food and (eventually) meandered around the wine festival. With Dundee Hills AVA wineries pouring some of their best into our logo wine glasses, all was right in the world.
It’s amazing how a well-organized event, unique and challenging course, and a fun post-race experience can really leave a lasting imprint on your race running memory. I have no doubts that this will continue for years to come, and it is certainly a race that everyone should check out.