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Fall/Winter 2010

Trail Blazer

Chuck McMinn’s latest endeavor is building a bike path from Vallejo to Calistoga.

by LeeAnne Jones

For more than 30 years, Chuck McMinn created and financed start-up high-tech companies, and in 2000, he and his wife, Anne, purchased Vineyard 29, a winery just north of St. Helena that produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc. All well and good, and even delicious, but McMinn, who is a confessed “start-up junkie,” couldn’t sit still for long. His latest endeavor is spearheading a massive Wine Country trail project.

“What we’re doing here is a start-up,” McMinn says of the 44-mile multiuse trail that will run from Vallejo to Calistoga. “You start with a blank sheet of paper, and the end result is constructing and operating a trail system.”

As executive director of the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition, McMinn has helped bring together 22 organizations—from the Taxpayers’ Alliance to the Sierra Club—to make up the board that is planning, marketing, and raising funds for the trail. They are working with five city governments on grants and funding, and with winemakers and property owners to secure easements that allow the trail to pass through their land. So far, there has been unqualified enthusiasm among his ranks: “We’ve never had anything less than a unanimous vote in our board meetings. It’s unusual to have that kind of widespread support.”

By the end of the year, the trail will be one-quarter complete, with sections already in use in Calistoga, Napa, and Yountville. The “class one” trail is 10 feet wide and paved, with two-foot dirt shoulders and a total elevation change of 325 feet. It is open to walking and cycling, and, when completed, will intersect with the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail.

“I received a new bike for Christmas last year,” McMinn says. “I enjoy it, but I’ll enjoy it even more when there is a dedicated place to ride.”

To learn more about, volunteer for, or donate to the Vine Trail, visit

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