Sip, Sip, Horray! 4 Grape Escapes
Seeking a weekend full of award-winning wines, gourmet food, and lots of fun? The following destinations bring all the above, plus more, and are just a stone’s throw away.
1) AMADOR COUNTY
This region has more than 40 wineries—some of which date back to the 1800s—and produces some incredibly rich Zinfandels, Barberas, and Rhones.
Helwig Winery (helwigwinery.com) is known for sweeping vistas of the Sierras that can be enjoyed on the patio or with a picnic in the pavilion. Just down the road, relax in the shaded outdoor seating area amid ponds, manicured greenery, and fountains with a glass of Port or Barbera at Villa Toscano Winery (villatoscano.com). Terra d’Oro (terradorowinery.com) perfectly captures the essence of the “Land of Gold” and produces a delicious Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Barbera, and Zinfandel. Reminiscent of a Tuscan farmstead, Avio Vineyards (aviowine.com) boasts beautiful grounds, shaded tables, and an Airbnb. They welcome you to bring a picnic to accompany their raspberry sparkling wine, too.
Find the finest and freshest sandwiches, salads, artisan cheese, and desserts at Amador Vintage Market (bethsogaard.com/vintage-market) in Plymouth. They even offer a special “Box Lunch” so you can snack while you sip. Other can’t-miss noshes are the chef-inspired pizzas and salads at Villa Toscano Bistro (villatoscano.com/bistro). A trip to Amador County isn’t complete without a meal at Taste (restauranttaste.com), the beloved restaurant with an always-changing menu that never disappoints. Check their website for weekly specials like “no-corkage Fridays” during lunch and their prix fixe “Monday Night Supper.”
Sutter Creek’s historic Hotel Sutter (hotelsutter.com) brings Gold Country charm to the heart of wine country and is the perfect gateway to all the wineries, boutique stores, golf courses, and historical landmarks. What’s more, their restaurant serves locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, and boasts views of Main Street from the balcony—making it an ideal destination for dinner.—TM
SAVE THE DATE!
Behind the Cellar Door, perfect for wine enthusiasts and newbies alike, is a weekend filled with delectable food pairings, educational seminars, and hard-to-find wines all in an intimate setting. This year’s celebration is scheduled for March 7-8.
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT AMADORWINE.COM.
2) EL DORADO COUNTY
Famed not only for its rich history but also for its wineries that produce some of the most intensely flavored and deep-colored varietals, a trip to El Dorado County is not to be missed.
Drop by Fenton Herriott Vineyards (fentonherriott.com) during your jaunt and enjoy a picnic in the gazebo, a game of bocce ball, or one of many events come summer. Cielo Estate Winery (cieloestate.com) offers tranquil surroundings and a fine Tempranillo and Zinfandel. Saluti Cellars (saluticellars.com) has beautifully landscaped grounds, a bocce ball court, hiking trails, and a bed and breakfast. Try their “Capisce”—a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. The Barbera and Zinfandel are a must at Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery (goldhillvineyard.com) while picnicking on the deck and taking in the views. Crystal Basin Cellars (crystalbasin.com) is great for a fun day out while you enjoy some of their Renegade Red, Petite Sirah, or Pinot Noir. Relax under the wooded beamed arbor and enjoy gourmet food and wine pairings (try the Estate Malbec and Zinfandel) at Miraflores Winery (mirafloreswinery.com).
California Kitchen (californiakitchen.org) will provide you with the sustenance to hit all those wineries, with their homemade corned beef hash and eggs, South-of-the-Border specialities, and array of omelets. Heyday Café (heydaycafe.com) dishes out salads and sandwiches that are the perfect on-the-go items for a trip to wine country. It’s also a prime pick once you’ve had your fill of wine and are looking for a proper dinner.
The Cary House Hotel (caryhouse.com) in Downtown Placerville boasts a historic ambiance with antiques dating back to 1857, paired with modern amenities like Wi-Fi and free parking. From here, you can experience the shops, art galleries, and restaurants of Main Street, while being a few minutes away from some great wineries.—TM
SAVE THE DATE!
Passport, the annual touring and tasting event that showcases the best El Dorado has to offer—from the region's award-winning wines, and unique and charming tasting rooms, to the splendid foothill vineyards and stunning views—is taking place April 17-19.
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT ELDORADOWINES.ORG.
3) PLACER COUNTY
This region boasts quaint wineries that produce stellar varietals in the form of Barbera, Grenache, Viognier, Malbec, and more.
Enjoy breathtaking sunsets and scenery at Wise Villa Winery (wisevillawinery.com) as you savor over 30 of their award-winning wines in the elegant European setting. Rancho Roble Vineyards (ranchoroble.com) is a hidden gem with an outdoor oasis that produces a fine estate Barbera and hosts happy hour on most Fridays. Rock Hill Winery (rockhillwine.com) is perched on a steep hill and makes for a relaxing stopover while you try their vintage red. Cante Ao Vinho Tasting Room and Wine Bar (canteaovinho.com) offers a rotating tasting list Friday-Sunday, along with traveling musicians, in cozy environs.
The Bistro at Wise Villa Winery (wisevillawinery.com/bistro-info) creates gourmet small plates, mouthwatering entrées, and more that make for a perfect midday meal or delectable dinner. Head to La Fornaretta Restaurant (lafornaretta.com) in Newcastle for authentic, scratch-made Sicilian fare in a charming setting.
Loomis’ Flower Farm Inn (flowerfarminn.com) is located in the middle of a citrus orchard and is also home to a nursery, gift shop, barn, café, and tasting room for Casque Wines (casquewines.com)—so you’ll never be bored, hungry, or thirsty.—TM
SAVE THE DATE!
Fall in Love with the Placer Wine Trail at their annual V-Day event, February 14-16. From treats, sweets, free tastings, and live music, to artisan vendors and food trucks, love will be in the air!
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT PLACERWINE.COM.
4) ANDERSON VALLEY
This hidden jewel of a wine region—sited along Highway 128 in beautiful Mendocino County—boasts a unique group of wineries, most of whom offer world-class Pinot Noir among other varietals.
Although Roederer Estate (roedererestate.com) is beloved for their sparkling wines (and who doesn’t love bubbles?), and Navarro Vineyards (navarrowine.com) has been making award-winning wines since 1974, don’t miss a visit to the charming tasting room at Lula Cellars (lulacellars.com). Along with offering tastings of some of the best Pinots you’ll find anywhere, the entertaining (and knowledgeable) staff will share lively stories of the people and history of this tucked-away region.
There are quite a few interesting eateries in the Valley along Highway 128, including the humorously named Bewildered Pig (bewilderedpig.com), Mosswood Market Café and Bakery, and The Buckhorn (thebuckhornboonville.com)—a pub with local beer and wine and the only full bar in the area.
Despite a handful of accommodations in AV proper, for a really remarkable experience, I recommend traveling westward 30 minutes to the town of Mendocino and relish a stay at the Brewery Gulch Inn (brewerygulchinn.com). While sipping your recently purchased wines from the picturesque patio or balcony, you can enjoy spectacular views of the pines and Pacific Ocean.—DL
SAVE THE DATE!
Experience a 40-year tradition of celebrating white wine, including Alsace-style wines, at the Anderson Valley Winter White Wine Festival from February 22-23.
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT AVWINES.COM.
By Tara Mendanha & Debra Linn