An hour’s drive northwest of Sacramento, surrounded by grassy hills and a few craggy peaks, the very picturesque Capay Valley is familiar to you if you order organic fruits and veggies from one of several organic farms here. Festivals hailing lavender and almonds draw curious visitors, as do hiking, wine-tasting and gambling at the valley’s lone casino.
Overnighter or Daytripper
Driving the length of Capay Valley takes less than an hour, depending on how often you stop to simply admire the pretty hills and vineyards. But to overnight there, consider Fiddlers’ Green in Brooks, an Airbnb and organic farm with an outdoor grill and shaded back deck. The host, Julie Rose, will share her baked breakfast goods with you, too. Farther north is Rumsey House, secluded among walnut and fruit trees, and near to the Berryessa Snow Mountain wilderness. The Craftsman farmhouse offers three warmly decorated guest rooms and a cottage, as well as breakfasts composed from locally harvested herbs, fruit and nuts and served on the wraparound porch. A few miles northward is Valley Vista Regional Park, nearly 600 acres of Bureau of Land Management property, which includes the Blue Ridge Trail. Hikers can take in the view of the valley after a steep climb to a picnic table near the summit and, back at Rumsey House, rest their bones in the hot tub.
Almonds, Olives, Walnuts and Lavender Galore
Capay Valley proudly bills itself as host to the only six-town event in California, the annual Almond Festival at the end of February. Considering the state is the only place on the North American continent to grow the nut commercially, this is no small thing. Madison, Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsey all do their part with concerts and arts-and-crafts displays; the event is a huge draw for motorcyclists and car aficionados, too. The Séka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room, belonging to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Brooks, offers tours through its orchards then and invites visitors year-round to check out its slick olive mill and bounty of wine, honey, hummus, vinegar, walnuts and almonds. On June 8 and 9, attend the annual Cache Creek Lavender Festival in Rumsey, where you can harvest your own blooms, admire lavender crafts and sample lavender ice cream and lemonade.
Farm to Fork and Glass
It’s easy to miss the humble sign to Full Belly Farm between Guinda and Rumsey on the east side of Highway 16. Open since 1985, this organic haven serves monthly farm dinners between March and November. Those dinners are stunning six- or seven-course meals and include a tour of the farm and the chance to talk with the farmers, who hold forth on how the veggies were harvested while chickens and pigs happily roam the premises. Likewise, Capay Valley Vineyards owners Pam Welch and Tom Frederick warmly welcome visitors on Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 5 p.m. The vineyard produces estate-grown viognier, tempranillo, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, which you can sample for a $5 tasting fee.
Bikers & Bovines
As you round the bend driving north into Guinda, you’ll see a big statue of a cow on the roof of The Commons Farm Kitchen Rustic Bar-B-Q. The restaurant, which traces its origins back to 1926, is said to serve the best barbecue for miles and miles. The tri-tip, chicken, hush puppies, beans, homemade pickles and desserts all taste divine. Further south, in Capay, bikers have remained a faithful clientele at the boisterous and iconic Road Trip Bar & Grill, and have been treated just as finely. Owners Jerry and Paula Tackett christened their establishment in honor of crisscrossing the country together on their Harleys. Today, they play host to a steady stream of visitors making their way north into Capay Valley, many of whom are on their way to win their fortune at Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks.