For Sacramentans who are surrounded by grape-growing country, a wine getaway can be a day trip, or it can be more. We vote for more: a road trip, a picnic basket, a suitcase, a partner by your side and the promise of a sleepover. Whether you’re into red, white or just a little adventure, let us help you choose your options. Between the inspiration presented here and the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition winners to follow, our package is designed to fill more than just your glass.
This golden wine country, less than an hour’s drive from Sacramento, deserves its status as a getaway. Amador County’s vineyards roll across the rises and valleys of these Sierra Gold Country foothills, producing fine warm-weather reds—particularly zins, rhones and barberas. Some 40-plus wineries are tucked into the hills, with a majority of them off Shenandoah Road just outside of Plymouth. It’s beautiful country. Relax into it and stay overnight instead of hurrying back home at the end of the day.
At Driven Cellars in Plymouth, a collection of antique cars, trucks and tractors is spread out around the property. A walk among the relics shows visitors just how far modern transportation has come. The winery, on a hilltop on Steiner Road, is open for tasting Thursday through Sunday. Photo by Javier Acosta.
Winning Wine: California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition 2017:
Jeff Runquist 2017 Zinfandel,
Double Gold, Best of Class of Region
Food and Wine
The shaded patio at Renwood Winery’s state-of-the-art hospitality center, with its wicker chairs and couches, fire pits and pretty greenery, lures wine tasters and picnickers who come to sample the barberas, syrahs and old vine zins. With shelves of olive oils and honey, and a deli case on-site (filled with fancy cheese), Renwood makes it easy to grab some fuel on the fly. A private tasting parlor is anchored by a strip fireplace and a rich wood table, and award-winning reds await. Dogs are welcome on the patio.
12225 Steiner Road, Plymouth; renwood.com
You can’t miss the Andis Wines operation, up on the hill with beautiful canopies on an industrial steel building that appears to emerge from the vineyards. The positioning promises 360-degree views from the tasting room and the breeze-kissed red-umbrella tables outside. Taste awardwinning wines (aged in concrete) in the green (as in sustainability) facility, play a little boccie ball and admire the cool gray-stained barrel stave wall at the facility’s north end.
11000 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth; andiswines.com
Many of Amador’s wineries show off stunning sunsets, but two provide a particularly good show: Helwig, a sophisticated structure with back decks that overlook hill upon hill upon oak upon oak and vineyards that dip and run right into the vast sky; and Story, where 120-plus-year-old Mission vines skirt the driveway to its quaint tasting cottage (great zins!) and an oak-bisected deck affords views of the vast Cosumnes River Canyon.
Park the car, lace up your walking shoes and cruise historic Main Street in Sutter Creek. Nine tasting rooms pour Amador wines on the main drag, and one on a side street. Tucked in between shops and restaurants, in alpha order: Baiocchi, Bella Grace, Feist, Le Mulet Rouge, Miller, Scott Harvey, Sera Fina 2, Sierra Ridge, Uphill and Yorba. Many maintain primary operations out on the back roads, but in Sutter Creek, it’s all in one spot, for one fantastic afternoon.
When Mark and Tracey Berkner opened their restaurant, Taste, in Plymouth 11 years ago, it immediately began racking up rave reviews, and with good reason. The Berkners did it right—a prime location at the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley wineries, an inventive menu (the mushroom cigars—phyllo stuffed with mushrooms, herbs and goat cheese—are famous, and if the lamb chops aren’t, they should be), a carefully curated wine list (local and beyond) and impeccable yet friendly service that brings back the regulars. Chef Mark stays up on current culinary trends and incorporates the ripest and highest-quality ingredients (many of which come from local farms), and Tracey runs the front of the house with casual, gracious hospitality.
That same tone of casual grace applies to the inn the Berkners opened last year just down the street from Taste. Named Rest, the 16-room boutique hotel incorporates historical tidbits left over from the original building—old doors are the breakfast bar, for example, and the graffiti wall in the lobby is original siding complete with original pencil-scrawled names and messages. Decor throughout is simple and luxurious with a travel theme: old hardcase suitcases, for example, and steamer trunks and globes. Guest rooms have wood and leather furniture, and triple-sheeted beds with oh-so-comfy Englander mattresses and Zen pillows (both available for purchase), whitewhite bedding and a touch of whimsy: a plush towel folded into the shape of an elephant greets guests in each room. One particularly nice touch: the in-room snack bar items are complimentary. Also welcome—complimentary Wi-Fi (especially for those of us whose cell plans fail out there) and remote-controlled air conditioning. Room rates start around $125 a night.
9372 Main St., Plymouth; (209) 245-6315; hotelrest.net
Andrae’s Bakery, Amador City—Go for a cinnamon pull-apart or a lemon cream nest or something serious like potato-and-bacon pie. Open Thursday–Sunday till 4 p.m.
14141 Old Highway 49; andraesbakery.com
Out by the ocean, where windswept ridges rise above the fog, cool-weather chardonnays and pinot noirs make up the majority of wines produced. The coastal Sonoma wine country includes a couple of AVAs (the huge and multimicroclimated Sonoma Coast, which covers a vast variety of terroirs, and the little, very specific Fort Ross/Seaview). We went looking for tasting rooms on the true coast—is it possible to taste on a whim out here? The verdict: barely. There are a couple of tasting rooms with regular hours, but mostly you need an appointment, especially the farther west you go. But it’s worth it for the wines and the views.
Winning Wine: California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition 2017:
B.R. Cohn Winery 2016 Chardonay,
Gold, Best of Class Region
Tasting by the Bay
Overlooking Bodega Bay, the Sonoma Coast Vineyards tasting room is open daily for drop-in chardonnay and pinot tasting—add a plate of local cheeses if you’re in the mood. Wines come from grapes grown a few miles inland on vineyards that are still considered coastal. Belly up to the bar facing the water, or sit on the patio, where soft pillows on the outdoor sofas make it really easy to settle in.
555 Highway 1, Bodega Bay; sonomacoastvineyards.com
Head for the Beach
At Goat Rock Beach beneath the seaside town of Jenner, the Russian River dumps into the Pacific Ocean and the harbor seal pupping ground draws beachcombers to a viewing rope at the north end of the beach. Spring and summer are the best times to spot the seals, but the beach is perfect for a walk any time of the year. Just bring a jacket and a beanie—stiff winds blow—and watch your step near the riptide-rife water.
Way Up Yonder
Up on the ridgetop above the fog line, Fort Ross Vineyard’s property yields not only crisp chardonnays and rich pinots but views that leave you agape: redwoods, tall-grass meadows and miles of coastline. This cool-weather vineyard is part of the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, which also includes Flowers, Hirsch and Wild Hog vineyards. Fort Ross Vineyards’ tasting room is open daily. For goodness sake, swirl and spit or designate a driver—this gorgeous place is nearly 8 miles outside Jenner, where the road becomes a goat path along the cliffs.
15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner; fortrossvineyard.com
Photo courtesy of Terra Glamping
Out here, 10 tents outfitted with real beds and bedding, rugs and floors rest beneath the trees facing the ocean. At Terra Glamping, do your s’mores ’round the campfire, then let the sound of the distant ocean lull you to sleep. You’ll wake to coffee, granola and other breakfast goodies. Watch the waves, gaze at the stars (so bright!) and maybe catch the moonset if you’re awake for it. The sunsets practically beg you to sit back with a glass of West Sonoma Coast pinot noir and revel in the fact that you have no Wi-Fi. Rates start at $250 a night.
33005 Coast Highway, Annapolis; terraglamping.com
Photo courtesy of Timeber Cove
Photo courtesy of Timber Cove
With 46 recently redesigned guestrooms, Timber Cove is back to its previous splendor as one of the finest on the North Coast. Up on a bluff above Fort Ross, it’s got stunning ocean vistas and miles of walking trails that wind through the forest. The redo by designers Gensler and The Novogratz has rejuvenated the place and brought some midcentury flair into the coastal redwood and stone equation. It’s got eight new suites, and upgrades to the other rooms include tribal and plaid textiles, stressed leather seating and deep soaking tubs. You’ll find record players—and an onsite vinyl library—and drip coffee makers and a minibar packed with locally sourced snacks. The floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the dramatic A-frame lobby remains, and the bar now sports cool zigzag paneling as a kick plate—a great place to pull up for a cocktail or sizable glass of a Sonoma Coast vintage. The on-site Coast restaurant, with its patio overlooking the ocean, brings farm to fork and sea to plate. Look for such delights as a roasted local halibut and the 18-hour braised beef short ribs. Walk the trails, which wind along the cliffs and through eucalyptus groves, and past artwork such as the notorious Bufano’s Obelisk, a missile-shaped Madonna-and-child ode to peace topped with a welcoming hand—created by the late artist Benjamin Bufano around the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Enjoy the outdoor fire pits and Adirondack deck chairs, which will pull your butt in and force you to relax. Frankly, not that hard to do while the waves lap the cliffs and the breeze whisks on by. Nightly room rates start at approximately $300.
21780 Highway 1, Jenner; timbercoveresort.com
For the History Buff —Tour Fort Ross
State Historic Park to learn about the Russians who settled here in the early 1800s. It’s a gem. 19005 Highway 1, Jenner; fortross.org
The Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards was completed in 1884 to resemble the Beringer family’s gabled and turreted home in Mainz on the Rhine River in Germany. It now includes a Reserve Tasting Bar, where visitors can enjoy reserve, small production and single-vineyard wines. Walk-ins are welcome.
So often, the Napa Valley gets written off as overcrowded and overpriced, and, sure, it can be that, but there’s also no place quite like it for that heady combination of laid-back viticulture and grandiosity. As you’re driving up the valley on Highway 29/128, St. Helena announces itself with a slowdown in traffi c starting around Gott’s Roadside (don’t skip the ahi tacos) and continues at a crawl through the oh-so-cute Main Street. The reds and whites—and the food—from this region are outstanding.
Winning Wine: California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition 2017:
Stanton Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah
Sip, Sip, Sip
HALL Vineyards, where contemporary outdoor artworks (including the famous Bunny Foo Foo by Lawrence Argent) invite lingering, is a must-stop among many in the St. Helena area. With a hospitality center that includes the tasting room and the restored historic Bergfeld stone winery, it is worth an afternoon. You must use the restroom while you’re there. It’s all glimmering red. Later, pop next door to Dean & Deluca for a pick-me-up. Sea salt brownie perhaps?
401 St. Helena Highway; hallwines.com
The Joy of Caves
The cave tour at Rombauer ($60 per person) takes you from the garden into the hillside labyrinth of caves, where tastings (primarily reds) are poured among the oak barrels along the way. Fun fact: Winery founder Koerner Rombauer’s great-aunt Irma Rombauer wrote “The Joy of Cooking,” the internationally renowned cookbook that has sold more than 18 million copies.
3522 Silverado Trail North; rombauer.com
Photo courtesy of Charles Krug Winery
Not Just a Legacy
You can’t do St. Helena without doing Charles Krug. The oldest winery in the valley, it’s brimming with history—and beautiful to boot. Visit on a weekday for the $75 tasting tour, which includes sauvignon blanc in the garden (which supplies the Culinary Institute of America, another gorgeous compound nearby), Bordeaux in the historic Redwood Cellar, and tastings of handcrafted cheeses and cured meats from the on-site Cucina di Rosa salumeria.
2800 Main St.; charleskrug.com
EVOO for You
Some people make a special trip to Napa or St. Helena to buy Napa Valley Olive Oil Mfg.’s stuff by the half-gallon. It’s smooth and grassy and green, and the St. Helena location—the original—is a charming white barn on a side street with a bad parking lot, no AC and a cash- or check-only policy. It’s crammed with olive oil, balsamics and foodstuffs imported from Italy, including fregola, a Sardinian toasted semolina pasta. 835 Charter Oak Ave.; nvoliveoilmfg.com
Las Alcobas is new, open only a few months with 68 rooms, a saltwater pool, alfresco soaking tubs and personal fire pits. It is anchored by Acacia House, a restored Victorian built in 1907, which now houses a 50-seat restaurant, a porch lounge and six guestrooms. Perhaps most unique about this resort: its position among the vineyards. Beringer Estate vineyards are right there, separated from resort property by a mere burbling creek. From your guestroom window, all you see are grapevines and mountains and sky, and perhaps some olive trees. Napa Valley residents were reluctant, at first, to accept this project, which razed some dilapidated buildings and overtook some open space, and many wondered how a(nother) upscale resort could possibly honor the area’s rural roots that the city of St. Helena has endeavored to maintain. Whether St. Helena loves Las Alcobas or not, we do—from its gorgeous Acacia House and lavish, freestanding, barn-style Atrio spa to the pale-wood and clean-lined design of its guestrooms, the place is a dream. After a long day of wine tasting, take a refreshing swim in the saltwater pool before dinner at the House. Or simply watch the sun set over the vineyards, then roast s’mores on your private deck before you crawl between the white-on-white bedding and rest. Room rates start at $650. 1915 Main St.; lasalcobasnapavalley.com.
For the Cook—Whether you order it online or stop by Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen on Railroad Avenue, pick up a copy of “Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals From Around the World to Share With Family and Friends,” by famed chef Cindy Pawlcyn. It’s beautiful and inspiring. 1327 Railroad Ave., cindysbackstreetkitchen.com