Lindsay on Location headed north for California summer time fun. Just east of Sacramento lies a slice of California history that had everyone trying to strike it rich in the 1800’s: Gold Country. Gold may not be on the banks of the rivers these days, but the culture, food, wine, and people are all the reasons to visit this part of Northern California.
It is filled with rolling hills, vineyards lining the countryside, hikes through Redwood State Parks, and great culinary experiences. It is a quick drive from the Bay area or fly into Sacramento to see all of the gold country.
Wineries and vineyards are a big draw for this area, and our glasses are ready to be filled. Big reds grow very well in this region; like, Zinfandel, Barbera and Sangiovese. Let’s go explore some delicious wines and liquor in El Dorado County, Amador County and Calaveras County.
The Boeger Winery Estate had started making wine at their home in the 1800’s. Prohibition shut down all production, but the Boeger family bought the vineyard and started production in 1972. It has a great Barbera that has a bit of spice and the grounds make you want to stay there for hours. We toured the old cellar, vines and chatted with the owner, Greg Boeger. With a beautiful space and delicious wine you can see why the vineyard has kept the magic alive for 50 years. Enjoy the property, which is perfectly nestled around rolling hills.
Winemaker Mica Raas founded Myka Estates in 2009 was originally intended to spotlight a love for the Santa Lucia Highlands wine region. The winery decided it was time to make its home in beautiful El Dorado County. They continue to source fruit from select sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Their motto is that every empty bottle of wine has a story, and they want their wines to tell a story. So, let’s make some stories in Myka Estates.
Paul J Wines is a smaller operation, but you can taste the love in every bottle. We were there for a bit chatting in their open tasting room overlooking the vineyard. We even discovered a new grape, Tannat. The grape is delicious and, please, get it in your life. Their six dark reds are an absolute must. Sit outside, take in the region and try all their varietals.
If you are a big fan of Sangiovese, look no further. Vino Noceto is where Italian inspiration collides with California sunshine to produce some world class wines. Not only is their Sangiovese top notch, but they grow Barbera, Old Vine Zinfandel, Frivolo, Grappa, and to finish off your tasting wash it all down with their Ruby-style Port. They have a great outdoor area where you can enjoy the Amador County air, play corn hole, or sit at their outdoor area.
Newsome Harlow is a great wine spot in a quaint little town of Murphy. They are famous for their Zinfandels, Sauvignon Blanc and Barbera. Newsome Harlow is family owned and there is so much passion behind their wines. They believe that even if it is 104 F/40 C degrees outside you can still enjoy a good, big red wine. And, we cannot agree more.
A must-stop while you are in Amador County; Helwig Winery has sweeping panoramic views around the vineyard. Also, you must visit their wine cave, outdoor amphitheater for concerts and a beautiful indoor tasting room. Scott Helwig’s award-winning wines have been a hot spot in this area. We experienced great hospitality, some great food and great conversations while in Helwig.
Time to get something stronger in our souls. We went to visit a family-run distillery up in the mountains. Hinterhaus is a new kid in town and born beneath the Calaveras County tall trees. The history of the name Hinterhaus is pretty cool. It is to honor the hinterland – the vast Sierra Nevada wilderness that has long beckoned explorers and adventurers to their breathtaking mountain range. Hinterhaus uses this fresh mountain water, then bottled in their facility way up 4,000 foot in elevation. The taste of their gins, whiskeys, vodkas and liqueurs. Every spirit reflects the pristine region. When you go for a tasting, one person should get a flight while the other enjoys one of their mixed drinks. They’re all good.
If you want to get some good local drinks of all kinds under your belt, it’s a good idea to head to Placerville Public House. There’s a great selection of local craft beer, wines from Gold Country and fresh bites. With live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, game night on Tuesday and appreciation night on Wednesdays it’s a great way to rub elbows with some locals while in town.
After all this eating and drinking, you are going to have to find a place to lay your head.
We stopped at a few places peppered around Gold Country.
Hotel Sutter is in the heart of California’s Gold Country, in Sutter Creek. On Historic Main Street, The Hotel Sutter and The Sutter Restaurant offer comfortable accommodations. Steeped in history, the Hotel Sutter hosts visitors from all the region and world, who want to experience the historical landmarks, outdoor recreational activities, award-winning wineries and quaint restaurants and boutiques that abound in Sutter Creek.
Coloma cottages are exactly where the Gold Rush began in 1848. The cabins were built in 1947 in the valley, which is a popular vacation spot for whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing and of course wine tasting. Cabin life is amazing when you can hear the sounds of the river flowing by, seeing deer prance around in the morning and mountain views that complement your morning coffee.
Let’s take a break from those golden, red wines and spirits distilled in the wilderness. Gold Country has a lot of history from their gold rush days. There are a lot of mines, caverns and outdoor activities to keep one busy for days.
Take a step back in time when you visit the historic Gold Bug Mine and Park in Placerville. As you enter the 352′ drift of this historic hard rock mine, you will feel the cool air brush against your face. You can see what these miners had to experience looking to become the next millionaire. Life definitely was not easy for them, and you can see how tough mine life can be.
Harris Family Farm has been operating for more than 150 years by seven generations of the family. It was truly a great experience picking berries and flowers. And, when the season is right, you have the option of picking pumpkins and apples. We ate our weight in turnovers, strudels and jams. And, do not forget to try apple cider donuts. Everything was just delicious and fresh. You will be thinking about this farm for a long time.
Let’s head to the Angels Camp Museum. Home to one of the largest collections of carriages and wagons in the nation. visitors can stroll through the beautifully landscaped historical park to explore extensive indoor and outdoor exhibits that include a doctor’s office and Mark Twain Exhibit, Ranching and Mining exhibits, and the new Frog Jump History exhibit.
This next experience is absolutely amazing. Established in 1931, Calaveras Big Trees State Park preserves two groves of giant sequoias – the world’s largest trees – in the North and South Groves. The park is a mixed-conifer forest (a variety of trees living together). We’ve never had the experience walking with such giants before. These trees truly put life in perspective when you are just an ant compared to these giants.
After having some drinks at Newsome Harlow, it’s time to explore the town of Murphy. It is a vibrant, thriving community, alive with art galleries and live theater, eclectic shops, fine restaurants and charming hotels. It’s great to take a stroll and see what a great small town can offer.
After all this walking through beautiful towns, hiking with giant sequoias and finishing our glasses of vino, it’s time to stop and have something to eat.
After a casual hike, head to Sarafina’s Italian kitchen. It is a good spot to get some hearty Italian cuisine in your body after burning so much on the hike. We had the Involtini Di Pollo and a meaty New York steak, then washed it down with a great glass of local Syrah. Great way to end the day.
Now it is time to bring some creative juices to the table. WOK and ROLL is an Asian-fusion restaurant, but on Wednesday nights they have a painting class to go along with your dinner. What a way to be creative, chat with the locals and have delicious food. Wok and Roll brings flavors from many areas, such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Bring your appetite and some creative inspiration.
The Smith Flat House has a long history of supporting and providing for the people of El Dorado County. They continue this tradition by supporting local farmers, winemakers, and other food artisans to bring you fresh, seasonal, locally sourced products as an ever-increasing portion of our menu. We had a bottle of a great Albariño, listened to live music downstairs and had a grand time.
To cap off this fantastic week of Gold Country, we had a great opportunity to check out the grounds of Ironstone Vineyards. This venue has a massive space and hosts acts on their outdoor lawn during the summer. We had a great night listening to Brad Paisley while taking in the landscape and surrounding vineyard.
A big shout out to the Gold Country Tourism group for putting this trip together. They were the most helpful and so knowledgeable about the area. This is a perfect trip for the entire family.