Archive for Rural
Are you a fan of the movie Sideways? Or perhaps the lesser-known but equally charming Bottleshock? Do you like the fruits of the vine in liquid form, meeting friendly people, and discovering gorgeous expansive views in every direction?
Well, here’s another one for you: The Suisun Valley (pronounced Suh-soon) is a rural, soil- rich area around and between Vacaville and Fairfield. And just as Bottleshock is to Sideways, it’s a lesser-known but equally charming counterpart to its neighboring grape-stomping cousins – Napa, Yolo County and Amador.
With a tranquil feel and rustic charm, the Suisun Valley wine region is a little escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s accessible – just off I-80 – and yet immediately morphs into a valley of greenery, vines, vistas and views.
Curiously, but not expecting much, we meandered off the beaten pavement of the freeway to – as luck would have it – a delicious and inviting tasting room at Wooden Valley. A winery since 1933 with Italian roots, they’re certainly still doing something right.
“The climate is perfect for a wide variety of grapes and we produce really consistent reds,” said our host Laura, who comfortably chatted us up. Right out of the gate, however, we were pleased with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, with prominent flavors of citrusy grapefruit.
The reds were even better. The ’09 Merlot was pleasantly peppery and ’09 Zin a bit dry for my palate, but all good nonetheless. We topped it all off with the Miscela, a sweet but light (and not syrupy) white that is unique to Wooden Valley. Located on Suisun Valley Road, which used to be called Wooden Valley, one can pretty confidently deduce how they got their name.
But how do you stop at just one good winery and not sample any other goods? Wooden Valley whet our appetites just right, so we stopped into the Suisun Valley (oh, so much wine) Co-op. They were welcoming, generous, and complete with local character(s). As we sipped from their extensive list of complimentary wines, Steve and Domini from Winterhawk (in Fairfield) stopped by. They invited us to their wine and song Saturdays – with such themes as Superbowl, Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras – and include wine, music and dancing for a serious steal.
What else does Suisun Valley have to offer besides seven tasting rooms (plus the Co-op), olive oil sampling, farm stands, quaint cafes, Rancho Solano Golf Course, Rockeville Park (great mountain biking area) and the family-favorite Jelly Belly Factory? How about we just call that a rhetorical question. : )
See you out there!
But since more life – and work – seem to occur within and around cities, I try to find a balance between living in this modern world and relishing in the ease and spirit of small town life. One of the best ways I’ve found in which to do this is by frequenting festivals and faires whenever possible. The only hang-up: It’s not that easy locating these galas and celebrations, many of which come and go without my knowledge. So I’m starting a running list of central California festivals, and I hope you’ll help me give it a good go. Because festivals, to me, help fill in the gaps between the soul of city life and the spirit of nature’s abandon.
For starters, Sacramento365.com seems a good place to warm up finding Greater Sacramento area festivals. For instance, I see that Festa Italiana (Sacramento), Sacramento Swap Meet (Natomas), and Vinyl & Music Fair (Davis) are all taking place early August. I missed the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair in San Francisco this past June and Taste of the Delta earlier this month, but we’re just in time for small town Courtland’s Pear Fair this coming weekend, July 29. So come on ~ let’s kick up a little dirt together!
Within minutes you’ll find buildings and subdivisions fading away as you drive toward the foothills, seeing a dotted mix of old factories, nurseries and fruit stands that soon give way to large pastures and farm houses. The drive quiets to a lull as you approach the lowest hills, the foliage bursting open to greet you as you pass the old Sloughouse Inn to Davis Ranch. A working farm and large outdoor market, Davis Ranch is perhaps best known for sweet corn in the summer (The Corn Festival is held in July).
Continuing along Jackson Hwy. you’ll reach the town of Plymouth, which is the main portal to 34-and-counting Sierra Foothill wineries. With excellent red varietals like Sangiovese and Zinfandel – and equally tantalizing views – the area is coined by many to be “The New Napa”. If you’re around in June, stop in for the 2nd Annual Barbera Festival at Cooper’s Ranch. For 360-degree views of the (slightly snow-capped) Sierras, drive a little farther up to Skinner Vineyards and take a picnic – and camera – with you. If you choose to go right at the fork rather than straight, springtime is the time to visit the Amador Flower Farm and Daffodil Hill in charming gold rush-era towns.
You may find that setting out on the open road for a few hours is just enough time to return refreshed and ready for dinner, as well as enjoy that bottle of red that’s perfectly ripe and ready for the un-corking.
[see photos of Skinner and Karmere Wineries to the right]
A roadside bar and grill with a splash of class, great food, down-home atmosphere, easy vibe… It’s a wonder this place isn’t constantly packed, because if you ask me, it’s a diamond in the rough. Stop by any random day or afternoon and you’re likely to find a talented local band belting out party tunes on the outdoor stage. You might notice a private party taking over part of the outdoor space, students “studying” on the grass, or people with lawn chairs and beach umbrellas. You’re also probably going to notice it’s the kind of place where everyone knows your name – even if you’re not one of them – and that they’re still friendly nonetheless. Situated between Natomas and Woodland, past the airport off I-5 and the River Road, Elkhorn is a literal breath of fresh air, an unusual but easy find, and a true gem if you like low-key hangouts.
They don’t have much of a web presence – aside from some pretty stellar reviews on Yelp – http://www.yelp.com/biz/elkhorn-station-west-sacramento – but here’s the old-school 411:
18398 Old River Rd
West Sacramento, CA 95799
Sexy, saucy play ‘OR’ to debut and close out 6-year run at the Delta King Theatre – June 17 – July 17. In addition, the Pilothouse Restaurant will be offering a specially priced $29 three-course dinner for theatre patrons. 916-995-5464, http://www.capstage.org
From Farm to You~
Announcing New Farmers’ Markets Locations:
1)Beautiful east end State Capitol Park, 15th & L Streets, every Thursday, 10AM to 1:30PM
2)St. Rose of Lima Park, 7th & K Street, every Friday, 10AM to 1:30PM (street or mall parking, light rail)
Come One, Come All for a Parade, Mass, Auction, Eats, Live Music & Fresh Air! The Freeport/Clarksburg Portuguese Festa will be held Sunday, June 19th at 54113 S. River Rd. 916-373-9942
100 Years of Making a Difference~
Stop to once again celebrate your rights at the Sacramento History Museum with the unveiling of the ‘We Won the Vote’ exhibit on June 16th. 916-808-7059, http://www.historicoldsac.org
Weather and Wine… For wine growers, the two are inextricably (and sometimes excruciatingly) mixed. For wine enthusiasts, there is an anticipatory pairing between the two, paying attention to harvest, crush time and release dates. And for humble wine lovers? Well, it all depends.
For me, I have tendencies when it comes to wine and weather, being more likely to drink reds when the weather is cold and whites when it is warm. It’s not rocket science, but neither is it foolproof. This winter, for instance, I’ve been drinking more whites than reds… as if my palate is as confused as our weather patterns.
But regardless the season, there’s always good news ahead for wine lovers. And since Spring has officially just sprung, what better way to celebrate its arrival than with good wine, food, music and the great outdoors?!
Spring Fling, a Picnic in Clarksburg Weekend Wine Tasting Event, will be under way the first weekend in April. Less than a nickel and dime away from Sacramento, Clarksburg is actually the closest wine region to the river city, but that by no means makes it any less significant. An undeniably beautiful area with a hefty handful of reputable wineries, Clarksburg is home to Bogle Vineyards, Heringer Estates and Carvalho Family Wines to mention just a few. There will actually be twelve wineries in attendance and over 50 wines available for sipping.
So bring a picnic and blanket or take advantage of the food vendors when you get there. Tickets are a steal at just $12.
Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3rd, 11AM-5PM
Brought to you by the Clarksburg Wine Growers Association: http://www.clarksburgwinegrowers.org
Saturday, May 29
Tri-Tip, Beans, Bread, Salad, Dessert
$15 per person
Sunday, May 30
Parade starts at 10am
Mass at 11:30am
Auction at 1:30 (Donations are welcome)
54113 South River Road
[North of Clarksburg in Yolo County - 2 ½ miles north of Freeport Bridge]
For more information, contact Monica Souza at (916) 925-8661.
Since I live there, it’s probably okay for me to admit that Woodland is not especially well known for its fancy variety of world-renowned festivals… But having just attended the 134th Annual Sacramento Valley Scottish Games & Festival at the Yolo County Fairgrounds, I think this one’s worth writing home about.
Modeled after the traditional gatherings of Scots in their homeland, the weekend-long festival features Olympic-style heavy athletics and Highland dancing, pipe bands and Celtic rock groups, sheep dog trials, historical re-enactments and more.
Just like any festival, there’s plenty of good food and fun, cold beer and faire frills, shows and vendors (although I would have personally appreciated more of those). But unlike many festivals, this one’s got an eye-full of colorful kilts walking around, as well as those manly Scottish games playing out on the open field. This April, there was plenty of sunshine and luckily also plenty of shade beneath ye olde olive trees. And if there’s one thing about Woodland, everything’s pretty easy here: easy to access, easy entry… easy escape.
What began as a simple “Scottish Picnic Competition” in a park is now what allows the club to “benefit” the public through education, scholarships and charity. McKinley Park in East Sacramento was the site of the first Sacramento Scottish Games & Gathering on June 16, 1877. The festival moved to the 55-acre Yolo County Fairgrounds in 1997 due to it having more elbow room, ample parking and helpful fairground staff.
The event is hosted by the Caledonian Club of Sacramento, a nonprofit organization established in 1876. Club membership is open to any one of Scottish birth or descent, their kin, and to any person interested in the rich and historic traditions of Scotland. They host other annual events, including the Sacramento Tartan Ball in November.
Keep the Sacramento Scottish Games in mind next year; it’s a magical day for anyone interested in Scottish and Celtic arts, culture and history – or anyone just a fan of festivals, period. It takes place the last full weekend of every April.
http://www.saccallie.org, (916) 557-0764.
California Duck Days, a wetlands festival in the heart of the Pacific Flyway, will be held on February 19th and 20th. A FREE gala reception and Wildlife Art Show will launch the festivities on Friday evening February 19th at the Davis Arts Center, from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
On Saturday February 20th the festival will feature one full day of field trips, workshops and other activities at the Yolo Wildlife Area Headquarters facility in South Davis. Field Trips include rice farming first-hand, central valley raptors and birding by bicycle. Workshops include duck calling, decoy painting and bat class.
•Workshops and onsite activities only: $20
•Workshops/onsite plus 1 field trip: $23
•Workshops/onsite plus 2 field trips: $25
[Children 16 and under are free when accompanied by an adult]