County-by-County Guide to Wineries Near Sacramento
It’s no secret that California produces some of the finest wines in the world. While Napa and Sonoma get most of the credit (and rightly so), there are many other growing regions that are quickly catching up. The counties surrounding Sacramento are emerging as some of the top producers of high-quality wine. Plus, they make easy day trips from Sacramento and promise quaint scenery in low-key tasting rooms.
El Dorado County wineries embody the best of Sierra foothills wines. Higher elevations mean cool mountain breezes and ample sunlight, ideal for varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah.
There are dozens of wineries in El Dorado County. In Fair Play, sip Grenache or Port in the wine caves at Toogood Estate, or taste peppery Zins over a picnic lunch at Perry Creek Winery. Near Pleasant Valley, Holly’s Hill Vineyards serves Rhône varietals overlooking the Cosumnes River Canyon. In the Apple Hill area, Lava Cap Winery produces hearty Cabernet Sauvignon and fruit-forward Chardonnay while Madroña Vineyards is known for its Malbec and Gewurztraminer.
Special events in El Dorado County include the Fair Play Winery Association Harvest Festival Nov. 2-3, where more than 20 area wineries offer tastings, food, music and games.
Photo courtesy Go Nevada County
Nevada County wine growers capitalize on the area’s cool mountain air and rocky soil, suitable for Old World varietals from Italy and France. Laid-back tasting rooms range from sleek, art-filled spaces in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley to rustic spots in country barns.
At Naggiar Vineyards, you can taste Viognier or Barbera in the Tuscan-themed tasting room overlooking the 135-acre estate. Penn Valley’s Pilot Peak Winery has oak-shaded patios, with live music most weekends. In downtown Grass Valley, Sierra Star Winery makes sparkling almond and sparkling peach wine, as well as a Sauternes-style dessert wine.
Events in Nevada County include Sierra Vintners Fall Wine Trail Oct. 12-13, when area wineries offer live music, food and discounts on wine.
Photo courtesy Rancho Roble Vineyards
The foothills of Placer County comprise rolling, oak-dotted hills that see warm days and mellow nights. Coupled with well-draining soil, these conditions are ideal for growing Italian, Iberian and Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Sangiovese and Viognier.
Placer County has no shortage of unique tasting rooms. Sip Cabernet Franc at the Bonita Boutique Winery at Auburn’s Bernhard Museum, housed in a 19th-century stone building partially buried in the hillside. At Rancho Roble Vineyards in Lincoln, you can taste Rosé or Barbera in a scenic country setting overlooking a pond. In Loomis, Casque Wines turns out small-batch Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines on their estate neighboring the Flower Farm Café, where you can pick up salads and sandwiches for lunch.
Photo courtesy Scribner Bend
Yolo County is a diverse growing region, with a warm, Mediterranean climate in the north and maritime influences near the Sacramento River. It’s best known for its emerging wine scene in the Clarksburg area, where Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Petite Sirah thrive.
At Matchbook Wine Company near Woodland, you can sample bold, fruit forward wines such as Petit Verdot and Chardonnay; in summer, they have live music and food trucks. Scribner Bend serves tastes of its Pinot Grigio and Tempranillo in a 100-year-old barn and has special events such as concerts and yoga classes. At the Old Sugar Mill, you can visit the tasting rooms of more than a dozen wineries in one location.
Sample wines from throughout Yolo County at TASTE, which features wine, beer and food from area producers. The event will be held Oct. 19 from 5–7 p.m. at U.C. Davis.
Photo courtesy McConnell Estates Winery
Sacramento has its share of urban wineries, but it also has small, family-run vineyards in outlying areas, such as Elk Grove, Walnut Grove, Wilton, Galt and Rio Vista, among others.
One of Sacramento’s oldest wineries, Frasinetti was founded in 1897. They still produce Old World-style wines such as Chianti and Burgundy and serve Italian meals in their onsite restaurant. In Elk Grove, McConnell Estates produces Merlot, Vermentino and sparkling wine and offers tasting in a historic farmhouse. In Walnut Grove, Grand Island Vineyards pours Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah at its expansive estate fronting the Sacramento River.