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Posted February 2006

Exploring the Sierra Foothills

Destination: Sutter Creek, CADestination: Gold Country


SUTTER CREEK, CALIFORNIA—There’s a land rush a’ coming, so stake your claim. The Sierra Foothills have suddenly been re-discovered by visitors as one of the hot-spots for wine and food travel. Named by Frommer’s as one of the “Up and Coming Places to Visit in 2006” and recently gushed over by the New York Times and Wine Spectator, the region is awash in rustic charm and rural solitude that has folks talking.

One of the most popular destinations in Gold Country is Sutter Creek, a former lumber and mining town that had its first heyday back in the mid-1800s. Remodeled Victorian homes and Old West-architecture throughout this tourist town lend to the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time, ready to pan for gold, while modern Cal-Italian restaurants like Zinfandel make it very clear you don’t have to give up some of the modern luxuries.

We’ve collected the mother lode of our favorite restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and wineries from around the Sutter Creek region (about an hour southeast of Sacramento). There’s travel gold in them thar hills.


The wine region nearest to Sutter Creek is known as Amador, or the California Shenandoah Valley AVA. Though best known for Zinfandel, pioneering winemakers in this region are also experimenting with other varietals and styles, including those from the Rhone region of France (Mourvedre Syrah, Grenache, Roussane, etc).

Gold Country was once one of the workhorse grape producing regions in the state. After Prohibition, however, the Sierra Foothills were hit hard, and nearly all of the wineries ceased production. Fortunately, many of the vines remain, and for the last 30 years, the region has been making increasingly drinkable wines.

You’ve got to love a region where directions are often given as “Past the old schoolhouse” or “Just beyond the iron works.” In a still-emerging region that’s yet to be sullied by crass commercialism (mostly), wine enthusiasts have intimate access to the wine making process and winemakers, themselves…many of whom greet visitors personally. (Print out a map of the Amador Vintner Member Wineries here.)

Here are a few worth visiting:

Amador Foothill Winery: A small-scale winery with solid Zinfandels, as well as award-winning Syrahs and Sangioveses. Amador Foothill Winery, 12500 Steiner Road, Plymouth, California, 1-(800) 778-WINE,Tasting Room Hours: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, Noon to 5PM,

Deaver Vineyards, Sutter Creek, CADeaver Vineyards: This family has been making wines in the region for more than 100 years, with many old vine vineyards (some more than 120 years old!). Locals say it’s one of the best picnic spots. Deaver Vineyards, 12455 Steiner Road, Plymouth, 209.245.4099

Domaine de la Terre Rouge and EastonWines: One of the most celebrated wineries in the region, Terre Rouge focuses on Rhone varietals (most notably Syrah), while Easton wines sticks more closely to California wines. See Thom’s Tasting room notes.Terre Rouge/Easton, Dickson Road, 209.245.4277, Tasting Room Hours: Friday to Sunday, 11 to 4 pm,

Montevina: Rich with history, this winery is credited with being among the first to really put the Sierra Foothills on the wine-making map. Now owned by Trinchero/Sutter Home, the winery is one of the largest and most commercial in the region with a large portfolio of Italian wines. Montevina: 20680 Shenandoah School Road, Plymouth, California, 209.245.6942, Tasting Room Hours, daily 10am to 4:30pm,

Sobon Estate
: One of the oldest wineries in the state, Sobon estate has its eye toward the future, creating big, organic Zinfandels. 14430 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, California, 209.245.6554, Tasting Room Open Daily 9:30am to 5pm,


Zinfandels: A casual bistro featuring California-Mediterranean food and an impressive local wine list. Hearty dishes (polenta, duck breast and steaks) pair well with the region’s signature wine, Zinfandel. Menu changes seasonally. Zinfandels, 51 Hanford St., Sutter Creek, California, 209.267.5008,

Caffe Via D’Oro: Pizza, pasta and salads. The café has been closed for renovations but is scheduled to reopen this month. Call ahead for details. Caffe Via D’Oro, 36 Main St., Sutter Creek, California, 209.267.0535,

Chatter Box Café: Take a trip back in time at this vintage luncheonette and soda fountain. Everything is homemade, including the pies. Chatter Box Café, 39 Main Street, Sutter Creek, California, 209.267.5935.


Grey Gables Inn: A bed and breakfast with historic charm, the Grey Gables offers afternoon tea and breakfast. Eight bedrooms with private baths and fireplaces, ranging from $125 to $190 per night. Grey Gables Inn, 161 Hanford St., Sutter Creek, 209.267.1039,

The Foxes Inn: Near to downtown Sutter Creek, The Foxes Inn has seven private rooms ranging from $160 to $209 per night. 7 Main Street, Sutter Creek, California, 800-987-3344,


Sutter Gold Mine: Grab a hard hat and search for gold—or at least learn about those who did--in this guided tour of a modern hard-rock mine. 13660 Highway 49, Sutter Creek,

Knight Foundry: Not currently open to the public, this historic metal-working shop has been an important part of the town for more than a century, and a group of local historians are working hard to preserve it. Visitors can view the outside of the building and watch for updates on when the foundry will re-open with artisan metal workers on their website.

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