In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, between Sacramento and Reno, lies an emerging wine region featuring 10 boutique-sized, family-owned and operated wineries.
Each winery produces unique and intricate wines crafted from small lots of grapes ranging from Rhone-style Syrah and Spanish-style Tempranillo to Italian-style Barbera and traditional California Zinfandel.
The winemakers of Placer County are always happy and eager to share both their passion for winemaking and the fruits of their labors.
Before the Gold Rush, grain crops waved with the breeze and were harvested in western Placer County. As early as 1845, Theodore Sigard planted and harvested the first wheat grown in the county on his ranch, located south of Bear River.
Claude Chana, who came to California in 1846, discovered the region’s potential for growing wheat and fruit crops. He planted peach pits and almonds as an experiment on Sigard’s ranch before he discovered gold in the Auburn Ravine in 1848. Chana and Sigard created the first orchard of peaches, apples, pears, almonds and grapes.
Eventually, the streets of Lincoln and Sheridan would be choked with wagons hauling their grain to the mills. The Coon Creek, Doty’s Ravine and Yankee Slough areas of western Placer County became the center for grain crops.
In 1850, E.T. Mendenhall of Illinoistown (now Colfax), Lisbon Applegate of Applegate and Colonel William McClure of Yankee Jim’s on the Foresthill Divide planted orchards. The 1856 Assessor’s Report counted 5,067 fruit trees including peach, apple, pear, plum, currant, cherry, gooseberry, apricot, quince, fig and almond trees.
By the 1880s, Placer County was the leading shipper of deciduous fruits in California. The fruit industry supported the county from the 1880s until the early 1970s, when other major industries moved to the Roseville and Rocklin area, and commuters began moving to the county.
Today, the local vineyards are gaining in prominence. And while a few welcome guests by appointment only, most keep regular visitor hours.
Roseville is a good place to “set up camp” for a weekend tour of Placer County wineries. It offers an array of accommodations conveniently located along the main I-80 corridor. The usual “logo” restaurants can be found there, but the more rural towns of the region offer dining experiences not duplicated anywhere else.
Lincoln Produce Market is a great place to pick up fresh supplies – from local produce to gourmet groceries – for a picnic. Le Bilig in Auburn is a wonderful French bistro that offers take-out. At The Ridge Bar and Grill (part of a popular golf course complex in Auburn), chef Matthew Broucaret is obsessed with using Placer-grown produce in his dishes. And if it’s steaks or chops you seek, the Monkey Cat Restaurant & Bar is the fine dining destination in downtown Auburn.
The area’s wineries are just as eclectic, with no two specializing in exactly the same varieties. That means you’re likely to discover some aromas and flavors you may not have experienced before in a wine glass.
For instance, Hyatt Baumbach makes two varieties seldom seen in California: Charbono and Aglianico. Vina Castellano focuses on Spanish and Rhone varieties. A fine Viognier is crafted at Lone Buffalo Vineyards. Among the varieties found at several Placer County estates are Zinfandel and Barbera.
If you’re seeking a wine country experience without the wine country traffic headaches, Placer County is pure gold.
Lincoln Produce Market
415 A St. * Lincoln
11750 Atwood Rd. * Auburn
The Ridge Bar and Grill
2020 Golf Course Rd. * Auburn
Monkey Cat Restaurant & Bar
805 Lincoln Way * Auburn
291 Auburn Folsom Rd. * Auburn
Vineyard and Winery
4590 Bell Rd. * Auburn
Lone Buffalo Vineyards
2682 Burgard Lane * Auburn
Placer County Visitors Council