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Sutter Creek: The perfect wine tasting destination

Historic Downtown Sutter Creek-slide0
Melissa Vogt

Escape the rush of life and experience the relaxation and rejuvenation of California's original wine growing region—the Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area (AVA). Grapes were first planted in the Sierra Foothills AVA in the late 1840s and early 1850s, just before Sutter Creek, a "Mother Lode" gold country town, was originally settled in the mid 1850s.

BellaGrace Vineyards Tasting Room in Sutter Creek
Melissa Vogt

Sutter Creek is nestled in the middle of the Sierra Foothills appellation—surrounded by roughly 6,000 acres of planted vines. Many of the vineyards contain some of California's oldest Zinfandel vines—making this varietal cover the largest amount of acreage in this region. Additionally, the Sierra Foothills AVA is home of the most Barbera vines planted in all of California. The impressive old vine Zinfandel and spicy Barbera wines are accompanied by a wonderful collection of French, Italian, and Spanish varietals, including but not limited to Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Tempranillo, Grenache, Viognier, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Mouvèdre. This wide array of varietals offers unique flavor profiles for every visitor's palate.

In Sutter Creek alone, there are eight tasting rooms on Main Street. The winemakers and winery owners have come together to form Wine on Main in historic downtown Sutter Creek—offering some of the best wines from the Sierra Foothills AVA, all within walking distance of each other. The winemakers and winery owners operate in collaborative fashion—welcoming guests from the other tasting rooms and recommending visitors to each other on a daily basis. In this way, the winemakers and winery owners support each other and embrace the diversity that exists across varietals from their wineries—making the Wine on Main tasting room experience truly unique and satisfying.

Some of the tasting rooms have been in their Main Street locations for about a decade—Sutter Creek Wine Tasting and Scott Harvey Wines (formerly located around the corner on Eureka Street, but moved to Main Street in July 2009)—but many have opened recently, within the last couple of years, such as Baiocchi Wines, Cinque Wine Tasting, Miller Wine Works, and Sierra Ridge Winery.

BellaGrace Vineyards is another newer tasting room on Main Street; husband and wife duo—Charlie and Michael Havill—are the winery owners, viticulturists, and winemakers. Their inspiring collection showcases the best of the Sierra Foothills appellation with French, Italian, and Spanish varietals, alongside varietals that are commonly grown amongst California vineyards, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. They also bottle an impeccable collection of flavor-infused olive oils from the olive trees growing on their vineyard property in the Shenandoah Valley.

Yorba Wines has also recently opened its tasting room on Main Street. Shake Ridge Vineyards, run by viticulturist Ann Kraemer, is unique in that it produces grapes for their winery—Yorba Wines—but it also sources some of its grapes out to winemakers throughout California. Ken Bernards, winemaker of Yorba Wines, works closely with Ann Kraemer to produce an elegant assortment of Barbera, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Tempranillo varietals.

These wonderful tasting rooms are interspersed with adorable bed and breakfasts and historic hotels, delicious local eateries, and antique, clothing, and gift stores that are sure to have a little something for everyone. One such historic hotel, Hotel Sutter, has been in its Main Street location since 1858.

The Hotel Sutter and Restaurant is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Sutter Creek, but don't let that fool you—this hotel and restaurant has been recently renovated for comfort, but still maintains its historic ruggedness and charm. In fact, Chuck Laughlin and Karen Sage—the new owners—have made a point of stripping away much of what former owners have put in to cover the original structure of the building; the hotel and restaurant is now proudly showing more of its original flooring and walls, giving the entire building a warm and welcoming environment with remarkable rustic features. The restaurant also recently acquired a talented new chef from Switzerland, Darius Somary—who is presenting a wonderful fine dining menu for lunch and dinner, as well as an excellent selection of unique desserts and local wines.

With fantastic wine tasting, quaint accommodations, and pleasant places to shop—all within walking distance of each other on Main Street in Sutter Creek—this historic town is now a perfect getaway destination for those looking to enjoy a relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle of life.

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