Spring wine outings

Wine and wildflowers make a great spring pairing only a short drive from the shores of Lake Tahoe. Heading to Sierra Foothill wine country has long been a favorite spring outing for my friends and I that was put on hold during the pandemic the last two years.

This spring, I look forward to returning to some of my favorite destinations for a day trip or overnight visit to go hiking, search for wildflowers and enjoy new wines. There are dozens of wineries in Nevada, El Dorado and Placer counties that are only a short drive from Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

A copy of our guidebook “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” will prove handy in planning your spring adventures. Author Barbara Keck profiles some of her favorite wineries and features the only guide to all 286 wineries in the Sierra Foothills with information on each winery’s landmark wines.

I always plan my visits during the week to avoid the crowds at popular trails and wineries. Here’s some of my favorite pairings.

Nevada County
Nevada City is one of my favorite areas to visit in the spring. There’s plenty of early season wildflowers to enjoy, the weather is sunny and warm (even when it’s chilly in Tahoe), and the food and wine are wonderful. The quaint charm of the historic downtown areas in Nevada City and nearby Grass Valley are a bonus and worth the trip by itself.

Start off with a hike at the Deer Creek Tribute & Deer Creek Environs trails conveniently located in downtown Nevada City or the Independence Trail, about 6 miles from Nevada City. 

Several wineries have tasting rooms located in the downtown districts. I’ve enjoyed tastings at Nevada City Winery, as well as Sierra Star Vineyards, Lucchesi and Avanguardia tastings rooms in Grass Valley.

In her guidebook, Keck also recommends visiting Montoliva Vineyard in Chicago Park.

Placer County
Winding country roads are one of the attractions to visiting Sierra Foothill wineries, which includes some of my favorites in Placer County – Lone Buffalo, Vina Castellano and Mt. Vernon. These wineries are also featured in Keck’s guidebook as some of her favorites.

Hidden Falls Regional Park is one of my favorite hikes and has become so popular for its beautiful scenery and breathtaking waterfall that reservations are now required to visit during peak times.

There are several great restaurants in Auburn, including one of my favorites – Awful Annie’s. And no visit is complete without a stop at Ikeda’s market.

El Dorado County
The hills surrounding Placerville are filled with wineries to visit and are featured prominently in Keck’s guidebook, with profiles on six wineries. I have visited all these wonderful wineries with Keck on multiple occasions and they are worth visiting time and again – Baiocchi, Boeger, C.G. Di Area, Madrona, Sierra Vista and Skinner.

Enjoy a hike on the Old Flume Trail, also called the Red Shack Trail, about 9 miles from Placerville with views of the South Fork of the American River to work up an appetite for great food and wine. I recommend parking in downtown Placerville, grabbing a bite to eat and enjoying the scenery as part of your visit.

“Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” is available at amazon.com and purchases benefit Tahoe Weekly. For trail information, I recommend alltrails.com.

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Katherine Hill
Katherine first moved to Tahoe in 1998 and has been in love with the Tahoe Sierra region since. She has been in the journalism field for more than 25 years and has worked for daily and weekly newspapers and magazines, as well as online publications and Web sites, as an award-winning writer and editor. In the fall of 2013, Katherine became only the third owner of the Tahoe Weekly magazine, and today serves as its Publisher and Editor In Chief. She also volunteers as a board member on of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, a commissioner on the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council and is a member of the TBID Advisory Committee for the North Tahoe Community Alliance. She is also a past commissioner of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Commission.