Fall Wine Tours: Barrel Tasting & Leaf Peeping

LIKE THE FRESH, LOCAL FOOD movement, wine tasting in the Sierra foothills is becoming a year-round passion. Downtown tasting rooms are open, but more wineries are staying open year-round.

Naggiar Vineyards is extending its wine and food events year-round. Smith Vineyards, with its iconic red-barn winery building, is opening its vineyard on Saturdays in October—including a pumpkin patch.

Fall is an ideal time for wine touring in the foothills. It’s less crowded, and you often can meet the winemakers, enjoy a picnic, and taste among the barrels.

This fall, some wineries are holding special gatherings. At Smith Vineyards in Grass Valley, you can visit any Saturday in October, noon-4 p.m. and enjoy harvest activities, wine tasting and a pumpkin patch. “Bring a picnic—it’s a wonderful time at the vineyard,” says owner Christine Smith.

Sierra Starr in Grass Valley also will open its vineyards from noon-5 p.m. for the first two Saturdays in October for wine tasting. The Bear River Tasting Room at Sierra Knolls Winery along Hwy. 49 north of Auburn offers wood-oven baked pizza, wine and music on Fridays. It is becoming a gateway to food and wine, as we wrote in our last issue.

On Sunday, October 27, the Bear River Tasting Room is planning their own harvest activities, including a jack-o-lantern contest.

Later in the fall, some wineries offer barrel tasting, typically by appointment (or luck). You get a chance to sample a varietal while it is aging in the barrel. Our recommendation for barrel tasting enthusiasts: Just ask.

One of our favorite outings is a visit to the Bent Metal Winery on a crisp fall weekend. It pairs well with a walking tour of historic Grass Valley, with its unique shopping and magical window displays.

Just three miles from downtown, past the Nevada County Fairgrounds, the winery has sweeping views of the Sierra. Bent Metal is casual and friendly. Picnicking is welcome amid some colorful Adirondack chairs.

Colfax Hwy. Wine Tour
The Colfax Hwy., or Hwy 174—a “road less traveled” but convenient nonetheless—is a scenic route that includes Montoliva and Solune wineries and vineyards. The road is spectacular for a fall colors tour as well.

The wineries along Hwy. 174 are just 10 to 15 minutes from the junction of I-80 and Colfax— a quick detour for travelers zipping along the interstate from either Reno or Sacramento.

Montoliva and Solune—just down the road from one another—epitomize the small, family-owned wineries. You can visit with the winemakers and enjoy a fall picnic.

Paint & Pour
Community Canvas offers “Paint & Pour” art classes at Pilot Peak Winery, ‘ol Republic Brewery and Matteo’s Public this fall.

(photo: Olof Carmel)

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