Nevada County’s oldest wine in existence shown at Fair

Our magazine enjoyed attending the opening ceremonies at the Nevada County Fair in Grass Valley on Wednesday. We visited with the local dignitaries, heard some opening remarks, and noshed on breakfast from Emily’s Catering that was made with fresh ingredients donated from local farms.

The Fair runs from Wednesday to Sunday and expects to draw more than 90,000 people, with 7,400 exhibits, amusement rides, live music, livestock auctions, Treat Street food vendors, and arena events.

For us, a highlight was seeing what is believed to be the oldest local wine in existence — a 1978 Petite Sirah produced and bottled by Rod Byers’ Pine Hill Winery. “Produced and bottled by Rod Byers, Grass Valley, California,” the label reads. The grapes came from a 7-acre vineyard planted in 1974 by cattle rancher John Callender, who happens to be the father of Fair CEO Rea Callender.

“I believe it to be the oldest wine in existence produced from locally grown grapes,” said Rod.

Rod presented the bottle to Rea, who is soon going to bring it to his dad at his home on the Big Island of Hawaii. We visited with Rod and Rea as they reminisced about the origins of Nevada County winemaking. It was educational and entertaining.

Rod, who started the wine competition at the Fair in 1984, was named the 2016 Blue Ribbon Award recipient by the Nevada County Fairgrounds board of directors. Rod and his wife, Melanie, own Pine Hill Wine Works. He has worked with Nevada City Winery for over 30 years.

Rod continues as the supervisor of the Fair’s Wine Competition, overseeing the judging and approaching local wineries to sponsor the various divisions. “We never tried to grow it to be the biggest competition, just the best,” said Rod.

Rea spent part of his youth in Nevada County, and his family owned a working 2,000 acre cattle ranch in Grass Valley.  He participated in the Junior Livestock Auction at the Fair in his youth, and his father ran the JLA for many years – and it was there that his love for the Nevada County Fair was born.

At the opening ceremonies, George and Sandy Woods were named to the Nevada County Fair’s Hall of Fame. The Fair’s Board recognized the Woods for their long-time service and dedication to the Fair. The Woods were longtime investors in Nevada City Winery.

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