Posts

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Wine and Fall Color Pairing

Helwig Winery (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Iron Hub Winery, Shenandoah Valley (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Bella Piazza Winery, Shenandoah Valley  (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Unless you’re a club member of one of California’s largest wineries, the welcome is often less than enthusiastic.

Not so in the Sierra Foothills. The wineries there are so lightly visited that the welcome is genuine and warm, and the tasting is often free.

Their hospitality, some extraordinarily exceptional wines and lovely fall color from late-October to mid-November

Counoise, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Maple, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

make them a great choice.

Today, East Bay color spotter Darrell Sano and I visited the Sierra Foothill AVA, independently. He toured Shenandoah Valley vineyards in Amador County while I stopped in El Dorado County’s Pleasant Valley.

There, Holly’s Hill was holding a wine and cheese pairing, with cheese from an artisan cheese shop in nearby Placerville, which used to be called “Hangtown” for all the hangings that occurred there (the El Dorado County seat) in the late 1800s. Today, all that hangs there are sausages in the cheese shop.

Newtown Rd., Placerville (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

At this time of year, Newtown Road, between Placerville and Pleasant Valley, is over hanging with bright yellow  bigleaf maple and orange black oak.

It’s the kind of scenic route that Darrell searches for among “the lofty hills and gentle curves in this somewhat hidden area” of California.

 

Shenandoah Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Turley Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Despite a late start from Oakland, he found “the morning light was still something to behold, illuminating the hills, intensifying the color.”

That’s why John Muir preferred to call the Sierra Nevada “the range of light.”

Darrell says that one thing he finds wonderful about fall is that “The quality of light at 1 p.m. is like 7 p.m. in summer… intensifying clarity and structure.”

He adds that though the Sierra foothills are peaking, its wine tasting “is never past peak.”

What Darrell enjoys most about tasting in Amador and El Dorado Counties are their  “bucolic hills, traffic-less roads, and no limos!”

You’re not likely to encounter backups as people pose for pictures beside their cars or with their girlfriends. You’ll have the road mostly to yourself, except for an occasional rancher, local or fellow oenophile.

As you motor, craggy Sierra peaks spray-painted white with fresh snow are glimpsed to the east, while the western horizon undulates with layers of purple foothills, scored by rows of vines.

It amazes me how many of California’s most famous labels grow zinfandel, syrah, mourvedre, grenache and viognier in the Sierra. It’s not something they brag about doing – “We grow our grapes in the Sierra!” – but they do.

Fiddletown (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Farnham House hidden by fall color (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Then, you sweep past workers picking olives, apples or pears. Harvest is still coming in, even if the grapes have long-since been picked. Darrell stopped and spent a moment talking to the olive harvesters and “relished the moment.”

In places you’ll find fall color surrounding 1855 Victorian structures, like the Farnham House in Fiddletown.

Soon after gold was found nearby, it got so busy that six stage coaches would stop there, each day.

“Today, Darrell was one of the few who stopped during his trip to pair fall color with wine tasting.

Sierra Foothills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Apple Hill – Ripe for Picking

Apple Hill (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

A detour on my return from Lake Tahoe, yesterday, included a stop at Apple Hill in Camino to take photos and – what else!? – buy an apple pie.

Newtown Rd., Placerville (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

My route took me through Pleasant Valley (great wine tasting) down Newtown Rd. toward Placerville, US 50 and Camino.

Newtown is a lovely, winding road canopied by huge black oak and bigleaf maple, that now are speckled with huge bright yellow and lime-colored maple leaves.

At Camino, apples lay rotting between the trees at Boa Vista Orchards, as kids romped through a nearby pumpkin patch.

Similar to the experience at Julian in San Diego County, Apple Hill is more than a place to grow apples.

It is an annual harvest festival that continues from late summer to Christmas, with all kinds of homemade preserves, pies, baked goods, fresh fruit and produce on sale, along with handmade crafts and wine tasting at nearby Sierra Foothill wineries.

At this time of year, Apple Hill is wholesome fun and ripe for picking.

Apple Hill, Camino (3,133′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Newtown Road, Pleasant Valley – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

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Apple of my Eye

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

A sojourn to Apple Hill today found vineyards Near Peak, but orchards mostly patchy.  Some apples remain to be picked, though many are off the trees.

Because of the range of fall color to be seen, we’ll rate Apple Hill as Near Peak, though expect black oak to be Just Starting, other trees to be Patchy and still others Peaking.

Apple Hill is a harvest destination in the Sierra foothills near Placerville, 50 miles east of Sacramento. Numerous farm stands sell apples, fresh-pressed chilled cider, apple baked goods, preserves and folk crafts.

On weekends, all of the farms are open. Some have live bands and amusements. Midweek, a smaller selection of farm stands remain open. Additionally, several excellent wineries are located along a network of El Dorado County Farm Trails, among them are: Boeger, Lava Cap, Madrona and Grace Patriot.

Nearby is the historic town of Placerville. A must stop is Placerville Hardware, the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi.  It has been in operation for over 160 years. The store’s shelves are stacked high with things you never realize you needed until you visit.  Ask the clerk to show you the coin slot cut into the wooden counter where gold miners would pay for their shovels and pans with gold and coins.

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Apple Hill

Boeger Winery, Placerville (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boeger Winery, Placerville (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boeger Winery, Placerville (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boeger Winery, Placerville (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Persimmon, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Persimmon, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Orchard, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Orchard, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

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Toyon [AKA California Holly, Christmas Berry] (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boa Vista Farms, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boa Vista Farms, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boa Vista Farms, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

Boa Vista Farms, Apple Hill (11/5/15) John Poimiroo

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Apple Hill Ripe For Picking

Apple Hill, Camino (11/2/15) Brian Patterson

Apple Hill, Camino (11/2/15) Brian Patterson

El Dorado County color spotter Brian Patterson posted this shot of vineyards at Apple Hill in Camino on our Facebook page.

Previously, Apple Hill color spotter Eileen Javora, a meteorologist at Sacramento’s KCRA-TV3, had tweeted about reds and golds appearing in the vineyards and orchards near the Boeger Winery in Placerville.

Looks like I’ll just have to head up the hill to do some wine tasting… uh, er, I mean to confirm Eileen and Brian’s observations.

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Apple Hill, Placerville, El Dorado County 

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Weekend Roundup: Snow and Glory

Narrow Gate Vineyards (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Narrow Gate Vineyards (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Pomegranates are the color of fall at Boa Vista in Apple Hill (10/30/14 John Poimiroo

Pomegranates are the color of fall at Boa Vista in Apple Hill (10/30/14 John Poimiroo

Grape tubs are full of rainfall at Narrow Gate Vineyards (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Grape tubs are full of rainfall at Narrow Gate Vineyards (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Counoise vines at Holly's Hill Winery (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Counoise vines at Holly’s Hill Winery (11/1/14) John Poimiroo

Color spotters from around the state have sent reports on what’s showing as November and daylight saving time arrives.

Western El Dorado County (Near Peak 50 -75%) – The brilliant orange-red of exotic Chinese pistache is a show stopper along El Dorado Hills Boulevard and at all US 50 exits in Placerville.  Newtown Rd between Placerville and Pleasant Valley is a veritable canopy of yellow and lime bigleaf maple with occasional orange flushes of black oak. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the Gold Country, though has few turnouts, so you have to stop before or after you see the color to photograph it.  GO NOW!

Apple Hill (Near Peak 50-75%) – Apple orchards, fruit trees and vineyards are a blend of yellow, gold and green. GO NOW!

Sierra Foothills Wineries and Vineyards (Near Peak 75-100%) – Counoise and Grenache vineyards at Holly’s Hill and Narrow Gate wineries in the Pleasant Valley area south of Placerville are a mix of lime, yellow, orange and red.  GO NOW!

Beckstoffer Vineyards, Ukiah (10/29/14) Walter Gabler

Beckstoffer Vineyards, Ukiah (10/29/14) Walter Gabler

Ukiah Valley (Near Peak – 50-75%) – North coast color spotter Walter Gabler reports that Mendocino County vineyards are near peak in the Ukiah Valley. Vineyards tend to change by variety.  Because of this, it’s difficult to know which are peaking and which are progressing toward peak. Our advice, regarding all wineries, is to visit anytime from early October to mid November and there is likely to be color in their vineyards. GO NOW!

Monument Campground, Lake Camanche (10/30/14) Terry Willard

Monument Campground, Lake Camanche (10/30/14) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (Near Peak 50 – 75%) – Colorful fremont cottonwood and exotic trees are reflected in the Monument Campgrounds trout pond, providing an idyllic setting for RVers. GO NOW!

Castle Crags State Park (10/30/14) Cory Poole

Castle Crags State Park (10/30/14) Cory Poole

Castle Crags State Park (Near Peak 50 – 75%) – Cory Poole posted this photo of Castle Crags State Park on California Fall Color’s Facebook page, showing how the color is developing in Shasta County. GO NOW!

Tilden Park, Berkeley  (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley  (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley  (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley (11/1/14) Sandy Steinman

Tilden Park, Berkeley (Patchy 10 – 50%) – Color spotty Sandy Steinman reports that fall color at East Bay Regional Parks’ Botanic Garden is mixed.  He writes there are no grand displays, but some nice color spots. Some decidous trees have peaked while other are still showing green.

Oakland Camp, Quincy (10/31/14) Mike Nellor

Oakland Camp, Quincy (10/31/14) Mike Nellor

Aspendell (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

Aspendell (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

High Sierra (Peak 75 – 100%) – Three to six inches of snow fell in the High Sierra this weekend.  That’s a dusting of snow by Sierra standards.  Steve Wolfe and Mike Nellor captured snow and fall color in Inyo and Plumas Counties.  The combination of fall color and snow is dramatic and emotional, as seen in Mike’s shot of Oakland Camp.  This does not mean the fall color show has ended, only that it has moved to a different stage. GO NOW!

Owens Valley (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

Owens Valley (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

Owens Valley (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

Owens Valley (10/31/14) Steve Wolfe

Owens Valley (Peak – 75 – 100%) – Color spotter Steve Wolfe – on departing the Eastern Sierra provided this last report on the Owens Valley, where rabbitbrush, willows and black cottonwood are peaking with gorgeous tones of orange, yellow and gold. GO NOW!

Switzer Falls Trail (11/1/14) Dan Riley

Switzer Falls Trail (11/1/14) Dan Riley

Switzer Falls Trail (11/1/14) Dan Riley

Switzer Falls Trail (11/1/14) Dan Riley

Switzer Falls (Past Peak) – Dan Riley sent these photos of: Switzer Falls in the Angeles National Forest.  The forest floor is orange with spent maple and black oak leaves. The Switzer Falls trail is an area from which we’ve not received photos, previously.  A tip for photographers – take pictures of places not seen on this site previously and you’re almost assured of getting them posted. YOU MISSED IT.

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Beauty Before The Storm

Chinese pistache (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Chinese pistache (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Northern California is braced for its first major storm of the coming winter. So, I took camera in hand this morning to photograph the exotic trees in my yard that are near peaking, to capture their beauty before the storm.

Chinese pistache (pistacia chinensis) is a slow-growing ornamental tree from China whose foliage turns day-glo orange to red with tones of yellow and green. Yesterday, I mentioned on Twitter that pistache have naturalized in Placerville.

Traveling through there on the way to Apple Hill, you see bright red balls of color at all of Placerville’s highway offramp areas.  It is evident that many of these pistache trees are volunteers that are now populating forests in and around Placerville, in the same way exotic pink flowering oleander are doing beside the Sacramento River between Redding and Shasta Dam.

Eastern Redbud (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Eastern Redbud (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Eastern redbud (cercis canadensis) are the fastest growing of redbuds and get 25 to 35 feet in height, according to the Sunset Western Garden Book.  We get many compliments about our redbud in all seasons, though particularly enjoy it now, when its large heart-shaped leaves turn yellow and are mixed with lime-colored brethren.

Red Oak (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Red Oak (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Red oak (quercus rubra) is native to the east U.S.  It’s a handsome tree in summer, magnificent in autumn, then carries brown leaves through winter.  This is lovely with a dusting of snow, though it’s not my favorite winter coat on an oak.

Strawberry Tree (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

Strawberry Tree (10/31/14) John Poimiroo

The Strawberry Tree (arbutus menziesii) is a madrone whose autumn branches dangle with brilliant orange to red berries. They’re delicious to the eye only.

El Dorado Hills (Near Peak – 50-75%) – Gardens and landscaped boulevards are near peak at 1,000 feet in the western Sierra foothills. GO NOW!

Apple Hill (Near Peak – 50-75%) – Apple orchards and vineyards surrounding Camino are full of golden, orange and brown color. GO NOW!

Placerville (Peak – 75-100%) – Exotic Chinese pistache are brightly crimson along US 50. GO NOW!