Explore Nevada County’s Wine Country on the Sierra Vintners Wine Trail

Here in Nevada County, we have many wonderful family-owned wineries tucked away in some of the most beautiful parcels of land to be found.  While most people simply enjoy the wines made here in local restaurants, stores, and tasting rooms, it is a uniquely enjoyable experience to visit the wineries that hand craft the award-winning vintages.   Sierra Vintners Association will offer the public the rare opportunity to explore the majority of wineries in Nevada County (and a few in Placer County) during the spring and fall wine trails.

Brenda Correia of Southern California enjoys the Pilot Peak stop on the wine trail. Photo by Valerie Costa

For the past three years, Sierra Vintners offered three wine trails, but this year decided it would be better to do only two.  “We went to two trails this year to give wine lovers more options on each date to visit,” said Mario Clough, President of the Sierra Vintners Association and owner of Lucchesi Vineyards and Winery. “Also, the summer dates were just to hot for an outdoor event, and we want our guests to be able to enjoy the experience in comfort.”

Each of the two wine trails in 2018 will highlight eight different wineries, each with their own unique varietals and atmosphere.  The first takes place May 19, in the height of the beauty of spring.  Explore the verdant countryside and enjoy the blooming trees and wildflowers while you travel from one winery to the next.   The wine trail is a journey; every stop has food that pairs with the wines being served and live music, and some locations even have games to play.

The wineries included in the Spring Wine Trail are:

Avanguardia is a self-proclaimed “ultra-boutique” winery that prides itself on its old-world European balanced varietals.  Specializing in premium blends from rare and unusual grape varieties, this winery relies on the tradition of selecting grapes for their synergy of flavors and tastes while using creative selections in their blending. They won a double gold and Best of Class of Region for their 2013 Corvina as well as silver for their Dolcetto Barbera and bronze for the Montepulciano.  Avanguardia wines can be sampled and purchased at their tasting room in Downtown Grass Valley, but cannot be fully appreciated without a visit to their beautiful winery.

Check out the metal art at Bent Metal. Photo by Valerie Costa

Bent Metal Winery owners Scott and Judy are retiring from the wine game after ten years.  This winery has a young, fun vibe, with slogans such as “Get Bent (and wine about it)” and “Wineatude.”  Their wine club is even called Metal Heads!  The owners invite you to stay a while and enjoy a game of Bocce Ball on their court, and to take home one of their affordable varietals; bottles range from $16-22.  Enjoy fantastic Sierra views, their picnic area, and gift shop while sipping some truly great wines.   There is a great story behind the name Bent Metal; make sure to ask owner Scott Brown about it while you’re there.  And make sure to stock up on wine since they have discounted everything in anticipation of their retirement mid-July!

Gray Pine Winery is a quaint, limited production winery with a two-acre vineyard.  Their winemaking focus is food-friendly wines, and their wines can be found in restaurants throughout the region.  Specializing in Bordeaux varietals, Gray Pine produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and a classic Bordeaux-style Red Blend, as well as a very small amount of Sauvignon Blanc.  Since they only produce about 350 cases a year, make sure to pick some up while you are there.  Conveniently located in Penn Valley, this is one of the most accessible wineries year round.

Lucchesi Vineyards & Winery is often the most lively stop on the wine trail, with their beautiful grounds overlooking a valley of grape vines and Sierra Nevada range at their aptly-named “View Forever Vineyard.”  This winery goes all out on the trail, with a substantial food offering, a wide array of wines to taste, great sales on bottles, and fun games to play for which you can win discounts on your wine purchases.  Lucchesi  specializes in traditionally crafted wines produced in small lots to capture their varietal character and regional qualities. Grapes in their steeply terraced terrain produce some of the finest wines found in the Sierra Foothills.  The vineyard’s southwest exposure maximizes the suns’ rays, perfectly ripening the grapes with concentrated flavors, color and texture.

Nevada City Winery is proud of their role in revitalizing the wine industry in Nevada County, and continues to be a hub for

Nevada City Winery winemaker Mark Foster explains the new vintage to a wine trail participant. Photo by Valerie Costa

the successfully revitalized downtown.  The Winery was begun by Allan Haley, a Nevada County native with a European wine education and a dream of bringing winemaking back to our region. In 1880 there were over 300 acres of grapes in the County. In 1980 when Nevada City Winery opened there was only one small vineyard, recently planted. Twenty years later there are again well over 300 acres of grapes and the wine industry is flourishing once more.  Next door to the Miners Foundry, Nevada City Winery is a popular stop before shows and other events, and a great local hangout for wine lovers from both near and far.

Pilot Peak prides themselves on their great wine and great hospitality.  The four friends who started the winery together enjoy offering a unique complementary progressive wine tasting, which takes a tour through the whole operation and includes appetizers.   You do not want to miss this gorgeous location, the shaded, tiered patios with gorgeous views is an experience to cherish.  While you’re there, make sure to taste ZaMORE (as in “Gimme some more”) – their refillable blend that is sold in a “PEAKer PROWLER” – think beer growler except in a flip top wine bottle.  This wine is one of the heartiest reds that they offer and is always a crowd pleaser.

The famous Smith barn.

Smith Vineyard will be holding a last hurrah at the vineyard during the spring wine trail, as the family is retiring after 30 years of making delicious wines and great memories.  Smith has an old west feel that blends perfectly with the gold rush history of Grass Valley.  Housed in a restored barn that dates back to the early 1900s, four generations of the Smith family produce hand crafted, small-lot estate wines from the grapes they grow organically on their 10 acre vineyard.  The Smith family is retiring to travel and enjoy a life that isn’t ruled by the grapes, and this is your chance to stop by and let them know how much their dedication to their wine, and our community, has been appreciated.

Szabo Vineyards has its roots in old family traditions, which lie in the town of Eger, Hungary, where there have been vineyards since Roman times.  Alex Szabo not only makes the wine from the grapes he grows, he can also be found pouring wine to his patrons in the Szabo tasting room in downtown Nevada City.  Using the best quality grapes grown through great attention to detail and sustainable practices, Alex creates some truly special wines on a truly special piece of land.  Don’t miss the opportunity to sit on the shaded patio, listen to some great music while enjoying great food and wine, and revel in the springtime temperatures before summer hits.

Come out and enjoy the many wonderful wines and the beautiful springtime vistas that Nevada County has to offer.  From full-bodied reds to light fruity whites, there will surely be many varietals that you fall in love with on the trail.  Since there are eight wineries on the trail with some travel between, a designated driver or service such as Yuba Bus or Gold Country Limousine is recommended.

The cost to attend each wine trail is $40 per person or $35 for wine club members.  Designated driver tickets (highly recommended) are only $15 and include food, water, and entertainment.  Tickets can be purchased at www.sierravintners.com or at any participating winery on the day of the tour.  The next wine tour will take place on Sept. 22 and will cover eight different wineries in the South County and Placer wine region.

Click HERE for a map of all wine trail locations.