Trip Ideas

nevada county wine tasting

Sip Your Way To Fun On The Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail

When you hear “California Wine Trail”, the first thing that comes to mind for most is Napa Valley or Sonoma. These places come with a heavy price tag and can be quite busy. If you’re looking for a place to sample award-winning wines in a more relaxed atmosphere, look no further than the Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail.

By Alex Silgalis

Just As Good Or Better

Famous American philosopher, poet, and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The journey is the destination.” As you explore the Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail, you will learn to appreciate the journey. Each step of the adventure features something new and exciting to take in. An opportunity to sample award winning wines and one-of-a kind varietals you’ve never heard of. Between each winery, you’ll find a verdant countryside filled with blooming trees and wildflowers. At the end of the day, stroll the quaint gold rush towns in Nevada County. And finish things off with a stay in a B&B or historic hotel.

Gold Rush & Vino

nevada county wine tasting

The region’s Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established in 1987. But its history goes WAY further back. In fact, some of the first vino grapes were planted during the California Gold Rush.

Some Of The Wines You’ll Experience


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Avanguardia Vineyard in the fall
Image appears courtesy: Avanguardia Wines

A self-proclaimed “ultra-boutique” winery that prides itself on 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 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.

Gray Pine Winery

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A quaint, limited production winery with a two-acre vineyard. Their winemaking focus is food-friendly wines and 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 small amount of Sauvignon Blanc. Since they only produce about 350 cases a year, make sure to pick up some bottles while you are there. Conveniently located in Penn Valley, this is one of the most accessible wineries year-round.

Lucchesi Vineyards & Winery

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Up next on the Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail is often the liveliest stop. With their beautiful grounds overlooking a valley of grape vines and the Sierra Nevada range, their aptly-named the “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.

Sierra Starr Winery

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If you’re in downtown Grass Valley, this winery’s tasting room is a must. Crafting small lot wines from their estate vineyards since ’96, they don’t just strive to make great wines… but actually do. Over the years they’ve won countless awards for their varietals which include Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc (along with many others). Using solar power, dry farming, and under ground gravity flow, you can especially enjoy each sip since they sustainably craft their wines with passion.

Nevada City Winery

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food and wine sampling at Nevada City Winery
Image appears courtesy: Nevada City Winery

This winery is proud of their role in revitalizing the wine industry in Nevada County and continues to be a hub for the successfully revitalized downtown. 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. Not to mention a great local hangout for wine lovers from both near and far.


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Located in Chicago Park, the town gets its name from some of its original settlers who were first-generation Italian Americans from Chicago Illinois. The orchards as well as vineyards of the area bear witness to the quest to create a community that mirrored their homeland. This Italian spirit is alive and well at Montoliva Vineyard & Winery. Founded in 2000, this winery creates Tuscan-inspired wines of uncommon depth and character.

Szabo Vineyards

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If you want to talk about a vineyard that has roots in old family traditions, it’s Szabo. Their link to the “Old World” is 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 exquisite wines on a special piece of land. Don’t miss the opportunity to sit on the shaded patio. Listen to great music while enjoying delicious food and wine. And revel in the springtime temperatures before summer hits.

This hidden gem of a wine trail is a rising star in the realm of vino. It’s only a matter of time before the world begins to take notice. Make the trip now and toast to the Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail.


Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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