An area better known for boat cruising and beer guzzling than swirling and sipping fine wine is gaining a new rep ― and Clarksburg, a small town 15 miles south of Sacramento, lies at the heart of it all.
The minuscule appellation is growing in prominence, thanks to warm summer days, the cool Sacramento Delta breeze (perfect for Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah), and the Old Sugar Mill, a 1930s-era factory that has been beautifully restored to house a collection of local microwineries.
Wind lazily along the Sacramento River, crossing drawbridges and cruising past lush farmland and several wineries. Pull over for tastings, lunch ― or just a catnap in Clarksburg's blooming marina.
Galeria do Vinho at the Old Sugar Mill
What: New tasting room and a dramatic main hall have replaced the railroad tracks that used to run through. When: 11-5 Wed-Sun. How much: Free tastings. Where: 35265 Willow Ave.; www.oldsugarmill.com or 916/744-1615.
Scribner Bend Vineyards
What: Six generations of Scribners have owned this farmland turned vineyard. Try the Tempranillo, poured proudly by chatty owner Mark. When: 11-4:30 Fri-Sun. How much: Free tastings. Where: 9051 River Rd., Sacramento; www.scribnerbend.com or 916/744-1803.
What: Inky Petite Sirah sampled in an airy tasting room with vineyard views. When: Open daily. How much: Free tastings. Where: 37783 County Rd. 144; www.boglewinery.com or 916/744-1139.
Freeport Bar & Grill
What: Homey American cookin' in an unfussy setting. Chow down on tangy ribs and piles of onion rings. When: Lunch and dinner daily. How much: $$. Where: 8259 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; 916/665-1169.
What: A shingled riverfront mobile unit with lines of locals craving bacon cheeseburgers and super-thick chocolate shakes. When: Breakfast and lunch Wed-Sat. How much: $. Where Riverview Dr. between Clarksburg Rd. and Netherlands Ave.
Central Clarksburg and the Marina
What: Hushed streets, a couple of quirky shops, a grassy square, and a marina ― the perfect place to head after wine tasting to rest and watch the river roll by. Where: S. River Rd. at Netherlands Ave.
Info: From Sacramento, take I-5 south and exit at Pocket Rd./State 160 (Freeport), then turn left on Pocket. Turn right at Freeport Blvd./State 160 and left at S. River Rd.