You can stack our summer up into a pile of swim meets, swim practices, and community service shift taxi rides that looks like a wobbly Jenga tower about to crash. We’re nearing the top of that tower as July wraps up. Swim meets are a Friday through Sunday commitment and often require an overnight stay or two in a half-star hotel that you’ll want to be sure to bed-check before you bring your bags in. You know the type. The ones where they still ask you if you’d like smoking or non-smoking. There will be no chocolate on your pillow.
Nevertheless, we’ve learned to become fond of these weekends as this is our sixth year shoving duffels full of swim swag and dragging coolers and fold-up chairs to towns with no chain stores. The weekends are fun and exhausting for both swimmers and swim families. It’s often over 100 degrees and direct sun is simply unavoidable at times. You’re like a human see-saw. There’s getting up to watch your favorite swimmers, the anticipation, the excitement, the finish–and this happens over and over and over. There’s the smell of the grill barbecuing burgers mixed with sunscreen that’s oddly intoxicating, a smell you never quite get out of your skin the entire weekend. There are conversation with families who’ve become–well, like family. Today a 17 year-old swimmer sat down and said, “I like swimming because we’re a family. We help each other be better students and athletes.”
It’s true. And just like Mike and I have instituted our date nights into our family life for the past 15 years, it’s awesome when we can pull these off at these weekends. This weekend we were able to do just that. But our normal date night is dinner and a movie. No movie theaters in the town of Weaverville. What should we do? A hike? Hot and tired. A drive to the coast? Two hours away. Weaverville is so small they don’t even have a 101 Things to Do Guide and Yelp…well, you try it. When we asked the front clerk if there was anything we should do before we left her town, she said, “Nope.”
On the way in, though, we had passed a winery sign. We’re not ones to just let wineries in odd places go unexplored. So after finally tracking it down, I called up One Maple Winery in Lewiston. A man answered and said they’d be open for a few hours. We headed seven miles east to Lewiston.
When we arrived, we were surprised by the maturity of the vines in the vineyard. This had been here awhile. Why hadn’t we heard of it? We wandered in and the guy in charge was chatting with some friends. We looked around the cute gift shop filled with raw honey (a 4H project, the label said), interesting cheeses, chocolate, and the normal wine swag with some very cool local pottery products from the coast.
Ernie eventually greeted us. Turns out he is the owner, winemaker, pourer, and entertainer extraordinaire. As he poured, and we tasted we were very impressed and surprised to discover such tasty wines in the outskirts of Weaverville. We were also surprised to learn that Ernie had grown up in the same Southern California neighborhood we had lived in for nearly two decades (Torrance/Redondo Beach area.) These synchronicities make me smile every time.
We decided to soak in the peaceful grounds. The tasting rooms sits on a creek and the garden is full of beautiful apple trees, Hollyhocks, and a piano Ernie couldn’t part with so turned into a water feature. The piece de resistance is a welded sheet of copper with a maple leaf cut into it that shifts as the sun shines through it.
We took a bottle of chilled Chardonnay out on the patio and were immediately struck by the peaceful setting. So was Rosie the dog. Laying flat on her back spread eagle, Rosie sprawled in the grass under the shade tree completely content in the moment. We sat, debriefed the day, discussed whether life is fate or free will–or a combination of both–and why. (What? Doesn’t everybody get into that over smoked gouda, ritz crackers–compliments of Ernie–and a nice, dry Chard?)
As the dinner hour approached, we worked our way back in to settle the tab with Ernie (worth noting, locals–HIGHLY REASONABLE!) and asked him about dinner places. He had a tip, as often locals do in these venues: The Lewiston Hotel. He’d heard good things. He scratched us out a not-to-size, unlabeled map and off we headed to the old hotel.
When we arrived, the front looked like a facade at Frontierland in Disneyland. Inside looked like more of the same. Moose heads on the wall (Country Bear Jamboree, may it rest in peace.) Antiques, like wall phones. Cow skulls. You get the picture.
What makes this such a gem, though, is it’s real. You can feel the vibe of the old gold rush era. If you had one of those EMF meters they use to find past residents, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.
Neither were we. This little gem was simply amazing.
It’s not a menu you want to go in and tamper with. It’s one of the few places I didn’t ask for any modifications. I was thankful I didn’t. One dish that jumped out at us was also an unusual pick (I usually steer clear of calorie-laden starters) but so worth it. Maria, one half of the new young couple that bought the place, was our server. She told us Joe had picked the wild blackberries “in a bucket down the street on the bridge.” This phyllo dough melted brie was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Know that over the course of my 50 years, I’ve sampled my share. It really was incredible.
Discovering these little gems in the middle of Trinity County was unexpected. We may not have been pioneers digging for gold, but in our own ways we felt like explorers on an adventure who had definitely struck it rich.
One Maple Winery – Old Lewiston Rd, Lewiston, CA 96052 – owners Ernie & Kristel Bell
(530) 778-0716 Ask for Ernie Bell. Tell him his Torrance friends who lived where the drive-in used to be sent you. (By the way, he’s won awards all over the world for his wine! He won’t mention it, but you’ll see them on the back wall.)
Lewiston Hotel on the Trinity River – 125 Deadwood Road, Lewiston, CA (530) 778-3823. The brie is a must (I reiterate) and the chicken parmigiana is outstanding, as well as the rosemary chicken breast.