Last year around this time, Mike and I grabbed a handful of friends and hit up the California wine region of Amador County, a little pocket of gold country east of Sacramento.
This year, we weren’t planning another trip, but ’bout a week ago we asked ourselves, “How can we possibly miss Andis Wine’s Redneck Barbecue?” We decided we couldn’t. With an invitation like this, how can you resist?
We fumbled around for last minute places and decided to stay where we went last year. The Sutter Creek Inn ended up being the perfect place.
This historical Inn had ghost hunters scouting about last year. Nobody wants to talk about ghosts around the Inn, but somehow we heard that word at least once each time we were there. The Inn is old and quaint, each room different from the next. I let the owner choose our room. My only caveat was I wanted a “hanging bed.” In some rooms, beds hang from the ceiling. These swinging beds are amazingly soothing, surprisingly even after a few glasses of wine.
The room was beautiful, with a woodburning fireplace and lots of wood. The bathroom was almost as roomy as the room itself! There was a huge painting hanging over the sunken two-person tub giving it a modern flare, along with a plant that reminded me of Seymour. And, of course, the hanging bed.
Best of all, along the walls hung rows of books spanning time. My favorite thumb-through was a first edition from 1949 on Transcendentalism. It was signed by Jane Way, the woman who bought the Inn originally back when women didn’t do such things. (Confession: I really wanted to keep that book, but I didn’t.) Last year, I took a picture in Jane’s parlor and I swear you can see her playing the piano in the mirror reflection. In case you missed it last year, here it is again. Decide for yourself.
Check out this portal-looking view on Main Street right out front. Even if you’re not buying the whole supernatural bend, the nostalgia of the town can’t be denied. Antique shops line Main and some of our breakfast friends (non wine drinkers) came just for the antiquing.
The other shops on Main range from boutiques with local art products to our favorite amazing cheese shops with cheeses from all over the world. You can do a wine/cheese tasting here if you like. They even loaned us a knife for the night and refrigerated our cheese while we went to the barbecue. (We took one to share with our redneck friends. Turns out we found some appreciative millennial cheese lovers so it worked out!) Here’s the storefront so you don’t miss it.
The buildings in Sutter Creek can be described as Gold Rush Chic. Well, sort of. Like Gold Rush Redone…Chic. I’m pretty sure that’s an architectural style from my days in Urban Architecture class at UCLA. Whatever you call it, it’s a few steps back in time and gorgeous in Autumn. Check out these leaves at Deaver Winery. Like a painting. That times infinity.
At the barbecue, we ran into Lorenzo, the sales/marketing guy for Andis. Last year when we met Lorenzo, he had not been in the US long. He hails from Italy and comes from a 4 generation winemaking family. He always knows where the best wines are hiding in the Andis barrels and how to blend them together for us. Wait until you see what’s coming in 2020!
At the barbecue, we made some new millennial friends. Remember? The ones who loved the cheese? They were really insistent on us dancing to the Knuckleheads. They took about 100 pictures, but you can get the vibe with one. We had fun eating ribs with those two, and dancing in between wet wipes.
The next morning, breakfast proved a feast of information. We discovered a new California wine region not yet explored–Lodi–and now know the guy who owns the kayak shop.
We also met a couple who told us we must go visit the “ghost town” of Volcano. Zucchini walnut pancakes topped with fresh peach syrup and an itinerary of activity. Off to Volcano we go.
The drive was gorgeous, but steep and curvy. Signs indicated the road narrowed. We both laughed because there wasn’t much narrowing option. Lucky for us, no cars passed us coming down and we were able to navigate ourselves up through the autumn forest.
When we rolled into “town,” first we saw a motorcycle gang (I mean, club) that took over the Whiskey Flat Saloon. See that guy hightailing it out to make room?
The second thing we saw were ghost hunters in ghost hunter cars in front of an old hotel. And then we saw this sign. Can you see how someone changed the 0 in 100 to 103?
The must-see place everybody raves about is The Kneading Dough Bakery. Remember how we just had breakfast? It really didn’t keep us from diving into the offerings. We took our Sutter Mills coffee (no lattes in these parts) and baked goods to the secret garden doused in color. From under the canopy in every direction lies fall and nostalgia.
We took a walk around the town which doesn’t take long. That is, unless you take the time to read all the signs on the artifacts. Volcano has Union roots from the Civil War. The town bell is a gift from a Unitarian Preacher who appreciated town support for Lincoln during the war. (Come to think of it, there’s another town called Lincoln and one called Plymouth…oh, and Jackson. A theme?)
Check out Old Abe. And his plaque.
The rock around Volcano looks like volcanic rock from Hawaii. In the creek, tumbling stones turn to volcanic slate as you drive into the town. We couldn’t find evidence of a volcano, and I haven’t Googled it, but the story we made up was that a volcano imploded on itself and spewed out the rock. You can adopt that one or make up your own…or go really boring and Wikipedia it.
We’re sticking with the imploding Volcano theory.
All in all, each time we explore Amador County, we find another nugget. The wine (especially the Barberas) is phenomenal, the history is retained and appreciated by the locals, the drives are gorgeous, and, well, it’s just plain Amador-able.