Our first trip to the Sierra Foothills was busy with a mountain wedding, hiking and wine tasting. Off the typical tourist track, this is a part of California worth exploring.
When we were making plans for attending a wedding in California’s Sierras, we had lots of ideas of how to make the most of our time out west. It made perfect sense to stay in the Sierras and relax.
However, in our never-ending quest for good food while traveling, we ultimately decided to tack on a visit to the Bay Area as part of the trip. We were smart enough to budget some time to visit Nevada City, a perfect spot to see remnants of California’s gold rush and check out the Sierra Foothills wine scene.
Sierra Foothills Hike
During our time in Graeagle, we were struck by the natural beauty of the High Sierras in Plumas County. We got in one memorable, glorious hike with friends through the coniferous tree-lined mountain trails.
Sierra Foothills Wedding
More importantly, the spectacular wedding setting was filled with love. It’s easy to get blasé about weddings after attending so many over the year, but this one was very special. Kudos to friends Heidi and Karl for planning a unique Summer Solstice wedding.
Maybe we should have stayed longer in this gorgeous region of California, but plans had been made and good food was waiting. So, we left after breakfast on Saturday to visit Nevada City which is also known as the Queen City of the Northern Mines.
Nevada City Farmers Market
After a zigzagging two-hour drive bordering the Tahoe National Forest, we arrived in the former gold rush town in time to check out the Saturday farmers market.
We gazed with awe at the colorful produce options. Although we love our weekly neighborhood farmers market at Philadelphia‘s Headhouse Square, our market can’t compete with a market that features California’s plentiful bounty.
Since we were traveling, we had to settle for a few nibbles and some juicy peaches for the road.
Nevada City Winery
Nevada City is cute and picturesque with lots of shops and restaurants. While here, we walked to the Nevada City Winery and tasted wine in their comfortable tasting room.
The Nevada City Winery was founded in 1980 and has won awards for their Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon – grapes that thrive in the hot Sierra Foothills climate.
We each did a $5 tasting that included a wide selection of the winery’s whites and reds.
Our hostess was generous, and we tasted most of their wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
For us, the reds were the standouts, especially the 2008 Malbec – a luscious red with surprising complexity and structure. In a fortuitous twist of fate, the Malbec was on closeout for $8 per bottle.
Yes, you read that correctly. Needless to say, we bought more than a few bottles for the trip home.
Lunch at Lefty’s Grill
Our plan was to have lunch at Lefty’s Grill, a casual eatery overlooking Deer Creek. This lunch plan took a turn for the better when we found out that the restaurant doesn’t charge a corkage fee for Nevada City Winery wines.
We bought an extra bottle of Malbec for our lunch and headed to the restaurant. After scoring the only available outside table, we sipped on our wine and ordered lunch.
First up was a creative appetizer called “the baked polenta thing”. The menu describes the dish as brick oven baked polenta with roasted tomatoes, feta, Picholine olives and pine nuts finished with pesto, cherry tomatoes, basil and balsamic syrup.
We weren’t sure what to expect based on the busy description and the $7 price point. Long story short, the fresh flavors combined in a way that made us very happy.
Chefs often say that good cooking is about buying great ingredients and trying not to ‘mess’ them up. There was nothing particularly innovative about this dish, but the chef didn’t mess up the vibrant basil leaves and juicy, fresh tomatoes. The dish worked.
We capped the meal with a Caesar salad (Mindi) and a solid gorgonzola & cabernet onion jam burger (Daryl).
Both dishes hit the spot and gave us energy for the ride to San Francisco.
We could have easily spent additional time in Nevada City tasting more local wine and perusing the cute shops, and we were tempted to pop over to the annual soapbox derby and stay for the evening’s live music jam.
Good wine. Good food. Cute town. Next time, we’ll stay longer.
About the Authors
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
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