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Rolling vineyards and winding lanes are a hallmark of California’s wine country, which these days encompasses nearly the entire Golden State, from Temecula to Mendocino. But a jaunt to Clarksburg — a Sacramento River Delta town barely an hour from the Bay Area — offers the chance to park just once and sample sips from 15 different wineries.
Clarksburg’s historic Old Sugar Mill was once a beet-sugar refinery. Today, it’s a wine-tasting nirvana, with tasting rooms tucked inside immense brick walls. A grand lawn and table-dotted patio welcome picnickers in warm weather. Weekend food trucks and deli nooks aid and abet all that deliciousness. And December brings holiday weekend festivities — live music, food, chef demos and more — Dec. 8-9 and 15-16.
Meanwhile, here’s just a sampling of ways to eat, sip and play in Clarksburg any time of the year.
SIP: Seka Hills
This Capay Valley winery is run by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which began planting viognier, syrah and cabernet sauvignon vineyards on its tribal land in 2004, and added a vast arbequina olive grove in 2008. Other grape and olive varietals soon followed. These days, you can tour and taste at the 14,000-square-foot Seka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room in the town of Brooks, as well as here at the Old Sugar Mill.
Seka Hills was our first stop — and it should be yours, too. The winery is known for its signature viognier, but don’t miss the crisp, refreshing sauvignon blanc ($24) or the 2012 Tuluk’a ($18), a smoky, fruit-forward blend of seven varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petite sirah, petit verdot, syrah, tannat and malbec.
Be sure to browse the Seka Hills shop, too, which offers picnic fare, artisanal products — such as McEvoy Ranch’s Ode olive oil-lavender body lotion ($28) — and, of course, Seka Hills olive oil, including arbequina by the 3-liter box ($50), as well as by the bottle ($12).
SIP: Bump City Wine Co.
Most of the mill’s tasting rooms showcase a single winery, but several wineries share space in the Boiler Room, where sunlight pours through the windows, illuminating the soaring event space. Among them is Bump City, which hails from Tower of Power keyboardist Roger Smith and business partner Mike Smolich. Bump City is also the name of the Oakland funk band’s second album, so humming “You Got to Funkifize” or “You’re Still a Young Man” while sipping Bump City’s tasty 2017 albariño ($25) or the 2016 Old Vine zin ($28) is encouraged.
EAT: Lunch on the lawn
No outside food is allowed on weekends, but you can pick up picnic fare at several tasting rooms, including Seka Hills, Rendez-vous and Elevation Ten, or head for one of the food trucks parked near the lawn. Celebrity chef Keith Breedlove (“Bar Rescue,” “Cutthroat Kitchen”) and his Cülinerdy Crüzer truck are frequently spotted here, offering up crazy delicious burgers ($10-$13), such as a big-enough-for-two Wake & Bac(on) Burger topped with a fried egg, bacon and espresso barbecue sauce.
If Larry Dizmang’s name sounds familiar, you likely know him from St. Helena’s Folie à Deux Winery, which he and his wife, Karan, launched in 1981. (Either that or you, er, spent time in a Napa correctional facility. Dizmang was chief psychiatrist there for 20 years.) Rendez-vous is his post-retirement project, a winery whose 20+ wines include major award winners. His 2016 viognier, for example, won best in show/best white wine at last year’s California State Fair.
Sample a flight at the tasting bar or, if the weather’s fine, head for the patio bar. The weekend we were there, they were pouring sangria, as well as tempranillo, barbera, malbec, sauv blanc and more. And the Masa Guiseria folks were on hand, serving up handmade tortillas and street tacos.
Details: The Old Sugar Mill is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, although individual tasting room hours may vary. Seka Hills, for example, is open Wednesday-Sunday. Most wineries waive their tasting fees ($5-$10), with bottle purchase. Find the mill at 35265 Willow Ave., Clarksburg; http://oldsugarmill.com.
More: Upcoming special events at the mill include Holiday Weekends at the Wineries Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16 (free), an ’80s themed New Year’s Eve party (tickets $40-$50), and a Port, Wine & Chocolate Lovers Weekend, with sweet treats, sparkling wine cocktails and culinary demos Feb. 9-10 ($25-$45).
Curious about other Clarksburg tasting rooms? Bogle Vineyards (http://boglewinery.com), Julietta Winery (www.juliettawinery.com) and Scribner Bend Vineyards (www.scribnerbend.com) have tasting rooms nearby. Learn more about Clarksburg’s wine scene at www.clarksburgwinecountry.com.
Wine Tasting Adventures: 15 sips at Clarksburg’s Old Sugar Mill