Smack-dab in the middle of some of California’s finest farm country, Yolo County is a natural fit for all things edible. There are even novel ways to experience them, like a self-guided visit—nicknamed the “Beer-muda Triangle”—to sample local craft brews at three Yolo County towns. “Foodies, craft beer fans, and wine lovers alike can enjoy the things they love right where they are produced, and even meet the folks who produce them,” says Jody Bogle of Bogle Vineyards in the hamlet of Clarksburg, just south of Sacramento. Whatever your food or drink obsession, Yolo County probably makes it, sells it, or serves it fresh. Here’s a look at some of the top foodie finds.
For a unique way to experience the region’s booming craft brewery scene, try this self-guided pub crawl to visit three Yolo County towns—or better yet, make like the locals and pedal it by bike. Safe bike paths and wide lanes lace the region, and you can rent bikes at the start of the triangular tour in the university town of Davis. (Try Green Bicycle Depot or Ken’s Bike-Ski-Board.) At Sudwerk Brewing Co. in Davis, start by sampling their signature IPA, or try a seasonal brew like the oatmeal stout or dunkel weizen. Next, head to Winters and Berryessa Brewing Company, where communal picnic tables—and of course craft beer—help facilitate new friendships.
Yolo County wine country
“Making good wine in Napa or Sonoma is too easy,” says winemaker Nicole Salengo of Berryessa Gap Vineyards, in the inviting farm-country town of Winters. “I love the challenge of Yolo County.” Salengo is especially adept at Spanish varietals, and on a sunny day, her Verdejo might just be a perfect choice, with fragrant aromas and hints of white peach, lemon, fresh apricots, honeysuckle, and jasmine. Berryessa Gap Winery’s downtown tasting room on Main Street offers a casual daytime setting for wine tasting, and an elegant evening environment to enjoy soft music, local nuts and cheeses, and of course, wine. You can also schedule a private tour of the nearby production facility, Thursday through Sunday. Winters is also home to RootStock gift shop, which sells locally made gifts and wines from all over Yolo County.
Just south of Sacramento, in the riverfront town of Clarksburg, winemakers and staff from 11 local wineries pour and chat at the beautifully renovated Old Sugar Mill, a former sugar beet plant. Nearby are the perfect-for-a-picnic grounds and inviting tasting room of Bogle Vineyards, with varietals including old vine Zinfandel and a bewitching red blend called Phantom.
Farmers’ Markets in Yolo County
One of the oldest, biggest farmers’ markets in the country, the Davis Farmers Market is open, rain or shine, Saturdays and Wednesdays (hours vary with season). “Don’t miss the lady who sells soup and tries to talk to people in different languages,” says Davis resident and farmers’ market regular Jessica Garrison. Little ones who’d rather play than look at produce can head for a large playground, and it seems like the whole town spreads out picnic blankets and ad-hoc feasts on the adjacent field. The scene gets even more festive on Wednesday evenings, mid-March through the end of October, when Picnic in the Park unfurls with wine and beer tastings, ethnic food booths, local bands, and pony rides and other kids’ activities.
Just north of Davis, Woodland also has a biweekly farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. It’s a wonderful chance to mingle with local farmers and learn about heirloom tomatoes and other kinds of produce. August brings the Woodland Tomato Festival, with Iron Chef-style cook-offs, demos, and tasting tables.
Yolo County food & wine events
For a diminutive town with an appealing, frozen-in-time ’50s vibe, Winters has a surprisingly hip food and wine scene, especially at once-a-month Fourth Friday Downtown Feast. Starting at 6 p.m., March through October, folks from far and wide gather in town to drink local wines and beers, eat locally grown and locally prepared foods at Winters’ restaurants and eateries, and generally mingle and have a good time.
In nearby Woodland, the monthly Food Truck Mania pops up in historic downtown on first Sundays, 4 to 8 p.m. Squeeze Inn’s signature grilled cheese skirt is a favourite here, if not with your cardiologist. And the first weekend of October, celebrate the end of the Capay Valley harvest season at Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. First started in 1986, this fundraiser for local and sustainable agriculture features agricultural workshops and demonstrations. It has become a wildly popular, family-friendly event, with some 5,000 people enjoying the fun on the 140 hectare farm. “About half of them are kids,” says Full Belly Farm owner Judith Redmond, noting that old-fashioned sack races, puppet shows, and watermelon contests keep things lively all weekend long.
Yolo County agritourism
Even though it’s one of the prettiest parts of California’s agri-centric heartland, the Capay Valley is surprisingly secret. It’s often just you and the occasional tractor on State Route 16, surrounded by fields, farms, and rolling hills. Séka Hills, a 5,600-hectare farm owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of Native Americans, is a must-stop in the Capay Valley. The farm produces honey, wine, and extra virgin olive oil. Arrange in advance for a tour to see the olive mill, groves, and vineyards. The tasting room, with a light menu featuring salads, charcuterie boards, and classy sandwiches (such as smoked Pacific king salmon with herb-infused cream cheese and lemon pesto on fresh ciabatta), is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Get an A+ education in beekeeping and sample raw, organic honeys at Henry’s Bullfrog Bees, in Winters. Quarterly agri-tours shed light on the life cycle and importance of nature’s busy little insects. “Bees are about a lot more than just honey,” says Bullfrog Bees’ Doneice Woody. “They pollinate a third of the world’s food, and add $15 billion to crop revenue every year.” To learn even more about bees and honey, check the calendar at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, part of University of California, Davis. Special honey tastings and symposiums are usually offered in spring, and winter brings classes in making mead, a fermented honey wine.