Most Californians would scratch their heads if asked where Tehama County is. But they've probably driven right through it en route to Lassen Volcanic National Park or points north in Upstate California. Bisected by Interstate 5, this fertile county overflows with fresh farm crops and fruits of the vine. You'll need plenty of room in your car trunk for olives, wine, nuts, and other pantry goodies.
Drive the Tehama Trail
Rich soil from the Sacramento River floodplain produces agricultural abundance: heirloom tomatoes, crunchy almonds, just-picked berries, and juice-down-your-chin peaches and plums. Drive the Tehama Trail to purchase specialty foods from small farms, like meaty walnuts at Bianchi Orchards and succulent stone fruit at Julia's and Burlison roadside stands in Los Molinos. Finish up in Red Bluff, where ranches sell free-range chicken and grass-fed beef and lamb.
Sample Corning's Olives
You can't drive through Corning—home to America's largest olive processing plant—without a stop at The Olive Pit for an olive-stuffed muffuletta sandwich and a few jars of garlic- or jalapeño-stuffed olives to take home. And since you're in the olive groove, hit up Corning Olive Oil Company for artisan oils with intriguing flavor profiles—top sellers are citrusy blood orange and zesty lime—plus dipping oils for sourdough bread or vegetables.
Tour Tehama Wineries
In Manton, a half-dozen foothill wineries enjoy hot days and cool nights and the rich volcanic soil that designates the Manton Valley AVA. Sip Rhône varietals at Mount Tehama Winery or Cabernet Sauvignon at Indian Peak Vineyards, then try the late-harvest Syrah at Alger Vineyards and Winery.
On Tehama County's southern edge, swing by Vina's New Clairvaux Vineyard, America's only monastic winery. The Trappist-Cistercian monks who live at this combined monastery/vineyard produce Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Tempranillo wines on land where railroad baron Leland Stanford harvested grapes in the 1880s. (Stanford's vines produced Bordeaux wines and brandy, and he used the proceeds to start Stanford University.)
Visit Historic Red Bluff
Cowboy culture is alive and well in Red Bluff, home of the annual spring Red Bluff Round-Up, America's largest three-day rodeo. But you'll find non-horsey activities, too: Stop in to see the free gemology museum at Gaumer's, filled with precious stones, minerals, and fossils. Visit William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park, set on a shaded stretch of the Sacramento River. Tour the one-room homestead of Ide, the pioneer who led the short-lived 1846 Bear Flag Revolt.
The small town of Mineral is the southern gateway to Lassen Volcanic National Park, revered for steaming sulfur vents, boiling thermal pools, and an out-of-this-world volcanic landscape. Book a luxurious cottage at Highlands Ranch Resort, then spend your days hiking to the top of a dormant volcano, gazing at bubbling-and-boiling hydrothermal sites, and swimming in cool mountain lakes.