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Clarksburg

A tiny town just 20 minutes from Sacramento is a hub for the Delta’s wine country

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By the numbers, the Yolo County town of Clarksburg is a pretty modest place. After all, this historic Central Valley community along the Sacramento River has a population of slightly more than 400 residents and sits at an elevation barely 10 feet above sea level.

But those details only tell part of Clarksburg’s story. Because the number that might just matter the most for visitors to this surprising wine region is 40. That figure represents the big daily temperature swings that Clarksburg can experience during summer, as afternoon maritime winds blow in from the coast, resulting in cool nights after hot days in the California Delta. This temperature variation creates ideal conditions for growing 35 different grape varietals, and Clarksburg is best known for its Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah.

There’s no better place to discover Clarksburg’s diversity of winemaking than at the Old Sugar Mill, a renovated sugar beet refinery built in 1934 that now houses 14 outstanding wineries. Among the premium wineries you’ll find in this impressive brick complex is Elevation Ten Winery, which was named in honor of Clarksburg’s humble altitude. Elevation Ten has earned multiple gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, including one in 2021 for a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. For a unique tasting experience, try the Elevation Ten Getaway, during which you’ll enjoy brunch and visit one of its grower's vineyards.

Three Wine Company specializes in such traditional California wines as Zinfandel, Carignan, and Mataro that are sustainably produced by vintners Matt and Erin Cline, while Todd Taylor draws serious oenophiles to the mill for his handcrafted, single-vineyard red wines. Among them is a Primitivo made from grapes grown in the Shenandoah Valley, a region in the nearby Sierra foothills. Roger Smith, keyboardist for the East Bay soul and funk band Tower of Power, founded Bump City Wine Co., and the group occasionally performs special concerts at the Old Sugar Mill. Check the mill’s calendar for upcoming events and the tasty lineup of food trucks on weekends.

Beyond the Old Sugar Mill, follow the backroads near town, crossing historic bridges over meandering sloughs, and go directly to the source to discover the treasures waiting in the Clarksburg American Viticultural Area. Back in the 1960s, Warren Bogle planted the first vineyards around Clarksburg and Bogle Vineyards remains a family operation (the Bogles have farmed the area for six generations) that’s celebrated for its heritage Petite Sirah. Julietta Winery is a more recent arrival to the Clarksburg scene and is known for its crisp Chenin Blanc, as well as spectacular sunsets.

Take a drive from Clarksburg along lazy River Road, which winds along the banks of the Sacramento. Or get out on the river with Sacramento River Cruise, which offers private two-hour guided tours from the Clarksburg Marina in the Roccus, a refurbished New England lobster boat. Savor craft beers and local wines paired with cheese and charcuterie plates while taking in the gorgeous river scenery and such landmarks as the Freeport Bridge, a truss span built in 1929.

Barbecue lovers (and fans of California craft beers) will definitely want to head over to Husick’s Taphouse, a restaurant in a onetime general store and post office building that’s more than 130 years old. Regulars recommend the tri-trip, the house-made cornbread with honey butter, and a cheddar-bacon mac and cheese. Or for another classic Clarksburg eating experience, bite into juicy cheeseburgers and dine along the river at the Dinky Diner, a tiny wood-shingled trailer parked at the marina.

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